New foreign worker visa rules

Published: 19 April 2017

Changes to the temporary skilled migration program were announced on Tuesday, 18 April 2017 by the Australian Government, including abolishment of the 457 visa program for skilled migrants.

457 visas will be replaced with the completely new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa, which will be focused on areas with critical skills shortages and include mandatory criminal checks and tighter English language requirements. The program will include two streams – short term visas issued for two years, and medium term visas issued for four years.

Implementation of the reforms will begin immediately and completed by March 2018. Changes will be staged with key milestone dates occurring as follows:

  • Changes from April 2017
  • Changes from July 2017
  • Changes by December 2017
  • Changes from March 2018

What the changes mean for building and construction

Only certain occupations are approved for use under temporary skilled visa programs. Approximately 200 occupations were removed as part of the changes, but those removed do not greatly affect the building and construction industry. The only two removed occupations that may have an impact are:

  • Building and Engineering Technicians NEC
  • Surveying or Spatial Science Technicians

The full list of eligible skilled occupations is available on the Australian Government’s website.

The requirements for new visas also align with the requirements of the 2016 Building Code and this consistency is welcome. 

Who is affected?

Workers currently employed under the 457 visa program will continue on that program. Current 457 visa applicants and holders, prospective applicants and businesses who sponsor skilled migrants will be affected by the changes. As some of these changes are effective immediately, we recommend builders and subcontractors who have used 457 visa workers ensure they are aware of the changes moving forward. 

Master Builders’ view

Master Builders has always had a long-term focus on our industry, particularly in light of national skills and trade shortages and therefore been focused on making apprenticeships to young Australians more accessible.

However, we have and continue to support the migration of appropriately skilled workers in demonstrated areas where industry cannot locally source labour. This is important to the productivity of the building and construction industry.  

At a national level, Master Builders will work with the government to ensure that the TSS visa is responsive and flexible to our industry’s needs.

What to do from here?

With building and construction industry employers regular users of 457 visas, there will be an inevitable period of change where industry will need to understand new requirements and processes.

You can read more about the new visa, including an explanation of transitionary arrangements for current 457 visa holders and applicants on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s website

For advice specific to your business or situation, contact us. Our team of employment and wages experts are on hand to assist.