Abbott announces reforms to 457 visa program

by Chloe Taylor20 Oct 2014
The Prime Minister announced last week his plans to make changes to the 457 scheme to make the visa process more flexible and efficient for business.

Cabinet has shown support for the 457 visa program, and an agreement with business’ concerns that its overregulation has hindered its potential to improve productivity.
“The program was originally introduced with the aim of contributing to productivity growth in Australia,” Ryan Curtis-Griffiths, director at Nevett Ford, told HC. “But due to overregulation regarding certain aspects of the program, processing times have been too long and do not often meet Australian business needs.”

The effects of the reforms should begin to reach employers over the next twelve months.

“When the changes eventually filter through it will hopefully address some of the issues that have plagued the 457 visa program,” said Curtis-Griffiths.

The process of sponsorship for the program will be streamlined, with applicant monitoring and regulation being reduced for low-risk applicants and focussed on those who are deemed high-risk. This will make the process easier and more efficient for employers who source talent from low-risk countries, a list of which can be found here.  
Sponsorship requirements will be reformed, ensuring that businesses that opt to hire internationally save time and money in doing so. Included in these reforms will be a much needed increase in the flexibility of the evidencing of candidates’ English language proficiency.

The changes to the program will also increase sponsorship approval periods for start-up businesses to 18 months. 

But will the government’s support for recruiting internationally cause more backlash from unions and Australian jobseekers? According to Curtis-Griffiths, this is inevitable.

“There is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about the program which does not acknowledge that there is a shortage of suitably qualified and willing Australian workers in certain sectors of the market.  I would add that many Australian employees sometimes need to be reminded of the fact that their ongoing job prospects are enhanced if there is a free flow of highly skilled workers from overseas who are able to do jobs that they cannot.”