Australian visa changes – have international workers visas gone down under?

Ever since the Australian mining boom in 2003 the country’s economy has been growing rapidly. Duly noted by the rest of the world, the country offered an oasis of prosperity in the desert outback which attracted many international workers to flock to its shores. 

Over the past seventeen years, we have assisted a large number of professionals in starting their careers across the country in locations such as Sydney, Hobart, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Newcastle, Cairns and Darwin. However, the government has now decided to abolish the 457 visa many had used to start up their new lives in Australia – but what does this mean for workers?

Oz accountants
Some of our Oz Accountants

What is the 457 Visa?

The 457 visa was the standard method for employers to sponsor skilled overseas workers in Australia. It provided the holder with a four-year working visa and the opportunity to apply for full Australian citizenship after its completion. The visa has become the route for many international workers to secure their future in their new homeland.

What will it be replaced with?

Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian Prime Minister, announced that it would be replaced with two new categories of visas:

• Short-Term stream (two years) – will not allow for permanent residency
• Medium-Term stream (four years)- will include a shorter list of occupations and greater costs to the employer. However, this stream will allow for a pathway to permanent residency

Australian Passport
Australian Passport

These stricter streams include more stringent rules around labour market testing, a requirement to pay a contribution to the Skilling Australians fund and other requirements that make the international recruitment process more expensive and difficult for the employer.

What does this mean for Accountants?

Australian Financial Review reported that PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and EY have around 14000 professionals on 457 visas making up about 5% of their total workforce.

In the new criteria, accountants will still be able to go through the Medium-Term stream but the associated costs could end up costing each of the Big Four an additional $1million every year to keep their international talent. These new costs and procedures could mean that international visas are only distributed in exceptional circumstances and only if the market cannot offer anyone currently residing in the country.

What our Australian clients are saying

“The new visa rules don’t come into force until March 2018 – so there is a bit of uncertainty on what will happen in the next 6-9 months when requests for the existing visa are still being processed. We are still deciding on what our plans are going to be” (Top Ten Firm, Melbourne)

“The government has said that there will still be visa concessions for regional areas of Australia, so we are hoping that there will be no impact on our international recruitment in Tasmania” (Big Four Firm, Hobart)

Think Global Recruitment’s Analysis

There is a high probability that this intervening period (until March 2018) will unfold much like the Brexit situation in Britain, where some companies will hold back on international visas whilst others will take a chance on exceptional candidates.

For accountancy & finance professionals with their heart set on the southern hemisphere, it might be worth considering Australia’s neighbour, New Zealand. Their visa process has also had a few amendments including a minimum income requirement of NZ$49,000 but this should not impact a qualified accountant. New Zealand’s job prospects are expected to grow over the next number of years and the country shares agreements with Australia, allowing travel and work rights for permanent residents. It’s also a pretty cool country if we do say so ourselves.

Queenstown, New Zealand

If you would like to speak to one of our advisors to find out what your options are for moving abroad then get in touch with us here.