Australia: Temporary Employer Sponsored Visas And The New Direction Of The Department Of Immigration And Citizenship (DIAC)

Last Updated: 7 August 2008
Article by Carmen McElwain and Noosheen Mogadam

The federal government has commissioned some reviews of the Temporary Business Entry Programme and has recently announced immediate changes taking place to the way Subclass 457 – Business Long Stay Visa (457 visa) applications are being processed.

The programme has expanded rapidly in recent years, in light of Australia's skills shortage. In 2006-07, 46,680 visas were issued to foreign skilled workers under the 457 programme.

DIAC has sought to address this growing demand by restructuring the way in which 457 visa applications are processed adopting a more streamlined approach which will have significant consequences for future applications.

The new direction of the Temporary Business Entry section at DIAC, may mean faster processing of applications, however the quick turnaround times may also result in refusals if adequate supporting documentation is not provided by a company and applicant within DIAC timelines.

The processing begins immediately from when applications are lodged. All 457 visa applications are now received directly by team leaders within the Temporary Business Entry section. The visa applications are quickly reviewed and passed on to what is referred to as the "48 hour team" unless they are deemed complex or can be fast-tracked.

As the name suggests, the 48 hour team will finalise processing of applications within 48 hours of receipt, if possible. This will not be possible if all required supporting documentation has not been provided, in which case, a request for further documentation is made and the application is sent to a 'tier 2 processing team'.

Unless there are exceptional circumstances, the additional documentation must be provided within 28 days from receiving the request from DIAC, otherwise a decision will be made on the basis of the documents that are at hand. If strong supporting documentation is not submitted within this timeframe, applicants and sponsors will not be further consulted with and a refusal will ensue.

Consequently, a greater emphasis will need to be placed on having all documentation available at the time of lodgement. Applications that are 'decision ready" will benefit from these changes however there will be significantly less room for error where an application may be deemed incomplete.

The Temporary Business Entry section has additional staff members appointed in the short term to start streamlining the processes and clear the current backlog of cases, by 1 July 2008.

As of July 2008, 'centres of excellence' will only process 457 applications. The 'centres of excellence' will be located in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Minimum Salary Level increase for 457 visa holders

On 23 May 2008 the Minister for Immigration announced that the Minimum Salary Level (MSL) for temporary skilled foreign workers sponsored under the Temporary Business Entry Programme will increase by 3.8 percent from 1 August 2008.

This increase will effect new applications to be lodged for foreign workers as well as having retrospective application to those already in the workforce who are currently being paid the base minimum salary level of $41,850.

The change will increase the current standard MSL from $41,850 to $43,440 per annum. For Information and Communications Technology (ICT) professionals, the MSL will rise from $57,300 to $59,480. In regional areas, the MSL will rise to $39,100 and $53,530 for ICT professionals.

As was previously the case, if an industrial award or agreement prescribes a level of salary that is higher than the MSL, then this is the salary that must be paid under Australian law.

The Minister remains focussed on uncovering employers who underpay and exploit migrant workers and the Government is committed to cracking down on any abuses of the programme.

Those organisations that fail to adhere to the increased MSL are likely to face possible sanction from the DIAC Monitoring team who will not accept ignorance as an excuse for failing to adhere to these amendments.

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The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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