There are a number of requirements that a skilled overseas worker must satisfy before they are eligible for a Temporary Skilled 457 visa in Australia.
For starters, they have to meet a minimum English language requirement, others an attainment of a positive skills assessment, as well as have an approved employer willing to sponsor them in an eligible occupation, 457 applicants are forced to jump through a multitude of hoops before they are ever able to live and work in Australia.
However by far the biggest restriction for 457 visa applicants is something that they themselves have little control over.
The Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) is a minimum salary requirement that employers must pay 457 visa workers in order to comply with their sponsorship obligations, and it’s set at a minimum of $53 900 right across Australia.
One of the purposes of the threshold is to ensure 457 visa holders have access to sufficient funds in order for them to maintain an acceptable standard of living here in Australia, as many 457 visa holders do not have access to Medicare or unemployment benefits in order to support themselves.
However Migration Solutions Managing Director, Mark Glazbrook, says this figure doesn’t add up when compared to other standards set by the Federal Government, such as those relating to unemployment benefits.
“The argument that a person requires an annual salary of $53,900 per annum in order to maintain a decent standard of living in Australia is extremely fragile in my opinion,” he said.
“Unemployment benefit schemes such as NewStart Allowance deem that an income of $501 per fortnight for a single person is a sufficient level of income to maintain a minimum adequate standard of living.
“According to current immigration policy pertaining to the 457 program, that figure is $1244.40 per fortnight.”
Further confusion over what constitutes an acceptable minimum-salary level also exists from within the migration program itself.
International Students are only required to have access to $19,000 in funds per year, plus the added option of working up to 40 hours per week to supplement this amount.
In either case, both figures add up to a sum substantially less than the $53,900 figure imposed on 457 employers.
Mr Glazbrook says that he believes a minimum salary threshold should be calculated based on whichever is higher out of the relevant award or market salary rate, plus an extra Medicare loading levy built-in.
Currently, he says the high salary requirement is preventing local employers from using the program for its intended purpose – to help Australian businesses address genuine temporary skill shortages.
“The current application of the TSMIT is a prohibitive and arbitrary restriction that is preventing many genuine Australian employers from using the program to help address skill shortages within the local labour market,” he said.
“For low-population growth areas such as South Australia, wages are significantly lower than higher density urban centres along the eastern seaboard, as are the cost of living expenses.
“Access to such a program is also particularly important considering the skill shortages present within our population base.
“It then begs the question: why do we have a ‘one size fits all’ minimum salary level when the economic conditions in each state vary so significantly?”
The issue has been an ongoing frustration for South Australian industries and businesses since the axing of the Regional 457 visa by the Rudd Government back in 2007.
Recently, another opportunity for policy reform went begging when an independent 457 review panel failed to recommend a reduction to the TSMIT, despite having received numerous submissions including one from the South Australian Government in support of such a change.
Instead, the panel proposed that the TSMIT be kept on hold for a period of up to two years, before reassessment of the market conditions.
Mr Glazbrook says he hopes to bring forward that talk quite considerably – preferably during the upcoming Series 400 visa review early in the New Year.