It has been a year of change for the subclass 457 visa program. In our previous blog post about the 457 program in July, Kate wrote about the changes to the subclass 457 visa and how they will affect Australian businesses. In this blog post we will review the changes from a labour agreements perspective.
While the majority of changes to the subclass 457 visa will affect sponsors under the standard business sponsorship program, there are some changes that will apply to new and existing labour agreements.
About three per cent of all subclass 457 visas are granted under labour agreements. At June 2013 there were 162 labour agreements in effect and a further 71 under negotiation.
Some of the legislative changes that affect both labour agreement sponsors and their sponsored workers include:
- Commencement of work—sponsored 457 visa holders must commence work with their sponsor within 90 days of arriving in Australia.
- Finding a new sponsor—subclass 457 visa holders who cease employment with their sponsoring employer have 90 days to find a new sponsor or depart Australia.
- English language requirement—occupational English test score of ‘B’ in each of the four test components is now accepted for 457 visa applications, bringing this element of the subclass 457 program into alignment with the Employer Nomination Scheme.
- English exemptions—-occupation based exemptions to the English language requirement have been removed, with the assessment of generalist occupations strengthened.
- Skills assessments—applicants nominated in a generalist occupation, such as program and project administrator and specialist manager not elsewhere classified, must now undertake a formal skills assessment.
More information about the 1 July subclass 457 visa reforms is available on our website.
Existing and prospective labour agreement sponsors should also note that the temporary skilled migration income threshold increased from $51 400 to $53 900 on 1 July 2013.
More information is provided in the updated information packs for standard, on-hire, and meat industry labour agreements included below. For more information about labour agreements, visit the department’s website or email the specialist team for your industry:
Resources sector employers: firstname.lastname@example.org
On-hire employers: email@example.com
Meat processing employers: firstname.lastname@example.org
All other industries and employers: email@example.com
The Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa offers a great opportunity for recently graduated international students to gain valuable work experience after completing their studies. This work experience helps develop the skills graduates gained during their studies and also makes them more employable upon return to their home country.
It is important to note that applicants need to meet a number of eligibility requirements to be granted the temporary graduate visa. And if the visa is granted, temporary graduate visa holders are responsible for finding their own employment.
Applying for this visa
Many international students make a decision to apply for the temporary graduate visa upon completion of their studies. Graduates can apply for this visa up to six months after completion of their studies.
There is no guarantee that, on the basis of having previously held a student visa, the applicant will meet the requirements to be granted a temporary graduate visa.
Any decision to apply for a temporary graduate visa is an entirely separate process to a student visa application. Depending on their individual circumstances, applicants may be eligible to apply for a temporary graduate visa through either the graduate work stream or the post-study work stream.
For information on the eligibility requirements for the temporary graduate visa, check out the Who Can Apply tab on the Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa webpage.
Finding a job
The temporary graduate visa allows recent graduates to spend time in Australia to gain practical work experience to accompany their Australian qualification(s). There are no restrictions on the type of employment that the temporary graduate visa holder may choose to undertake.
It is important to note that finding a job is the responsibility of the temporary graduate visa holder. The Australian government is not responsible for arranging employment—there are many organisations which offer assistance in job seeking, including through the Australian Government’s JobSearch website.
Reforms to the subclass 457 visa commenced on 1 July.
How will the changes affect Australian businesses?
The changes will not adversely affect the majority of employers who are using the program appropriately. The changes will, however, strengthen the government’s capacity to identify and prevent employer practices that are not in keeping with the purpose of the subclass 457 program.
If the department has any concerns that an employer is not committed to training Australians, or a nominated position may not be genuine, then they may be requested to provide additional justification before a sponsorship or nomination can be approved.
Sponsors are also required to understand their new obligations.
How will the changes affect current subclass 457 visa holders?
There will be no adverse effects on existing visa holders. However, visa holders should note the changes to the English language and skills requirements if they plan to change employment, change their occupation or seek a further subclass 457 visa.
How will the changes affect subclass 457 visa applicants?
