The Coalition’s New Independent Review of 457 Visa Program

by 02 Apr 2014
On 25 February 2014, the government announced the establishment of an independent review panel into the operation of the subclass 457 work visa program, to report in mid-2014. Part of the panel’s brief is to investigate the potential of the 457 program to contribute to productivity growth in Australia. 

The Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, has stated that the aim of the review is, “to provide recommendations on how to maintain the integrity of the 457 visa program, while not placing unnecessary administrative burdens on business.” 

The previous government introduced a number of changes to the 457 program in the latter half of 2013. These included:
  • the introduction of a purpose statement purporting to restrict use of the 457 visa program to circumstances of ‘genuine skills shortage’;
  • stricter English language evidence requirements; and
  • requiring employers in some occupations to demonstrate that there is no suitably qualified Australian readily available to fill the nominated position.
In the case of each of these reforms, one apparent consequence has been an increase in the overall lead time for a 457 matter, both in terms of preparing a case for lodgement and processing time through the Department of Immigration.

Coalition members of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee (including Senator Cash) were critical of these changes during debate in the previous Parliament, due to concerns about their impact on business. The Coalition (then in Opposition) ultimately voted against the legislation.

Senator Cash’s statements when announcing the current review were consistent with more business-friendly messages about the subclass 457 visa program from the new Coalition government, as reflected in a number of changes the government has made at a policy level to make the program more flexible. The government has instructed all departments to ‘facilitate not frustrate’ business in its dealings with government, and this independent review could be the precursor to legislative reform that furthers the government’s aim of ensuring Australia is ‘open for business’ while maintaining the integrity of the subclass 457 visa program. 

Unlike the structured Senate Committee’s hearing last year, the review panel will operate informally. This will include consultation with the business community and seeking feedback from stakeholders though a number of forums.
 
Fragomen will be participating in the 457 program review. If you have any questions or concerns about the review, please contact auadvisory@fragomen.com.