‘457 visa changes are 2% practical, 98% political’

HRD talks to Petra Playfair about how the recent changes to 457 visas will impact employers

‘457 visa changes are 2% practical, 98% political’

One problem with the recent 457 visa changes is that they are 2% practical, 98% political, according to Petra Playfair, CEO of Playfair Visa and Migration Services.

Playfair told HRD that the announcements were made without legislation which is very uncommon in immigration.

“Immigration normally goes through checks and balances that allow for the transition requirements to be in writing,” said Playfair.

“Therefore, a decision could be made by an HR manager whether to progress on a certain pathway or whether there will be no pathway at all.

“So it’s hard to determine in the long term when the legislation comes into effect, whether it will be watered down from the media messaging or whether it won’t be.”

Playfair added that the 457 visa is probably the only subclass of visa that most Australians have ever even heard about.

“There are more than 30 types of visa classes and many of them are very popular ways of obtaining pathways for employment with companies, but nobody knows the numbers,” she said.

“We also heard the 457 is being abolished – it’s not being abolished.

“It’s this rationale which you must put Australians first, but we are effectively still talking rhetoric.”

Playfair said the main changes that are being made are that “it’s more expensive, it’s more onerous, and it will be slower or more difficult to obtain a pathway for permanent residence”.

But does replacing training requirements with a foreign worker levy impact Australia’s ability to attract and retain international talent?

“It shouldn’t impact it much,” said Playfair.

“If you are replacing a training requirement with a foreign worker levy you are effectively adding a $1200 fee per annum for small and medium businesses and an $1800 fee per annum for larger businesses.

“But that shouldn’t in itself significantly impact their ability to attract and retain talent.”

However, Playfair said a higher cost for visas always has a negative impact, particularly smaller businesses which might think twice before sponsoring if there is a larger fee involved.

“When I say it’s a cost to business, what that means is that you have to have a staff turnover because staff will be allowed to come for two years on a visa (not four years) and then have an extension for a further two years,” she said.

“They won’t be allowed to continue on temporary visas after that. So that will require a turnover of staff.”

Playfair added that the Federal Government is disempowering employers by saying ‘look, you can’t provide your own internal training satisfactorily so we are just going to charge you a fee to do the training for you’.

“And that fee goes back to national coffers effectively,” she said.

“It’s stated that it’s going to be used for new apprenticeships and training of Australians in targeted occupations which government will determine by its own research.

“But we all know that employers provide in-house training at a much more sophisticated level and a much more targeted level now than can be provided through government or educational institutions.

“In-house training over the last 20 or 30 years has become far more important for many employers than external training by educational institutions or public institutions.”


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