457 visas and others: Consolidated Skilled Occupation List under review

Apart from Australia’s humanitarian visa programme, no other visa is as politicised as the Temporary Work (Skilled) (subclass 457) visa.

It comes as no surprise when the Federal Opposition brought this visa to the fore recently, that the Immigration Minister announced last week that a review of the Consolidated Skilled Occupation List (CSOL) will occur. In his statement, he takes aim squarely at the Opposition for expanding the list back in 2012 when they held government.

The particular legislative instrument where the CSOL is found actually contains two lists: Schedule 1, the Skilled Occupation List (SOL); and Schedule 2, the CSOL. When referring to the CSOL, it is important to realise that it is a combination of both Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 lists. The SOL is considered a list of occupations that are most critical to Australia’s needs.

Where this instrument affects 457 visas is that any visa applicant can only be nominated in an occupation listed on the CSOL.

While the Minister concentrated on 457 visas in his statement, he does state that it affects a number of other temporary and permanent visas as well. This includes the:

  • Skilled Nominated (subclass 190) visa,
  • Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa,
  • Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 489) visa, and
  • Training (subclass 407) visa.

The review will be conducted by the Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration (MACSM), which comprises of representatives from employer and employee groups. Their recommendation should be provided in the first half of 2017.

One wonders for the future of the 457 visa programme. There is currently a great disparity between different polities of Australia, and it may prove difficult to provide a single framework of laws to effectively manage all of them. For instance, the unemployment rates by State vary from 3.4 per cent in the ACT to 6.5 per cent in Western Australia. There is also a chronic divide in city and regional job vacancies. While the 457 visa programme is designed to be utilised where no suitable Australian citizen or permanent resident can be sourced, any changes to the CSOL and the programme in general will need to address economies, industries, and businesses in different predicaments, and with different, and sometimes conflicting, needs.