The beginning of 457 visa reforms and the relaxing of English language testing

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) brought into effect a raft of changes on 18 April 2015. For many, the most important are the ones that were previously flagged for change to the 457 visa programme reported recently.

The new English requirements for a 457 visa have been eased slightly and now provides flexibility by allowing someone to meet the overall band score, but can be under this score for individual test components in some circumstances. Note that this will only apply to occupations that do not have a minimum English requirement for licensing.

They have been so kind by creating a nice little table for all of the approved tests.

This is a departure from requiring minimum test components that were the same as the overall band score and therefore compensates for small deficiencies in the test-takers abilities. It is also reasonable because any test-taker must have a good basic level of English (hence a minimum score for each component) and it does not relax the total minimum score. This means that, for example, someone who scores 4.5 in all four components of an IELTS test would still not meet this requirement as the overall band score would be 4.5, but if one or two components scored at 4.5, it would be passable if they were better in others (say 5.5).

The DIBP has also applied similar flexibility for the higher English language requirements for the Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) and Skilled Recognised Graduate (subclass 476) visas.

Lastly, another important change for 457 visas is that the ‘market salary rate’ and Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold exemptions for high income earners has been rolled back from AUD 250 000 to its previous level of AUD 180 000.

It is always good to see the DIBP implement changes to the benefit of visa applicants in a speedy manner. It would be expected, though, that other proposed changes to the 457 visa programme already earmarked for reform will require a consultative approach and take some time to be realised.