Foreigners seeking employment in Australia face a much tougher visa regime following the government’s decision to replace the 457 temporary work visa program with two new visa classes which include more rigorous requirements around work experience, English language proficiency and labour market testing.

What’s changed

From March 2018, the 457 visa program will be replaced by the Temporary Skill Shortage visa which will have two distinct streams.

A short term two-year stream with a broader range of occupations will not allow permanent residency when the two years is up.

A four-year visa class focused on medium term skills gaps will require a higher standard of English than the two-year visa.
Read the full Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) here.
Read the full Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) here.

A fee of $1150 will apply for the short term visa, while medium-term applicants will pay $2400.

Both visas will require a criminal record check which is not currently needed.

The changes coincide with 216 occupations being removed from the skilled occupation lists, including web developers, futures traders, butchers, dental hygienists, TV and radio presenters and photographers.
Read the full list of removed occupations here.

Who will it impact?

Those hardest hit by the changes are people with applications currently in for 457 visas whose occupation has been removed completely from the skilled occupation list, in effect denying them the opportunity to be granted a 457 visa and transition to permanent residency.

The changes also effect employers who were banking on securing employees for a period of four years which would allow them to then focus on developing their business.

Fifty-nine caveats will further limit the use of occupations in certain circumstances, impacting the hospitality and information technology sector in particular.

While the new TSS visa regime comes into effect next March, all 457 visa applications – including those under appeal – will be assessed using these new caveats and the new skilled occupation lists from April 2017.

Current 457 visa holders – of which there are roughly 95,000 in Australia – are not impacted by the changes and will continue under their current conditions.

How can I improve my chances of obtaining a visa under the new regime?

The two-year visa can be extended onshore for a further two years. Those aspiring to permanent residency may need to use that time to upskill or reskill to qualify for an occupation on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL).

However, there is still risk in this because the government has flagged further changes to the skilled occupations lists, as well as adjustments to other visa classes.

What the changes mean for business

-The new scheme will require employers to advertise jobs before filling them with foreign workers.

-Requirements on employers to contribute to training Australian workers will change.

-Caveats stipulate a minimum annual turnover of $1 million, or that the business have at least five employees, for some occupations and industry segments.

Other visa class changes

The Australian government will adopt new eligibility criteria from July 2017 for the Employer Nominated Scheme (subclass 186) Direct Entry stream as well as the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme.

-It has dropped the age limit to 45, down from 50, for most applicants.

-Applicants must have a minimum of three years work experience.

-English language requirements will be stricter.

-From March 2018, occupations must be on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) and employers must pay the Australian market salary rate and meet the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold set at $53,900 as at 12 April 2016.

Concessions for regional Australia will continue to be available.

More changes to come

A lot of the detail is still missing with regards to the new visa classes and more changes are expected so it’s important you consult an experienced immigration lawyer or migration agent before embarking on the expensive undertaking of migrating to Australia or sponsoring an overseas worker.

In many cases advisors are still waiting for clarity from the government themselves on the policy changes.

But the bottom line is that the Turnbull government has adopted a Trump-style anti-globalisation posture on immigration aimed at protecting Australian jobs for Australians. That’s made things harder for foreigners looking for work in Australia, and the businesses that depend on them for growth.