21/08/2007 - 22:00

457 visa changes to slow applications

21/08/2007 - 22:00

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Recent changes to the 457 temporary business visa may slow the application process, according to some in the migration industry, with new rules governing English language requirements and employer obligations coming into effect.

457 visa changes to slow applications

Recent changes to the 457 temporary business visa may slow the application process, according to some in the migration industry, with new rules governing English language requirements and employer obligations coming into effect. 

As of July 1, workers on a 457 visa must undertake the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test, and attain a score of 4.5 before their visa application is approved.

Highly skilled workers and those earning $75,000 or more (excluding allowances) will be exempt, with tradespersons from non-English speaking countries most likely to be affected.  The legislation is retrospective and applies to all 457 visa holders currently in Australia.

Phoenix Academy principal, Robynne Walsh, said the new requirements would impede visa processing times, due to candidates facing long waiting periods for the test.   

“There’s going to be a reaction that’s unnecessary, because businesses should be proactive and prepared for it,” she said.

Mrs Walsh said many employers were not aware that their 457 visa workers would have to sit the test upon renewal of their four-year visa. 

Phoenix will conduct some of the training related to the testing.

New laws outlining employer obligations also came into effect this week, as part of a move by the federal government to crack down on employers using illegal workers.

Under the changes, employing a person working illegally or in breach of their visa conditions could lead to criminal charges.

Individuals face fines of up to $13,200 and two years’ imprisonment, while companies may be fined up to $66,000 per illegal worker.

Visa Solutions Australia managing director, Dan Engles, said his company may provide a compliance program for large companies to ensure they were operating legally.

“It will be interesting to see how the department (of immigration) is going to police this. From what we can see, they’re going to be chasing it pretty hard,” he said

Mr Engles said it was likely that the $300 cost of the new English test would deter potential offshore workers.

“We have to find some way of getting a skills and English test for offshore workers that costs around $200, otherwise they’re just not going to do it,” he said.

Mr Engles said workers on 457 visas that were already in WA, and would be required to sit the English test upon renewal of their visa, would not appear in the system until next year.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia executive director policy, Deidre Willmott, agreed that it was too early to tell what impact the new English language requirements were having on WA businesses.

The federal parliament is also currently debating legislation to tighten employer obligations over 457 visa workers.

These changes, if passed, will include paying a minimum salary, payment of all recruitment and travel costs and certain medical expenses.

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