Australia extends 457 visa period for accredited sponsors

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Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced on Wednesday, the government is doubling the period of time a skilled worker can stay in Australia to work for accredited businesses to six years; There will also be priority processing for applications for certain employers under changes to the 457 visa system.

The changes will come into effect Monday, 7 November, and will allow the accredited businesses to bring in skilled workers for six years rather than three and also have priority processing for all future visa applications.

In order to become accredited, businesses must have been an active 457 visa sponsor over the past three years, employing at least 30 overseas workers over the past 12 months and guarantee that their local workforce is at least 75 percent Australian.

"This will continue to ensure that the 457 program is responsive to the economic cycle and provides a flexible avenue for employers to fill immediate and short-term skill vacancies, while maintaining opportunities and conditions for Australian workers," said Bowen.

"While employers should first look to Australians to fill skill vacancies, the subclass 457 visa provides a fast and flexible process for the entry of overseas workers where they are needed to fill skill vacancies," he added.

Bowen noted that there had already been improvement to the system with shorter processing times.

"Average processing times for 457 visa applications are also 30 per cent lower than they were in 2006-07 - down from 31 to 22 days," he said.

Currently it takes the department an average of 22 days to process 457 visa applications. Bowen said the department aims to process 457 visas within 10 days.

More information will be available on 7 November once the changes go into effect.