The 457 visa is one of the most commonly used visas in Australia. It allows the applicant to work for up to four years and can become a pathway to permanent residency. This visa scheme is created to offer Australian businesses the flexibility of bringing foreign workers, if they can’t find locals to do the same jobs.
Among the visa holders, cooking is a common occupation as well as one of the more lower skilled, among the 651 eligible positions. In early March this year, Australia’s Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, said he is working on the 457 program, after a commitment from the previous year to reduce the list of eligible occupations.
Most 457 visas are granted for jobs that require advanced skills and extensive experience, classified as skill levels 1, 2 and 3 by the Australian national standard. The lowest is level 3, under which 14,000 foreign workers have been brought into the county since 2015. The level matches a Certificate III qualification from TAFE with two years on-the-job training. Cooks are classified under this skill level.
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The reforms are meant to tighten the Consolidated Sponsored Occupations List (CSOL). For every job that is cut from this list, Australian businesses can no longer employ temporary foreign workers in that particular category, even if they can’t find someone local. However, the statistics show something else. While the 457 visas are limited to 100,000 or less, the country’s labour market is more than 11 million!
The accommodation and food sector is the largest user of 457 workers on skill levels 2 and 3. According to Dr Joanna Howe from the University of Adelaide, “Australia’s employers in restaurants, cleaning and horticulture rely heavily on these visa types and there’s no labour market testing, so there’s no requirement for employers to offer that job to local workers first.”
Here are some facts about the 457 program that every applicant must be aware of:
Temporary 457 Visa Facts
- The minimum salary level is AUD 53,900 and to be eligible for the visa, foreign workers need to show that they are being paid above that.
- If there is an Australian working for the business in an equivalent position to a foreign worker, he/she will need to show that the salary is the same or more than the Australian worker.
- If there is no Australian worker in an equivalent position, foreign workers need to show that they are being given what an Australian worker would be paid, by referring to industry awards, salary surveys and salaries for other similar positions.
- Some 457 applicants are required to do formal skills assessment which can take months and cost several thousand dollars.
- 457 visa holders are required to hold private health insurance during their stay in Australia. Lapse of cover means the visa will be cancelled.
- When it comes to nominating foreign workers for 457 visas in the occupations of cook, chef and cafe/restaurant manager, the Department of Immigration asks for substantial evidence to ensure that the position is genuine.
Since the 457 visa category is still under review, the months ahead will give a clearer indication of where each job position stands. Regardless of how it pans out, Australia’s growing labour market will continue to seek foreign workers, albeit with a few policy changes.