457 visa amendments and a new sponsor obligation introduced

New laws were passed late last week to the 457 visa programme. These three amendments have been made to bolster the complying framework for Standard Business Sponsors and to tweak 457 visa applications for better processing, and to reduce red tape.

The amendment to Standard Business Sponsorship is the implementation of one of the recommendations from the 457 Integrity Review, namely, to enforce non-discriminatory employment practices (Recommendation 10.6). The new sponsor obligation is that Standard Business Sponsors refrain from engaging in discriminatory recruitment practices based on the immigration status or citizenship of a person other than in compliance with a Commonwealth, State or Territory Law. This is furthering, and in addition to, requiring businesses to have a strong record and commitment to employing local labour. Businesses will need to attest to non-discriminatory recruitment practices on subsequent applications to apply for, or renew, their Standard Business Sponsorship.

The second amendment is a back-end fix for effective processing. Previously, any 457 visa application had to identify the sponsor or proposed sponsor, but not the required nomination that links the sponsorship to the visa application. It has been admitted that case officers needed to manually identify the nomination to any subsequent visa application. Now, 457 visa applications must reference either an approved nomination or a nomination application that has not yet been finalised. Additionally, visa applicants do not need to identify the sponsor, which will have the benefit of reducing any potential for fraudulent visa applications. It has always been good practice for Standard Business Sponsors to not disclose their application or approval details to visa applicants or anyone that could use them for malicious purposes.

Lastly, English language requirements are now no longer required only if primary 457 visa applicants have already met the same or a higher requirement to obtain occupational registration or licensing. These changes do not affect current English proficiency levels for this visa. What this amendment is designed for is to reduce unnecessary duplication of English language assessments when a licensing or registration authority has already made such an assessment. It would be expected that any 457 visa applicant claiming an exemption would provide evidence of their licence or registration and also refer to the requirements of the assessing authority.