All subclass 457 visa applications lodged before 1 July 2013 but not finalised, will be subject to the new visa requirements. Your case officer will request further information if required.
All subclass 457 visa applications that are lodged after 1 July 2013 will be subject to the new visa requirements. The majority of subclass 457 visa applicants will not be affected by the changes.
In some circumstances further evidence to demonstrate claims for a subclass 457 visa may be required. Visa applicants should note the changes to the English language and skills requirements.
Are there changes to how subclass 457 applications can be lodged?
All subclass 457 sponsorship, nomination and visa applications must now be lodged online. Paper applications are no longer accepted.
For more information on the changes please visit the department’s website.
Changes have been made to the Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa to introduce new post-study work arrangements for certain graduates of an Australian bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree.
The subclass 485 visa now provides recent graduates with the opportunity to spend more time in Australia following their studies to gain practical work experience to accompany their Australian qualification(s).
Significant changes were made to the subclass 485 on 23 March 2013. Subclass 485 visa applicants must now apply in either the Graduate Work stream or the Post-Study Work stream. Each stream of the subclass 485 visa has its own specific requirements that applicants must satisfy for their application to be successful.
The Graduate Work stream is for international students who have recently graduated with skills and qualifications that relate to an occupation in demand in the Australian labour market, as determined by the Skilled Occupation List.
The Post-Study Work stream is for international students who have recently graduated with a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree from an Australian educational institution, regardless of their field of study. This stream of the subclass 485 is only available to international students who applied for and were granted their first Australian student visa on or after 5 November 2011, which is the day the genuine temporary entrant requirement was introduced in the student visa program.
If you are applying for a subclass 485 visa, you now need to provide evidence with your application of having health insurance to cover your stay in Australia.
More information about the new subclass 485 visa, including information about how to apply, is available on the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s website.
New post-study work arrangements are being introduced in early 2013 for eligible international students who graduate with an Australian Bachelor’s, Master’s or a Doctoral degree.
The new post-study work arrangements will be built as an additional stream in the existing temporary skilled graduate (subclass 485) visa. The subclass 485 currently allows international students who graduate with skills and qualifications that relate to an occupation that is in demand to remain in Australia for an additional 18 months.
From early 2013, the temporary skilled graduate (subclass 485) visa will be renamed the temporary graduate (subclass 485) visa. You may apply for the temporary graduate visa through either the new post-study work stream (the new arrangements) or the graduate work stream (the existing subclass 485 arrangements) provided you meet the specific eligibility requirements.
The post-study work stream of the subclass 485 will be for international students who lodged their first student visa application after the introduction of the genuine temporary entrant requirement (GTE) on 5 November 2011. If you do not meet this requirement, you may still be eligible for a temporary graduate visa through the graduate work stream.
The introduction of new post-study work arrangements for degree level graduates in Australia was a key recommendation of the Strategic review of the student visa program 2011, conducted by the Hon Michael Knight AO.
We have recently published updated information on our website with details about how the new arrangements will work and what the particular eligibility requirements will be. You can view this information here.
More important information about the new post-study work stream of the subclass 485:
To be eligible for the new post-study work arrangements, you must graduate from an Australian educational institution with a Bachelor’s, Master’s and/or Doctoral degree. You may qualify for the new arrangements using any combination of eligible degree level qualifications.
The study used to complete this qualification must have been at Bachelor level and above and must meet the Australian study requirement.
The Australian study requirement
Regardless of whether you are applying under the new post-study work stream or the graduate work stream, you must meet the Australian study requirement in the six months before making your subclass 485 application. The Australian study requirement is defined as study in Australia in a registered course for a period of at least two academic years. The course must be conducted in English and must be completed in no less than 16 calendar months.
We have developed a fact sheet with information on how the Australian study requirement is assessed for the purposes of applying for a temporary graduate visa. This new fact sheet can be found here.
Are the new arrangements linked to skilled migration?
