Employer Sponsored Visa Update - October 2017

webster By Mark Webster
Wednesday, 18 October 2017

This article explains some of the recent and upcoming developments in employer sponsored 457, ENS and RSMS visas, including:

  • The importance of lodging a complete application
  • Current Processing Times for Employer Sponsored Visas
  • 457 Visas - Requests for Priority Processing
  • Training Benchmark Update
  • New Occupations Lists from 1 January 2018
  • Transitional Arrangements for ENS/RSMS from March 2018
  • Training Levies from March 2018

Importance of Complete Applications

In their September Skilled Visa E-news, Immigration has again emphasised the importance of lodging a complete application for all employer sponsored visas - including 457, ENS and RSMS.

This would require the application to be lodge with all required documents for a decision to be made.

In some cases, applications are being allocated very quickly and some migration agents have reported ENS and RSMS applications being refused where all necessary documents have not been attached.

Lodging a complete application will also result in a decision being made much more quickly. Processing time for a complete 457 visa application is currently 3 months versus 10 months for an incomplete application.

In addition, requests for priority processing will only be considered if the application is decision-ready.

Current Processing Times for Employer Sponsored Visas

Processing times for employer sponsored visas are longer than was previously the case. At the moment, the indicative processing time for 457 visas is 6 months. Indicative processing time for ENS is 10 months, whereas the processing time for RSMS Direct Entry is now 12 months.

However, Immigration has also stated that they do allocate cases out of received date order. This may mean that a recently lodged application might be assessed before an application which has been in the system for many months. This makes predicting exact processing time very difficult.

Current indicative processing times for employer sponsored visas are below. The table indicates the processing time within which 75% of visa applications are processed, as well as the time within which 90% of applications are processed:

Application Type 75% Processed Within 90% Processed Within
ENS - TRTS 8 Months 10 Months
ENS - Direct Entry 8 Months 12 Months
RSMS - TRTS 7 Months 8 Months
RSMS - Direct Entry 12 Months 16 Months

457 Visas - Requests for Priority Processing

With the increased processing time for visa applications, many employers are now requesting priority processing. Immigration has indicated that they are receiving over 1,000 requests for priority processing every month.

Immigration has indicated that the best way to ensure priority processing is as follows:

  • Provide a detailed business case for priority processing - a short email is not sufficient
  • Only complete applications will receive priority processing
  • It takes at least 2 business days for a priority processing request to be considered

Training Benchmark Update

Major changes were made to the training benchmarks for 457 sponsorship approval and ENS nominations were made on 1 July 2017. If interpreted strictly, the new benchmarks would exclude most training methods used by corporate Australia.

Immigration has indicated that they are taking a flexible approach to assessing employers against the new benchmarks. In particular:

  • Training provided to contractors may be considered, even if they are not PAYG employees
  • A proportion of franchise fees paid by a franchisee may be considered if training is provided by the franchisor

New Occupations Lists from 1 January 2018

New occupations lists will apply for 457 visas, and possibly for ENS and RSMS visas from 1 January 2018. This may also include new caveats on salary level, size of business and other restrictions on eligible positions.

Pending 457 applications which have not yet been decided may be affected by these changes. ENS and RSMS applications lodged prior to 1 January will not be affected by changes to the occupations list.

Transitional Arrangements for ENS/RSMS from March 2018

In March 2018, changes will be made to eligible occupations and required work experience for ENS and RSMS applications.

Immigration has confirmed that transitional arrangements may apply to "subclass 457 visa holders (or subclass 457 applicants) as at 18 April 2017".

As a result, these people may still have access to employer sponsored pathways, despite changes which were announced in April.

At this stage, we do not have exact details on how the transitional arrangements will work, but will confirm as soon as we have further information.

Training Levies from March 2018

Legislation to enact training levies for 457, ENS and RSMS visa applications has been introduced into Parliament.

We understand that the training levy will apply to applications lodged from March 2018 and will be substantial. Fees will be payable when lodging the nomination and would be for the entire duration of the proposed 457 period.

For instance, for a large business, the levy will be $1,800 per year for a 457 visa. In the case of a 4-year 457 visa, the total levy may be 4 x $1,800 = $7,200. It is not yet clear what will happen to the payment if the nomination is refused or withdrawn, or if the employee leaves prior to the end of the 4 years.

The training levy will increase each year with CPI. Caps will apply which set a maximum which is payable - the amount set in the draft legislation is $8,000 for 457 visas and $5,500 for ENS/RSMS.


Obtaining an employer sponsored visa has become more complex and slower than was previously the case.

It is clear that lodging a complete application is more important than ever. Obtaining priority processing is not easy, and will require a clearly articulated business case.

Employers should also be aware of upcoming changes on 1 January 2018 and March 2018. Where possible, applications should be lodged before these critical dates to ensure that the impact of the changes is minimised.

Acacia can assist with ensuring that your employer sponsored visa is lodged prior to any critical dates. We can also ensure that it is lodged as a "decision ready" application, and so can be processed as quickly as possible.

If you are an employer and would like advice on sponsoring staff, please call our employer hotline on 02 9230 0488.

If you would like advice on obtaining a 457 visa as a visa applicant, please book a consultation to discuss requirements with one of our experienced advisors.


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