Significant changes to 457 visa requirements introduced in mid-2013 continue to affect Visa processing times by the Department of Immigration. This remains as a legacy of measures to address budget issues, as well as labour union assertions that low-paid foreign workers have been displacing Australians in the workforce.

Visa processing times
Multiple changes to visa requirements announced in mid-2013 resulted in substantially longer processing times, as well as widespread uncertainty as to the implications of the changes.

Current Department of Immigration guidelines for application processing times are:

Visa Type Lodged in Australia Lodged outside Australia
Low risk High risk Low risk High risk
Temporary Work (Short Stay Activity)
(subclass 400)
n/a
n/a
1 working day
1 month
Temporary Work (Skilled)
(subclass 457) 2 months 3 months 2 months 3 months

Source: Department of Immigration and Border Protection, January 2014.

Our recent experience has been somewhat better than the above timelines.

English Language Proficiency
One of the changes was to raise the level of English language proficiency required .

Prior to 1 July 2013 the exemptions for English language testing were occupational based. In practice this meant that principally persons engaged in trades and related occupations were required to demonstrate their English language proficiency. On 1 July the occupational based exemptions were removed with the result that a great number of visa applicants will now be required to undergo English language testing to satisfy the visa application requirements.

Applicants must demonstrate proficiency in English to Band 5 of the International English Language Test System (IELTS). Band 5 is assessed as a “Modest User” who “has partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. Should be able to handle basic communication in own field”. Accompanying dependents do not need to demonstrate English language proficiency.

Exemptions to the requirement to take the IELTS test:
• If the base salary (excluding bonus) is above A$96,400 per annum (subject to conditions) and the job does not require English language proficiency for registration, licence or membership, or
• The applicant has completed at least five years of continuous full-time study in a secondary or higher education institution where instruction was conducted in English, or
• The applicant is the holder of a passport from Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom or the United States of America.

Labor Market Testing (LMT)
In a highly controversial move the Labor Government passed legislation in mid-2013 to require employers to undertake “labour market testing” to show evidence there are no Australians available to fill the position, effective from 23 November 2013.

The new Government, elected in September 2013, made these changes considerably less onerous by announcing on 15 November 2013 exemptions covering Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANSCO) Skill Levels 1 and 2 – see definitions below. In essence the LMT requirements are unlikely to present difficulties for most employers of international assignees, other than those in certain technical roles.

SKILL LEVEL 1
Occupations at Skill Level 1 have a level of skill commensurate with a bachelor degree or higher qualification. At least five years of relevant experience may substitute for the formal qualification. In some instances relevant experience and/or on-the-job training may be required in addition to the formal qualification. [Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics]

SKILL LEVEL 2
Occupations at Skill Level 2 have a level of skill commensurate with an Associate Degree, Advanced Diploma or Diploma. At least three years of relevant experience may substitute for the formal qualifications listed above. In some instances relevant experience and/or on-the-job training may be required in addition to the formal qualification.

For more information or assistance with any of these matters please contact Susan Stinson, Australian Registered Migration Agent number 1383173. Email susans@relocationcentre.com.au; Tel + 61 2 9955 3300.