7 Little Known Facts about 457 Work Visas

webster By Mark Webster
Monday, 12 January 2015

The 457 visa is one of the most commonly used visas to work in Australia. It allows you to work for up to 4 years in Australia, and is a great pathway to permanent residence.

However, there are some little known facts about the 457 program which can take applicants off guard.

1. The minimum salary level is $53,900, but if there is an Australian working for the business, you need to be paid at least the same as them

To be eligible for a 457 visa, you'll need to show that you are being paid above $53,900 which is considered the minimum amount you'll need to live in Australia. This figure is called the TSMIT (Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold), and is generally varied every July.

However, if there is an Australian working for the business in an equivalent position to yours, you'll need to show that you are getting paid the same, or more, than the Australian worker. This requirement is called the "Market Rate Salary" requirement.

If there is no Australian worker in an equivalent position, you'd then need to show that you are being paid what an Australian worker would be paid by referring to industry awards, salary surveys and researching salaries for other similar positions being offered.

2. Some 457 applicants are required to do a formal skills assessment which can take months and cost several thousand dollars

In general, you will need to show that you meet the entry skill level as set out in the ANZSCO definition for your occupation. 457 occupations are generally skill level 1-3, namely:
  • Skill Level 1: Managers and Professionals - bachelor degree or 5 years of relevant work experience
  • Skill Level 2: Associate Professionals - diploma (2 year qualification) or 3 years of relevant work experience
  • Skill Level 3: Trades and Technicians - Certificate IV (1.5 year qualification) or 3 years of relevant work experience or Certificate III including 2 years of on-the-job training
However, some applicants will need to do a formal skills assessment to show that they meet the skill level. In particular:
  • Tradespersons: if you are being sponsored to work in certain trade occupations and you have a passport from certain countries, you will need to do a trade test. This generally costs approximately $2,200 and would take 2-3 months.
  • Program or Project Administrators and Specialist Managers NEC: will require a skills assessment through VETASSESS. This will require a formal qualification plus 1-3 years of work experience in your occupation. It will cost $810 to apply and processing would take 3-4 months.
The Department of Immigration also has a discretion to ask for a formal skills assessment if they have doubts as to your skill level.

3. 457 holders are required to hold private health insurance during their stay. You'll need a special letter from the insurance company showing that you have the right level of cover to be granted a 457

You would generally need to hold visitor or working visa cover to be granted your 457 visa. You will need to show evidence of this prior to grant of your 457 visa. This would generally be in the form of a certificate of cover which specifically mentions that the level of cover is comparable to Medicare cover, with only limited exclusions. Check with your insurer that they are able to provide a letter in this format before signing up.

You would also need to hold this level of cover during your stay in Australia on a 457 visa. If you let your cover lapse, this could result in your hard-won 457 visa being cancelled.

4. In some cases your employer will need to advertise your position and show that there is no Australian who is able to fill the position. Unless evidence of this accompanies the application, you will be refused

The 457 visa is intended to cover short-term labour shortages where the employer is not able to find a suitably qualified person locally. In some situations, the employer will need to show that they have advertised your position - particularly the following occupations:
  • Trades
  • Engineers
  • Nurses
If you do not provide evidence of this "labour market testing" when your 457 nomination is lodged, then your application will be refused. It's not possible to provide the necessary documentation or do the advertising after lodgement as the evidence must "accompany" the application.

5. To get a 457, you need to prove your English language ability. Usually this is by doing an English test, but you may be exempt if you hold one of the recognised passports, have studied in English medium or have a high salary level

Technically speaking, all applicants must show evidence of their English language ability. This would generally involve showing that you have at least Vocational English by doing the IELTS test and scoring at least 5 in each band.

There are a number of exemptions to the English testing requirement, including:

  • Certain Passport Holders: Holders of passports from the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada and New Zealand - even if you were not born in the passport country or if your first language is not English
  • Studies in English Medium: People who have studied continuously in English medium at secondary or higher level for at least 5 years. This makes many applicants from the subcontinent exempt because the medium of instruction for the education system is English
  • High Salary Earners: if your base salary is at least $96,400 you should be exempt from English language testing

6. Certain business types and occupations are considered high risk, and make getting approval difficult

The Department of Immigration introduced a new "Genuine Position" requirement for 457 nominations in July 2013. Using their discretion under this new requirement, Immigration has targeted certain occupations and industries - requiring a higher level of documentation than is usually the case. This includes the following situations:
  • Cafes and Restaurants: whilst it is possible to nominate workers for 457 visas in the occupation of cook, chef and cafe/restaurant manager, the Department of Immigration tends to have a higher level of scrutiny in these cases. In particular, Immigration often asks for evidence that the position is genuine and that the applicant is appropriately skilled. In the case of fast food restaurants, it is generally not possible to sponsor applicants for 457 visas.
  • Start-up Businesses: in the case of a business which has been operating for less than 12 months, additional information will generally be requested to establish the business operations and that the position is genuine. Approvals for recently established businesses will generally be for 12 months rather than the usual 4 years for 457 visas.
  • Family Businesses: if a family member is being sponsored, Immigration will general request evidence that the position is genuine and not creately purely for the purpose of securing entry for a family member.

7. Many 457 holders apply for permanent residence after working in Australia for 2 years. However, this is not necessary in all cases, and you may be eligible for permanent residence before working a day on your 457 visa

If you are working in Australia on a 457 visa, you would generally become eligible for a permanent Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) visa after you have worked on your 457 visa for 2 years. This is called the "Temporary Residence Transition Stream" of the ENS visa.

It is also possible to apply for the "Direct Entry Stream" of ENS and many people are eligible for this before they start working in Australia. The Direct Entry Stream would require you to pass skills assessment and show that you have 3 years of work experience in your occupation.

Alternatively, you may be eligible for General Skilled Migration. This is a points-tested category which requires skills assessment. Processing times for General Skilled Migration can be better than for ENS, but the biggest advantage is that you do not need the support of an employer to apply.

Conclusion

Whilst the 457 visa is simple in concept, the legislation behind it is actually quite complex. There are potential pitfalls that are not widely understood and that many applicants may not be aware of.

If you would like advice on the best visa option for you, please book a consultation with one of our immigration advisors through our website.

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