The subclass 457 visa program allows skilled overseas workers to work in Australia on a temporary basis. To apply is a three-stage process.
Each year, the federal government receives over 50,000 applications for the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa, known as subclass 457 visa. The program was designed to address labour shortages in Australia. It enables employers to bring in skilled workers from overseas when they cannot find skilled locals for the job.
Applicants must nominate an occupation from the Consolidated Sponsored Occupations List (CSOL).
Principal Solicitor at Sydney-based law firm AJ Legal Australia and Migration Agent Judit Albecz (MARA 0901615) says the program has seen many changes.
"On 1 July 2013, reforms were introduced to strengthen the integrity of the subclass 457 visa program. These reforms aim to increase the department's capacity to identify and prevent employer practices from misusing the subclass 457 program."
Judit Albecz says applicants must nominate an occupation from the Consolidated Sponsored Occupations List (CSOL).
"There is a list of occupations listing the occupations that are eligible under the subclass 457 visa program and the current version of this list can be found on the Immigration department's website. I would like to emphasise that it is a temporary visa and it allows businesses to employ overseas workers for up to four years in skilled occupations only."
Overseas workers can bring any eligible dependents with them to Australia.
Overseas workers can bring any eligible dependents with them to Australia. They can work and study, but have to pay for their studies while here. 457 visa holders and their dependents can also travel in and out of Australia without limits.
Judit Albecz from AJ Legal says the standard business sponsorship arrangement is the most common way to sponsor.
There are three processing stages in sponsoring a worker from overseas.
"Under the standard business sponsorship, Australian or overseas businesses that have been unable to meet their skill needs from the Australian labour market can sponsor skilled overseas employees under the subclass 457 visa program."
There are three processing stages in sponsoring a worker from overseas. The first one is Sponsorship, whereby the employer applies for approval by the Immigration Department as a standard business sponsor. There are several requirements for employers to become an approved standard business sponsor.
Judit Albecz says one of the most important requirements is that the nominated position is genuine.
"Other requirements are that the business must be lawfully operating in or outside Australia, must meet or commit to meet the training benchmarks for the program and continue to meet these requirements for the term of the sponsorship, must have a direct employer-employee relationship if the business is outside Australia, must not on-hire skilled workers unless the occupation is exempt, must make sure that the business or persons associated with the business, do not have adverse information known to the [Immigration] Department."
Nomination is when an approved sponsor identifies a position to be filled.
Once approved, the business or employer must comply with all sponsor obligations. In Australia, strong worker protection measures are in place to ensure that overseas skilled workers have the same workplace rights. The second stage of sponsoring an employee from overseas is called the Nomination.
Judit Albecz from AJ Legal says Nomination is when an approved sponsor identifies a position to be filled.
"The business must be an approved sponsor, have lodged a sponsorship application or applied for sponsorship at the same time as the nomination application, the business must demonstrate a genuine need for the nominated position in their business, the nominee must be an existing subclass 457 visa holder, an applicant for a subclass 457 visa holder or a proposed applicant for a subclass 457 visa, a very important one is that the position must relate to an eligible occupation on the Consolidated Skilled Occupations List, the business will have to show that labour market testing must have been undertaken by the business unless the occupation is exempt."
Judit Albecz says the third and final stage is when the overseas skilled worker applies for the visa.
it's important to remember that both employer and overseas worker need to lodge applications with the Immigration Department.
"So for this stage of the process the overseas skilled worker and any of their dependents must apply for and be granted a visa to travel to, or to remain in Australia. It's important to note that a subclass 457 visa application cannot be processed if the overseas worker's application is not supported by an approved sponsor and an approved nomination."
She says it's important to remember that both employer and overseas worker need to lodge applications with the Immigration Department.
"If the employer is lawfully operating a business either in or outside of Australia, and is seeking to sponsor an overseas skilled worker under the subclass 457 visa program, they must lodge an application with the department to become an approved standard business sponsor and they must also nominate a position to be filled and the overseas worker needs to apply for the 457 visa to be able to work in Australia."
She emphasises that all three stages of the application must be approved.
"The visa application by the overseas worker will only be successful, if the business sponsorship approval is obtained and the nominated position is accepted. The application for standard business sponsorship and the nominating of the position and the overseas worker's visa application can be lodged together. However it is important to remember that if the sponsorship or nomination fails then the visa application will also fail and the Immigration Department will not refund the application fees."
The Immigration Department says subclass 457 visa applicants must have: minimum English language ability; skills and experience necessary for the job; adequate health insurance; and genuine intention to perform the nominated job. Applicants are also required to pay a charge when submitting and businesses pay a sponsorship and nomination fee.
AJ Legal's Principal Solicitor Judit Albecz says a 457 visa cannot get processed without an approved sponsor and nomination.
"The overseas worker has to have an approved business who is willing to sponsor them and they have to have an occupation that is on the occupation list to be able to apply for this visa."
In summary, 457 visa holders can work in Australia for up to four years; bring dependents with them who can work and study and are allowed unlimited travel in and out of Australia.