We are frequently approached by people who have been sponsored to work in Australia on a temporary subclass 457 visa, and are seeking advice on obtaining permanent residency (PR). Many have heard of the Employer Nomination Scheme, or ENS, but are not clear how they can use their 457 visa to gain PR through that pathway.
The 457 visa
The Subclass 457 – Business (Long Stay) – Standard Business Sponsorship visa is the most commonly used program for employers to sponsor overseas workers to work in Australia on a temporary basis. Subclass 457 visas can be valid for any nominated period between one day and four years, but are not, in themselves, a pathway to permanent residency (PR).
However, 457 visas can be used as a stepping stone to PR by articulating with a Subclass 856 visa under the Employer Nomination Scheme, which allows Australian employers to sponsor highly skilled workers, who are foreign nationals, for a permanent visa to work in Australia.
As permanent residents of Australia, holders of ENS visa holders can:
• live and work in Australia on a permanent basis
• study in Australia at school or university
• receive subsidised healthcare through Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)
• access certain social security payments (subject to waiting periods)
• be eligible for Australian citizenship (subject to the residency eligibility criteria) and
• sponsor people for permanent residence
Sponsorship under the ENS requires: an eligible nominated position, an eligible sponsor and a visa applicant.
If a current 457 employer meets the eligibility requirements to be an ENS sponsor, they can apply to sponsor their subclass 457 employee under the ENS – enabling 457 holders to progress to permanent residency without the disruption and uncertainty of having to seek another sponsor.
In addition, there are far fewer obligations required to be addressed by ENS sponsors than by 457 sponsors, making the ENS option a win-win situation for both parties.
How it works
There are three ways in which onshore applicants obtain permanent residency under the ENS.
Firstly, people who have a positive skills assessment and at least three years full-time work experience in their occupation before their ENS application is lodged, are eligible to be sponsored. In exceptional circumstances, the three year full-time work requirement can be waived.
Subclass 457 visa holders can apply for an ENS visa without a skills assessment if they have worked full-time in Australia in their nominated occupation on their 457 visa for the last two years prior to the ENS visa application being made. The last twelve months has to have been with the employer sponsoring them under the ENS.
The third pathway to obtaining an ENS relates to people who have been nominated to fill a senior executive position with a salary of more than $165 000 per annum (excluding superannuation or allowances). They can apply for an ENS visa without obtaining a skills assessment, or having worked for 2 years on a 457.
The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship has made no secret of its overall policy intention to move towards a position of assessing skilled migration applications on the basis of evidenced need for the applicant’s skills.
Accordingly, it will become increasingly important for people migrating under the General Skilled Migration to consider their migration pathways strategically, with the overall goal of obtaining permanent residency as soon as possible, so they are protected against any further changes in legislation or policy.