The Australian Government implemented numerous changes to the Subclass 457 and other visa programmes Saturday that will impact corporate immigration and the ability to sponsor high-skilled foreign workers.

Key changes as of 1 July:

  • Occupation lists. The Government has further amended the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) and the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) and removed several additional occupations from the lists altogether. A table of the occupation list changes is available here. The lists will be reviewed and updated every six months.
  • Accredited sponsorship. In order to qualify as an accredited sponsor in the Subclass 457 visa programme, Standard Business Sponsors must meet the characteristics of one of the four categories: low-volume users of the 457 programme whose workforce is composed of at least 90 percent Australian workers, high-volume 457 sponsors whose workforce is composed of at least 75 percent Australian workers, Australian Trusted Traders, or government agencies. Further information as to the required characteristics can be found here.
  • Police clearances. All 457 visa applicants, including accompanying family members ages 17 and older, must provide mandatory police clearance certificates for all countries in which they have spent 12 months or more in the past 10 years.
  • English language requirements. The exemption to English language requirements for Subclass 457 visa applicants who earn at least A$96,400 per year has been eliminated. Applicants in this high-salary earner category must meet the same vocational English language requirements as other 457 applicants, unless they will be travelling to Australia as part of an intra-company transfer arrangement and receiving a nominated base salary of at least A$96,400. Additionally, all applicants for permanent employer-sponsored skilled visa programmes must score at least 6 in each component of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) (or equivalent test) unless an exemption will apply. 
  • Training benchmarks. Beginning in March of 2018, training benchmark requirements will be replaced with a requirement that sponsors pay into a Skilling Australians Fund. In the meantime, as of 1 July, minor changes are in effect, including clarification as to what training funds and expenditures may be counted towards the training benchmarks for standard business sponsors. Businesses are not required to demonstrate they are industry leaders in training; an entity may satisfy Training Benchmark A by making a recent expenditure totaling at least 2 per cent of payroll into a training fund that operates in the same or a similar industry as the business; an entity may satisfy Training Benchmark B by making an expenditure totaling at least 1 per cent of payroll towards training those employees who are Australian citizens or permanent residents.
  •  Additional changes:
  • General Skilled Migration and Employer Sponsored visa programmes age requirement. The maximum age for Subclass 189 (Skilled – Independent), Skilled Regional (Provisional) (subclass 489) and Skilled Nominated (subclass 190) visa points-based applicants has been lowered to 45 at the time of invitation. The previous maximum was 50 years old. The lower age limit of 45 will also apply to Direct Entry stream applicants for the Subclass 186 and Subclass 187 visas.
  • Subclass 417 and Subclass 462 age limit. Provisions have been made for the upper age limit for Work and Holiday (subclass 462) and Working Holiday (subclass 417) visa applicants to increase from 30 to 35. Because the two visa subclasses are based on separate bilateral agreements between Australia and participating countries, the new age limit will not take effect for a participating country until mutual agreement has been reached with Australia to increase the age limit. The change is part of a broader overhaul of the Work and Holiday and Working Holiday visa programmes.
  • Visa Application Charges. The Application Charge (VAC) increases for a number of Australian visas, including Subclass 457 visas. A complete list of the new VACs is available here.
  • New visa stream for New Zealanders. A new permanent visa stream has been created for certain New Zealanders residing in Australia. The stream under the Subclass 189 (Skilled – Independent) visa category will be available to New Zealanders holding a Subclass 444 (Special Category) visa, who were usually resident in Australia on or before 19 February 2016, who have continued to reside in Australia for at least five years and meet minimum income requirements.
  • Online APEC Business Travel Cards. Eligible Australian business travellers will be able to apply for an APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) online. The cards reduces costs of travelling, including visa applications fees, and time associated with immigration processing among APEC countries. Additional information is available on this link to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.
  • Passenger cards. Travellers departing Australia will no longer be required to fill out outgoing passenger cards because the information collected on these cards will be collected through other means.

BAL Analysis: BAL Australia will be holding a webinar on 12 July that will cover many of the immigration changes to the skilled immigration visa programmes listed above, as well as additional changes scheduled to take effect in March 2018. BAL will continue to monitor developments in Australia and update clients as additional information becomes available.

This alert has been provided by BAL Australia. For additional information, please contact

MARN: 0850984.

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