DIBP has confirmed that more changes to the 457 program will be coming on 1 July 2017 including expanding mandatory skills assessments, introducing mandatory police clearance certificates, more restrictions on training benchmark requirements for employers, and elimination of the high income English language exemption for nominations with salaries higher than $96,400 per year. It is unclear from the announcements whether the 1 July 2017 changes will affect all visa applications that have not been decided as of that date including applications lodged prior to this date (as the 18 April 2017 changes did) or whether only applications lodged beginning 1 July 2017 will be affected. Announced changes include:
Mandatory Skills Assessments – DIBP has announced that additional occupations for applicants from selected countries will be required to provide a full skills assessment in order to be granted a 457 visa. Currently this requirement exists in DIBP policy for some trade occupations for applicants from selected countries, and for additional selected occupations for all applicants including Program and Project Administrator. DIBP has not announced which countries/occupations will be added to the mandatory skills assessment list. This requirement is of particular concern, as some skills assessors require a minimum number of years of post-qualification work experience for skills assessments, whereas the current ANZSCO definitions for occupations allow an applicant to be considered skilled either by having the specified educational qualification for the occupation or having a specified number of years of work experience in the occupation. It would appear that this new requirement along with related requirements for some occupations of requiring a specified number of skilled (i.e., after achieving their educational qualification) years of experience may impact student visa holders the most. For many occupations the requirements of skills assessors substantially exceed DIBP’s minimum requirements for an occupation.
Mandatory Police Clearance Certificates – While these are currently not required unless requested or an applicant has declared a conviction, beginning 1 July 2017 all applicants age 17 years or older will be required to provide police clearance certificates from all countries they have lived in “for a significant period”.
More Restrictions on Training Benchmarks – Employer training benchmark expenses are one of the most challenging parts of the 457 program for many employers, and these requirements are set to increase including more restrictions on the types of training funds available to meet benchmark A, and more restrictions on the types of training expenditure that can be used by employers to meet benchmark B. It was separately announced in the 2017-2018 budget that the existing training benchmark programs will be replaced by a new per-visa holder, per-year training fee of $1,200 or $1,500 for the new TSS visa beginning March 2018 and one-off training fees for employer sponsored 186 and 187 visas.
Elimination of the High Salary English Exemption for 457 visas – The existing exemption for high salary earners (over $96,400 per year) will be eliminated on 1 July 2017.