Report by External Reference Group (ERG) on 457 Visas, May 2008

By Claire Zee, Acacia Immigration Australia Pty Ltd, 13 May 2008

Changes to the 457 program proposed by an External Reference Group (ERG) are soon to be implemented by the Rudd government. The ERG was established to improve Australia's temporary skilled migration program in order to make the program scheme more effective and responsive to industry needs.

As the Australian industry faces increasing labour market pressures, broader labour market skills strategies and the maintenance of the integrity of the temporary skilled migration program are needed. The ERG's report covered six broad areas: long term planning; streamlining application and approval processes; eliminating duplication and unnecessary administration; remaining competitive; and branding. The report also stressed the importance of training to alleviate the skills shortages in the medium to long term, while permanent migration is crucial for meeting long term labour market demands.

The most important recommendations for the 457 visa include:

  • The establishment in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth of specialized teams to facilitate and process 457 applications from July;
  • Low-risk employers with a good track record of compliance with immigration and industrial relations laws can have 457 visa applications fast-tracked by the department;
  • Extra resources will be allocated to clear the backlog of 457 visa applications by June 30;
  • There will be an expansion of the Immigration Department's front-end support to help employers and industry lodge `decision-ready' applications;
  • Comprehensive staff training to increase the overall efficiency of 457-visa processing;
  • The Permanent Skilled Migration Program has been increased by 6000 places for 2007-2008, bringing to 108,500 the total numbers of visas granted under the skilled migration program this financial year.

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