The new arrangements are not linked to skilled migration and do not provide a pathway to permanent residence. Therefore applicants under the new post-study work stream will not be required to nominate a skilled occupation or submit a skills assessment. Applicants under the graduate work stream of the subclass 485 will still be required to nominate a skilled occupation and submit a suitable skills assessment.
It is important to note that student visas and the graduate work visa are temporary visas and there is no guarantee that, on the basis of having held one of these visas, you will meet the requirements for grant of another visa.
Under the new post-study work arrangements, the duration of the subclass 485 visa you are granted will depend on the qualification that you have used to qualify for the arrangements.
Graduates who have completed a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s by coursework degree or Master’s extended degree may be eligible to apply for a two year post-study work visa. Graduates who have completed a Master’s by research degree or a Doctorate may be eligible to apply for a three or four year post-study work visa respectively.
Other graduates may be eligible to apply for an 18 month subclass 485 visa through the graduate work stream.
We’ve recently published the latest working holiday maker visa program report. The report contains interesting background information about the program and up-to-date statistics on the numbers of visas granted both by year and country of citizenship as well as statistics about the total number of visa holders in Australia.
As at 30 June 2012, there were 132 107 Working Holiday visa holders in Australia, which represents a 22.3 per cent increase since the previous program year.You can also find the latest visa grant statistics about the new Work and Holiday arrangement with Argentina.
The Migration and Visa Policy Division (which publishes this blog) produces a wide range of regular reports. In addition to the reports available for the 457 program, there are now regular publications available for the student visa program, and the June 2012 visitor visa program quarterly report is now published.
Aside from temporary visas, the department produces a variety of publications on different aspects of the work we do and the services we provide. For more information check our website at www.immi.gov.au/media/publications.htm
A new report Temporary entrants and New Zealand citizens in Australia is now available on the department’s website. The report provides a snapshot of various groups of temporary visa holders and New Zealand citizens who were present in Australia as at the end December 2011. A copy of this report can be accessed here.
The report highlights some key trends:
- some 1,045,840 temporary visa holders were present in Australia on 31 December 2011, a 0.6 per cent increase from last year;
- the largest groups of temporary visa holders present in Australia on 31 December 2011 were visitors (367,970), followed by students (254,680), working holiday makers (subclass 417 and 462) (134,840) and Business (Long Stay) (subclass 457) visa holders (128,600);
- between December 2010 and December 2011, the number of student visa holders decreased by 12.5 per cent and visitor visa holders by 1.1 per cent, while the number of subclass 457 visa holders and working holiday makers increased by 10.9 per cent and 14.1 per cent, respectively;
- during the same period, the number of visitors from India and China increased (16.7% and 10.5% respectively) while the number of students from India and China decreased ( 34.7% and 7.6% respectively);
- the countries with the most number of Working Holiday (subclass 417) visa holders were the United Kingdom (19.4%), South Korea (16.6%) and Ireland (12.2%);
- the countries with the most number of Business (Long Stay) visa holders were the United Kingdom (26.7%), India (13.7%) and the Philippines (7.3%); and,
- some 597,730 New Zealand citizens were present in Australia on 31 December 2011,
a 6.9 per cent increase from the previous year.
New web page for Student visa holders who were affected by the skilled migration reforms announced on 8 February 2010.
There is a new web page for current and former Student visa holders who held a Student visa on
8 February 2010, when the Australian Government announced the skilled migration reforms.
The new web page can be found here.
Increasingly in the years leading up to the reforms, the composition of the skilled migration program was being determined by those who wished to apply, rather than by labour market demand. A series of reforms were necessary to reposition the program as demand driven and able to respond better to Australia’s skilled labour needs.
One of the key changes was the withdrawal of the Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) and the introduction of a new Skilled Occupation List (SOL). The SOL is a list of occupations that are eligible for independent, or unsponsored, skilled migration. The new SOL consists of 192 occupations, down from more than 400 on the old list, and delivers a skilled migration program that is tightly focused on high value skills that will assist in addressing Australia’s medium to long term skill needs.
