Immigration slashes temporary work visas in half

by 22 Nov 2012

The government's latest efforts to simplify the visa process is a lot more complicated than one might think. Ariel Brott reviews the changes and outlines what it means for business.

“If they keep simplifying like that, we’re in for a bloody complex year”. So says the National HR Manager of a listed company, upon my briefing him of the Government’s latest measures to implement its “visa simplification” project.  I can’t disagree.

These measures, effective 24 November 2012, will halve the number of temporary work visa subclasses, introduce three new temporary work visa subclasses and make amendments to the Subclass 457 and Subclass 420 visas.

Whether you view the changes as simplifying or utterly perplexing, they will be of relevance to all HR professionals involved in the employment of non-citizen workers, particularly those operating in the film/media, education and sports industries, amongst others. 

I have set out below a basic description of the changes, followed by a brief summary of the implications for existing sponsors of temporary workers under soon-to-be repealed visa subclasses.

Amended Visa: Subclass 457 Business (Long Stay)
The subclass 457 Business (Long Stay) visa is to be renamed the subclass 457 Temporary Work (Skilled) visa. It will be expanded such that people who might previously have applied under the soon-to-be-repealed subclass 427 Domestic Worker (Executive) visa, will be managed via the subclass 457 Labour Agreement provisions. It is unclear how exactly this is going to work, but if the process is similar to current Labour Agreement procedures (typically used for the recruitment of high volumes of personnel) few employers are likely to have the appetite to go through such a protracted process for just one or two domestic workers.

The subclass 422 (Medical Practitioner) visa will also be repealed, and medical practitioners will continue to apply under the subclass 457 scheme, as they have since 2009.

Repealed Visa: 423 (Media and Film Staff)

The subclass 423 visa is to be repealed. People who may have previously applied under this visa subclass will instead have recourse to other visa subclasses, for example:

  • the subclass 420 visa will be renamed the Temporary Work (Entertainment) visa, and will be amended to incorporate provisions relating to foreign film crew; and
  • the subclass 456 and 457 visas will manage applicants working with foreign news organisations

New Visa: Subclass 401 Temporary Work (Long Stay Activity)
The new subclass 401 visa will replace the Exchange (Subclass 411) visa, Sport (Subclass 421) visa, and Religious Work (Subclass 428) visa. It will have the following three streams:

  • Exchange stream: for staff exchange arrangements between Australian and foreign entities.
  • Sports stream: for participation in sporting events as competitors or support staff.
  • Religious Worker stream

New Visa: Subclass 402 (Training and Research)
The new subclass 402 visa is to replace the Occupational Trainee (Subclass 442) visa, the Visiting Academic (Subclass 419) visa, and the Professional Development (Subclass 470) visa. It will have the following three streams:

  • Occupational Trainee stream: for people requiring workplace-based training.
  • Research stream: for academics intending to observe or participate in Australian research projects.
  • Professional Development stream: for professionals, managers or government officials to engage in professional development activities in Australia.

New Visa: Subclass 403 Temporary Work (International Relations)
The new subclass 403 visa will replace the subclass 406 (Government Agreement) visa, the subclass 415 (Foreign Government Agency) visa and the subclass 426 (Domestic Worker – Diplomatic or Consular) visa.

It will also replace those provisions in the subclass 456 Business (Short Stay) and Subclass 457 Business (Long Stay) visas relating to diplomatic/consular privileges and immunities. 

This new visa subclass will have the following four streams:

  • Government Agreement stream: for people undertaking activities in accordance with agreements between the Australian government and a foreign government.
  • Foreign Government Agency stream: for people representing a foreign government operating in an unofficial capacity as well as foreign language teachers employed by foreign governments to work in Australian schools.
  • Domestic Worker (diplomatic or consular) stream: for people undertaking domestic work for holders of subclass 995 diplomatic visas.
  • Privileges and Immunities stream: for people accorded diplomatic/consular privileges and immunities.

Existing Sponsors: What Should You Do?

Both the subclass 401 and 402 visas will require an approved sponsorship to be in place. However, if you are an existing sponsor under any of the repealed visa subclasses, you will not be required to apply for new sponsorships. You may continue to sponsor visa applicants under the new visa subclasses until your sponsorship ceases; and your Sponsor obligations will continue accordingly.

Similarly, existing visa holders’ visas will remain valid until their visa expiry date.

However, sponsors may not use approved nominations under an old visa subclass for new visa applications lodged from 24 November 2012.   

As always, you should speak to your immigration lawyer for detailed advice specific to your circumstances.


About the author

Ariel Brott is a solicitor and migration agent in the corporate division of Australia’s leading migration firm Erskine Rodan & Associates. If you have any questions, you can contact him at: