A recent industry liaison meeting revealed that processing times for Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (457) applications has now stretched to as much as 5 months due to a combination of staffing restraints, changes to the regulations, and high application volumes.

In addition, the Department of Immigration & Border Protection's recent approach of requesting more detailed supporting documents to satisfy 'caveats' and genuine position criteria has complicated matters. The Department's approach of issuing wide ranging 'Requests for Further Information' which arguably go beyond the scope of the regulations is worsening processing times and creating an additional layer of complexity to applications.

For example, the Department's requests for details of all employees, or a business' personal details (such as names and citizenship status), are potentially invasive and breach the privacy of employees who are ultimately unrelated to the visa applications in question. Pushing back on such requests is challenging, with Department officials often supporting the case officers' power to request this information. Worse, anticipating the nature and scope of such requests is close to impossible meaning that applications are frequently complicated by excessive requests after lodgement and resulting in delays to processing times.

Peak bodies and representatives from the migration profession have flagged the excessive nature of these requests with senior Department officials. The Department response to date has been to underline the focus on high levels of scrutiny to ensure program integrity and the need to empower case officers to satisfy themselves that applications are genuine. It is unlikely that the current situation will change in the near future with the high level of media attention on the 457 visa program, in particular since the April 2017 cessation of the program was announced, and the transition to the new TSS visa in March 2018.

Accredited Sponsorship

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection launched a new sponsorship accreditation scheme in July 2017. Under the new policy a broader range of businesses will qualify for sponsorship. These include:

  1. Commonwealth, state or territory government agencies - must have 75% Australian workforce
  2. Trusted traders - must be recognized trusted traders under Customs program and meet other requirements
  3. Low risk sponsor with low volume usage and high percentage of Australian workers - must meet requirements relating to business turnover, holding a business sponsorship, at least one 457 visa in the past 2 years, 90% Australian workforce requirements, etc.
  4. Low risk sponsor with high volume usage and medium percentage of Australian worker - must meet requirements relating to business turnover, holding a business sponsorship, at least ten 457 visas in the past 2 years, 75% Australian workforce requirements, etc.

Most significantly, accredited sponsors will benefit from priority processing of 457 nomination and visa applications. At present processing times for accredited sponsors are 15 days to allocation. In some cases, processing times may be faster; however there is no guarantee. Finally, accredited sponsors benefit, in some cases, from lower evidentiary requirements for nomination applications, such as not providing contracts of employment.

Accredited sponsors will be granted a new sponsorship valid for 6 years.

Businesses which rely on the 457 visa program to access staff in a timely manner should seek advice on whether they meet the requirements for the accredited sponsorship.

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.