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The 457 visa program: The past, the present and the future

The contents of this article are correct as at 15 August 2011.

The subclass 457 visa is the most commonly used program for employers wishing to sponsor overseas workers to work in Australia on a temporary basis.  The visa allows Australian or overseas businesses to employ overseas workers to fill nominated skilled and semi-skilled positions in Australia for a period of between one day and four years. 

 

The past and the present

It is hardly a secret that Australia’s economy grew considerably in 2010.  This was indeed reflected in the 457 visa statistics.  The number of visas granted between 30 June 2010 and 30 June 2011 increased by a staggering 38.2% (to 48,080) compared to the same period in 2009–2010.  The total amount of primary visa holders in Australia at 30 June 2011 was 72,030, an increase of 5.3% compared to the same date last year. 

Most of the visa holders were located in (in order) New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.  The percentage of grants for positions in New South Wales and Victoria decreased compared to the previous year, while the grants for positions in Western Australia increased to approximately one fifth of the overall 457 visa program. This shows that the 457 visa program can respond rapidly to changing labour market demands and employer needs.  

The top three largest industries and most nominated occupations for primary visa grants between 30 June 2010 and 30 June 2011 are summarised in the tables below. The strong demand for doctors and nurses, construction professionals and IT professionals has continued.

Sponsor industry

Change compared to 2009–2010

% of total visas granted

Health Care and Social Assistance

-3.8%

13.0%

Other industries, including non construction trades and business and professional services

+90%

12.4%

Construction

+77.8%

12.3%

 

Nominated occupation

Change compared to 2009–2010

% of total visas granted

Developer Programmer

+35.5%

4.1%

Management Consultant

+55%

2.8%

Resident Medical Officer

+3.7%

2.6%

Over the same time period, the fastest growth was seen in the ‘Professional, Scientific and Technical’ occupations, with a staggering growth of 168%.  Such occupations include spatial and life scientists, research and development managers and laboratory technicians.  The three fastest growing nominated occupations for primary visa grants were Recruitment Consultants (+71.5%), University Lecturers (+65.8%) and Program or Project Administrators (+62.6%). This demonstrates that demand for and usage of the 457 visa program has remained strong across a broad range of industries and fields.   

The vast majority of primary visa applications granted between 30 June 2010 and 30 June 2011 were to citizens from a country where English is a principal language. Applicants from India and the Philippines continue to be major users of the 457 visa program, particularly in the health care and IT fields. The top five citizenship countries for primary applications granted between 30 June 2010 and 30 June 2011 are listed below. These countries can also be found on the top five list of citizenship countries for primary visa holders.    

Citizenship country

Change compared to 2009–2010

% of  total visas granted

United Kingdom

+37.7%

24.6%

India

+50.4%

18.2%

United States

+32.6%

8.1%

Ireland

+60.9%

8.1%

Philippines

+75.7%

4.7%

The future

Occupations that will experience the highest growth in the 457 program are likely to include:

  • Engineers

  • Construction Professionals

  • Health Care Professionals

  • Information & Communications Technology (ICT) Professionals

  • Business, Finance and Human Resource Professionals (especially managers and accountants). 

These occupation groups face the greatest skill shortages right now.  Other occupation categories that may grow significantly are:

  • Automotive, metal, wood and food tradespersons

  • Cooks and chefs

  • Hairdressers

  • Lawyers (especially in finance, mergers and acquisitions, tax, constitutional and environmental law)  


The 457 program – A pathway to permanent residency

Results from the 2010-2011 year show that the 457 program provides a viable pathway to permanent residency through the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS).  One of the skills pathways for ENS is that you have worked in your skilled occupation for two years in Australia while holding a 457 visa.

The total number of applications for permanent residency through ENS and RSMS that were granted between 30 June 2010 and 30 June 2011, and where the applicant last held a 457 visa, increased by approximately 6% in comparison with the same period in 2009–2010.  This represents a conversion rate of almost 50% of 457 visa holders overall.

We have a wealth of experience in assisting with 457 visa applications for employers large and small. Please contact us by clicking Visa Lawyers Australia if you have any enquiries about your circumstances and the possibility of sponsorship through the 457 visa scheme.  We would be happy to provide further information about requirements.