When these reforms were announced, the Australian Government also announced generous transitional arrangements for those who held Student visas when the changes were announced. The new web page includes information about these transitional arrangements, as well as other information about extending a Student visa, and also information about the skilled migration program. We plan to expand the page with further information in the coming months.
It is important for students to be aware that the Student visa program and the skilled migration program serve different purposes. A Student visa allows a person to come to Australia and study for a specified period. On the other hand, the skilled migration program has an economic focus. It is designed to meet the needs of the Australian labour market and strengthen the whole economy. Because of this, the requirements for skilled migration may change depending on the economic circumstances of the time, and that is why students should study a course based on their academic interests, rather than to achieve a particular migration outcome.
Student visas are temporary visas, so students should be mindful of their visa expiry date so they can consider their options early. It takes time to apply for another visa, and if a person is unable to obtain another visa they must depart Australia before their Student visa expires. There can be serious consequences for overstaying a Student visa and becoming unlawful, including being unable to return to Australia for up to three years.
Some students might be thinking about lodging an Expression of Interest (EOI) in SkillSelect when their student visa expires. An EOI is not the same as a visa application. It is an indication that a person would like to apply for a skilled migration visa, rather than an application itself. A Bridging visa will not be granted after submitting an EOI. If a person is not invited to apply for a skilled migration visa before their existing visa expires, they will need to obtain another visa or depart Australia.
At the end of 2010, the Hon Michael Knight AO was appointed to conduct the first independent review of the Student visa program (the Knight Review).
Mr Knight made 41 recommendations in his report, Strategic Review of the Student Visa Program 2011, to improve the competitiveness of the Australian international education sector and to strengthen the integrity of the Student visa program. All of the recommendations have been accepted in principle by the government. For more information, visit www.immi.gov.au/students/knight/
Stage one of the Knight Review changes was implemented in late 2011 and a number of key stage two Knight Review changes were implemented recently on 24 and 26 March. The remaining stage two changes are proposed to be implemented later in 2012 and in early 2013.
Changes implemented for applications made on or after 24 March 2012
- Streamlined visa processing for applicants studying Bachelor, Masters and Doctoral courses at participating universities in Australia are assessed as though they are a lower risk (similar to the current Assessment Level 1), regardless of their country of origin. This means that these applicants will generally have reduced evidentiary requirements when applying for a Student visa.
- The maximum period of English language study that a Schools sector (subclass 571) visa applicant subject to Assessment Level (AL) 3 and above can undertake, has been increased to 50 weeks. Prior to 24 March 2012, the maximum period of English language study for Schools sector applicants was 40 weeks for AL 3, 30 weeks for AL 4 and nil for AL 5. The arrangements for AL 1 and AL 2 applicants remain unchanged, with no English language study period restrictions.
- New Student Guardian (subclass 580) visa holders can undertake English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) study on a part-time basis (less than 20 hours per week) for the duration of their visa. However this change only applies to ELICOS study—other study restrictions remain unchanged.
Changes implemented on 26 March 2012
- More flexible work conditions for Student visa holders have come into effect. Postgraduate Research (subclass 574) visa holders can now work unlimited hours once their courses have started and all other Student visa holders work entitlements are now 40 hours each fortnight instead of 20 hours each week.
- The above changes apply to both new and existing Student visa holders.
You can access Mr Knight’s full report, fact sheets and frequently asked questions on the stage one and stage two Knight Review changes on the department’s website: www.immi.gov.au/students/knight/
We’re always trying new ways of communicating with the public about our migration programs. So this week our 457 policy team is opening up the migration blog to any questions you have about the 457 visa and temporary skilled migration to Australia.
While we can’t provide advice about individual cases, any other questions about the program no matter how specific or broad are welcome.
Here are some examples to stimulate ideas:
- Why do we have temporary migration to Australia?
- How do market rates work?
- What happens if I get fired while on a 457 visa?
- Why do I need to get health insurance while on a 457 visa?
We are looking forward to your questions.