457 visa reforms and the Technology Industry
Australia’s information and communications technology (ICT) workforce has increased significantly over the past few years and is expected to continue to grow from about 640,000 in 2016 to over 722,000 by 2022. To fill short-term skill gaps, business have understandably turned to ICT workers from overseas.
However, the Australian government recently announced a suite of reforms to the 457 visa programme, including revised occupation lists, stay periods (two or four years), and the replacement of this programme with the temporary skill shortage (TSS) visa in March 2018.
How do these changes impact the ICT industry, or companies looking to hire ICT workers? Here’s what you need to know to ensure that your business can take advantage of the changes, or avoid pitfalls in recruiting.
Two occupation lists took effect from 19 April 2017, the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) and the Short-term Skilled Occupations List (STSOL). These lists were reviewed on 1 July 2017. Under the new lists, 457 visa applications nominating occupations on the:
- STSOL – would only be granted for up to two years (except in limited circumstances where international trade obligations apply); and
- MLTSSL – would be granted for up to four years.
Although a number of ICT occupations remain on these lists, a significant number of occupations were “downgraded” to the STSOL and are now only eligible for a two year visa.
ICT Business Analyst
Software and Applications Programmers nec
ICT Security Specialist
Computer Network and Systems Engineer
Telecommunications Network Engineer
Radio Communications Technician
Telecommunications Field Engineer
Telecommunications Technical Officer or Technologist
ICT Project Manager*
ICT Managers (nec)
ICT Account Manager
ICT Business Development Manager
ICT Sales Representative
Software & Applications Programmer (nec)
ICT Quality Assurance Engineer
ICT Support Engineer*
ICT Systems Test Engineer*
ICT Support and Test Engineers (nec)
ICT Support Technicians (nec)
Cabler (data and communications)
* these occupations are subject to a caveat that nominated positions must require at least two years of relevant work experience.
The positioning of certain occupations on the relevant lists are telling about the Australian government’s priorities.
The placement of ICT Security Specialist on the MLTSSL is presumably in response to the ongoing cyber security crisis. Similarly, engineers and technicians in the telecommunications field benefit from their placing on the MLTSSL, likely driven by the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout.
As Australia’s digital economy continues to develop, the relevant ICT analyst positions (ICT business and Systems) have remained on the more favourable MLTSSL, as have the more ‘technical’ coding and programming occupations. This typically benefits established Australian businesses that provide ICT solutions, and those looking to fill skill shortages in technical roles.
Those most affected by the revised STSOL are likely to be:
- established overseas ICT companies looking to branch into the Australia market and bring their sales teams (typically with proprietary knowledge of their product/software)
- companies with foreign sales/marketing/business development staff
- UX and UI designers
- companies with foreign database, systems, network, web administrators
- post-implementation teams (quality assurance, support, and test engineers).
On 1 July 2017, further restrictions were implemented that effect 457 visas more generally, including:
- removing the English language salary threshold exemption of $96,400
- mandatory police clearances for all 457 visa applications
- further guidance on training benchmarks (for business sponsors)
Further changes also took effect with respect of employer-sponsored permanent resident visa options (such as the Employer Nomination Scheme Subclass 186 visa), which you can read more about here.
If you’re a business operating in the ICT industry, or an ICT professional seeking clarification about these changes, we’d love to put your mind at ease. Contact us by email at [email protected] or phone +61 3 9016 0484 to obtain further guidance.
 Australia’s Digital Pulse: Policy priorities to fuel Australia’s workforce boom, Australian Computer Society 2017.