by Rebecca Merrett

IT execs take note: Govt toughens up on 457 visas

Mar 18, 20152 mins

The government announced it will act on recommendations set out in a review of the 457 visa program in September last year to ensure organisations are complying and genuinely face a skills shortage.

“The government will introduce a new penalty making it unlawful for sponsors to receive payment in return for sponsoring a worker for a 457 visa,” said Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator Michaelia Cash.

“Further, we will proactively prosecute and name and shame offenders exploiting overseas workers and misusing the program.”

Fifty-one recommendations were made, with majority of them being supported by the government.

Key recommendations include a greater focus on sponsor monitoring, increasing transparency and accountability of sanctions, and for Immigration and Border Protection to work closely with other government agencies such as the Australian Tax Office and Fair Work Ombudsman.

Training benchmarks provisions will undergo further consultation. Cash said they are “complex, costly, and susceptible to misuse.”

“Our intention is to better direct training funds derived from 457 sponsors to ensure that Australians are trained in those occupations where we are currently experiencing skills shortages and relying on skilled migrants.”

The highest salary employers can pay workers on a 457 visa will be $180,000. This was increased by the previous Labor government to $250,000. It was argued that skilled overseas workers earning more than that amount are “adequately equipped to negotiate their own terms and conditions of employment without the need for further government involvement”.

For startups, the government will extend the sponsorship approval period to 18 months, as it was decided that 12 months was not enough time for them to establish their business and increase Australia’s attractiveness to foreign investors.

A Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration (MACSM) will be appointed to review a list of occupations under the 457 visa so that they meet a genuine skills shortage in the labour market and economy.

The changes will take place this year. A full list of the governments responses to the recommendations can be found here.