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SPECIAL FEATURE: How the 457 visa changes may affect the Australian video games industry

SPECIAL FEATURE: How the 457 visa changes may affect the Australian video games industry

IGEA Legal and Policy Counsel, Jonny Roses, takes a deep dive on how the 457 Visa changes will affect the industry.

Earlier this week, the Turnbull Government announced that the 457 visa scheme would be abolished and replaced with a new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa in March 2018. The changes will also affect other visa subclasses, such as the permanent residence Employer Nominated Scheme (ENS) visa. These announcements instantly raised concerns across many different sectors, including the local video games industry. IGEA has been doing a deep dive into the 457 visa changes to determine how they may affect companies in the games industry, from publishers to developers alike. The following is our initial take based on the limited information released at this time and we hope it provides a bit more clarity into the issue.

What are the changes?

The changes announced by the Government are comprised of multiple stages.

First, from 19 April 2017 until March 2018, the current 457 visa will continue to operate but subject to several changes. The biggest change includes a reduction in the number of occupations that are eligible to obtain a 457 visa. Keep in mind that these removals don’t just apply to 457 visas, but also to other skilled visa programmes based on the same occupation lists, such as the ENS, Skilled Nominated and Training visas. Additionally, for the 457 visa, a number occupations will be subject to various “caveats” that will make them harder to access.

The remaining occupations are sorted into two different lists – a short-term list and a medium/long-term list. Occupations on the short-term list will only have access to a 457 visa of up to two years in length, whereas occupations on the medium/long-term list can obtain a visa of up to four years in length.

Second, from March 2018, the 457 visa will be completely abolished and replaced with the TSS visa. Similarly, the TSS visa will have two streams – a short-term stream of up to two years in length and a medium-term stream of up to four years in length. These will be based on the abovementioned short-term and medium/long-term lists respectively.

Certain eligibility criteria will apply to both of these streams (some of which are not entirely new) and include the following:

  • Applicants must have at least two years’ relevant work experience
  • Applicants must obtain a penal clearance certificate (allowing criminal records to be checked)
  • Mandatory labour market testing (employers must test that the local market doesn’t contain readily available citizens or permanent residents who are qualified and experienced for the job)
  • Employers must pay the Australian market salary rate for the job, while also ensuring they meet the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold salary of $53,900.

Each of the streams then have separate, additional criteria. For the short-stream, there are certain English language requirements and capacity for only one visa renewal onshore (meaning it will not allow for permanent residency). For the medium-term stream, there are slightly more stringent English language requirements and capacity for both onshore renewal and a permanent residence pathway after three years.

How will the changes affect the Australian video games industry?

The change that will have the largest impact on the Australian video games industry is the removal of over 200 occupations from the eligibility lists. Put simply, anyone looking to work in the local industry on a 457 visa (and other visas based on the same lists) will not be able to do so for any of the removed occupations, and nor will employers be able to hire overseas workers to fill these positions if there are local skill shortages.

Not only does this affect anyone who applies for a 457 visa on or after 19 April 2017, but it also impacts anyone with a pending application after this date. This means that anyone who applied for a 457 visa before these changes were announced and did not have their application approved before their occupation was removed, their application can’t be approved (but you “may” be eligible for a refund).

Going through the list, there are a number of removed occupations that have been or potentially could have been used by prospective workers and companies in the Australian video games industry, including publishers, distributors and developers:

  • Human Resource Adviser
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Intelligence Officer
  • Market Research Analyst
  • Multimedia Designer
  • Policy & Planning Manager
  • Policy Analyst
  • Procurement Manager
  • Public Relations Manager
  • Retail Buyer
  • Web Developer
  • Workplace Relations Advisor

Luckily, if you already hold a 457 visa based on one of these removed occupations, you will not be impacted by these changes. But here’s the kicker – if your occupation has been removed and you want to apply for a further 457 visa or even change your employer, you now won’t be able to do so.

Another important change is what a 457 visa now actually offers and what a TSS visa will offer next year, especially for those occupations on the short-term list. Whereas beforehand the 457 visa would allow successful applicants to work in Australia for up to four years, occupations that are on the short-term list will only be able to access a two-year visa. Once the TSS visa is brought in, successful applicants working in these occupations will also be unable to apply for permanent residency in Australia. So, while game companies may be still able to fill these positions, these restrictions will have a big impact. Again, I will list some of those positions which are potentially relevant for prospective workers and businesses in the Australian games industry:

  • Advertising Manager
  • Advertising Specialist
  • Chief Executive or Managing Director
  • Chief Information Officer
  • Company Secretary
  • Conference & Event Organiser
  • Contract Administrator
  • Corporate General Manager
  • Corporate Services Manager
  • Customer Service Manager
  • Database Administrator
  • Equipment Hire Manager
  • Facilities Manager
  • Film & Video Editor
  • Finance Manager
  • Financial Investment Adviser
  • Financial Investment Manager
  • Graphic Designer
  • Human Resource Manager
  • Illustrator
  • Marketing Specialist
  • Multimedia Specialist
  • Network Administrator
  • Network Analyst
  • Program or Project Administrator
  • Public Relations Professional
  • Quality Assurance Manager
  • Sales & Marketing Manager
  • Software & Applications Programmers
  • Software Tester
  • Supply & Distribution Manager
  • Systems Administrator
  • Video Producer
  • Web Administrator
  • Web Designer

Lastly, as mentioned, 59 occupations are now subject to various “caveats” that will make them harder to access under the new visa programme. Prospective overseas workers or Australian game companies will be unable to rely on the 457 and TSS visas for these positions that do not meet the listed requirements. While not able to list every one of these, various examples that may be particularly relevant for the games industry include, for example:

  • Accountant: excludes positions in businesses that have an annual turnover of less than $1 million and fewer than five employees.
  • Advertising Specialist, Graphic Designer & Software Tester: excludes positions that do not require a minimum of two years’ relevant work experience.
  • Chief Executive or Managing Director: excludes positions in businesses that have an annual turnover of less than $1 million, fewer than five employees and a nominated base salary of less than $90,000.
  • Marketing Specialist and Sales & Marketing Manager: Excludes positions that predominately involve regular direct client transactional interaction, have a nominated base salary of less than $65,000 and with businesses that have an annual turnover of less than $1 million.
  • Supply & Distribution Manager: excludes positions in businesses that have an annual turnover of less than $1 million, fewer than five employees and a nominated base salary of less than $65,000.

And really, these changes only scratch the surface. More information will also be released in the coming months. I encourage current and prospective 457 visa holders, and companies in the Australian games industry to look at these changes closely to see if you will be affected and, importantly, seek independent advice from an immigration specialist. IGEA is still here to help in any way possible and we would love to know if and how the changes affect you.

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