On April 18, 2017 the Australian Government announced major changes to the main business visa category (the “457 visa”) – describing them as the biggest changes since 1996.

Below is a brief summary of the changes announced. Clearly a lot of the detail is missing at this stage and there is likely to be some short-term disruption as the Department of Immigration and Border Protection works through the practical implications.

Our initial feeling is that the announcement and the changes are largely for a domestic political audience, and although the name of the principal business visa will change, and eligibility rules and some other matters will be tightened to some extent, the government has no wish to impede the smooth operation of international business on which the Australian economy relies. This does not preclude unintended consequences of the changes, however the Government has flagged an impact review to take place within a few months.

We will provide further updates as the situation unfolds and more information becomes available.

From 19 April 2017:

  • Reduction in occupations eligible for a work visa
  • For some occupations only a 2 year visa available (was 4 years), renewable for 2 years
  • For some occupations a 4-year visa available

From 1 July 2017:

  • Tougher English language proficiency tests
  • Review of how new rules are operating
  • Revised training requirements for employers

From March 2018:

  • 457 visa abolished
  • Replaced by Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa, with 2 streams
  • Short-term skills shortage (2 year visas)
  • Medium – term skills shortage (4 year visas)

Many aspects are not addressed in the announced changes, including

  • Renewals of existing 457 visas
  • Short-term assignments (e.g. 400 visa)
  • Requirements for employers to obtain, or renew, approval to sponsor business visa applications