Australia announces number of changes to its visa rules



A number of changes, including fee increases have been recently introduce to several of the Australian visas. The price of the Temporary (skilled) work visa (subclass 457) nomination application fee was increased from 85 AUD to 330 AUD. However, the fee to apply to be an Approved Sponsor under the subclass 457 programme remains unchanged at $420. According to the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship the increase of the cost is driven by the higher cost of processing and administering visa applications. In addition to that DIAC wants to bring the Australian visa system in line with the international benchmarks. A number of reforms to the subclass 457 programme, used by employers to fill short to medium term skill shortages to recruit overseas workers when they can’t find a suitably qualified person in Australia, have also been introduced. It is expected that the new rules will increase the integrity and will make the visa program more transparent, without adversely impacting the business that are using the program in order to fill labour shortages.

The main reason for the new changes is the fact that in the recent months the 457 visa program has grown at record rates and most of the holders work in such regions where not significant labor shortages are present. In addition to that there is a serious suspicion that some employers are hiring people with 457 visas, without first checking whether appropriate workers can be found on the local market. Such actions while not unlawful are against the principle of 457 visa programme. The changes are part of a wider crackdown against abuse of the 457 programme. This week saw the first court findings against a 457 visa sponsor. A Federal Magistrates Court found that a 457 visa sponsor in Victoria underpaid a worker by $10,000. The court fined Sahan Enterprises $35,000 plus costs of almost $11,000 and put significant weight on the need to deter other employer sponsors from breaching their obligations.

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