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New rules for 457 work visas apply from July 1 make process longer, harder.

Core changes:

  1. Additional English requirements – employees now need to sit IELTS to prove “sufficient English language ability” noting some occupations may require a higher level of English language ability than others.
  2. Skill assessments required – before these were only required for people seeking permanent residency. Likely to cause a shift back to the skilled visas categories, and permanent residency.
  3. The new rules could mean that businesses wishing to sponsor skilled migrant workers to fill management positions or work on priority projects will have to wait an extra three months, as VETASSESS can take at least this long to process a skills assessment application.

This will delay the visa process by around 3 months, and increase the cost of seeking same.

New English requirements for 457 Visa are retrospective:

457 applicants must now meet “Vocational English” standards (as described in Reg. 457.223(4)(eb) and Reg. 1.15B) or be exempted by a new Instrument.

This arguably applies to 457 visas lodged before 1 July (ergo the requirement is retrospective), in which case the DIAC may have to refuse huge numbers of 457 visa applications, unless they decide to ignore their own regulations.

The “Vocational English” requirement falls under a “time of decision” criterion (as described in Reg 457.223(4)(eb)), and Reg 1.15B requires that the IELTS test be taken before a prospective 457 visa holder has lodged their application.

Retrospective change is regrettable and will severely impact those currently on bridging visas, who may now find themselves caught in a sort of limbo between withdrawal and a s48 bar.

No transitional arrangements are in place.

New 457 skills assessment requirements are ambiguous:

Before July 1, TRA-approved skills assessments for 457 immigration visas in certain trade occupations (e.g. chefs or hairdressers) for particular countries (e.g. India, China, South Africa, Thailand and the Philippines) had to be formally announced by the minister.

New Procedure Advice Manuals (PAMs) have been created that do not announce any changes to skills assessment requirements for some 457-approved occupations – in particular, for the positions of Project or Program Administrator and Specialist Managers NEC.

These PAMs refer to these two occupations as “generalist” – but there is no mention of these “generalist” occupations in the legislation that underpins the PAMs. There is no corresponding Gazette notice in relation to these two occupations,m nor is there a definition of “generalist” anywhere.

The DIAC website, current 457 legislation and all relevant PAMs each have a slightly different story to tell.

There is no legislation or Gazetted Notices specifically stating that Project or Program Administrator and Specialist Managers NEC require skills assessments.

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