The 457 visa application for work in Australia is a daunting prospect. It can take months, be costly, and there’s no guarantee you’ll have the desired outcome – no matter how qualified you might be. Having said that, if you’re successful, you will be permitted to work in Australia for an approved business for up to four years, to bring certain members of your family to come and live/work with you (if you include them in your application), and to travel in and out of Australia as often as you want.
This article is based on my personal experience and aims to offer a little more insight into the process. Anyone considering a 457 visa application should also check the official guidelines and information provided by Australian Immigration as individual circumstances will differ and their requirements are subject to change.
In August 2016, I was offered an executive role at a charity in Melbourne. They agreed to sponsor me and we lodged the initial application at the start of September. In late October, I was asked to complete a Skills Assessment with VETASSESS and at the end of November – after a successful request that this assessment be fast-tracked – I received a negative outcome. This article is not intended to discourage you from taking the same route, but to share the challenges and potential pitfalls that are associated with the process in the hope that it might help you to make a better-informed decision about what’s right for you.
To be eligible for the 457 visa application, you must first find an employer who is willing to sponsor you in an approved occupation on the Skilled Occupations List and you must meet the skills requirements under your nominated occupation. Your sponsor can lodge their application to sponsor and nominate you at the same time you apply for your visa. You must have a valid passport and it is advisable that you obtain a new one before beginning the process if you have less than a year’s validity left or if there are insufficient blank pages remaining. You must also meet certain health requirements, meet registration and licensing obligations and speak vocational English.
457 VISA APPLICATION FORM
The form for the 457 visa application looks a bit daunting, but if you have the necessary information to hand, it shouldn’t take more than a few hours to fill out. The main details you’ll need are: personal details (including passport and birth certificate); details of any previous visas you’ve held or applied for in Australia; health details (including countries you’ve visited in the past five years if you were away from home for three months or more at a time); a character declaration (i.e., if you’ve ever had a criminal record); details of your sponsoring employer and the role you’ll be doing; details of your past employment and main responsibilities; and details of your qualifications (where and when they were gained).
I was very surprised by how quick and easy the 457 visa application was initially. If you’re lucky enough to not have to do any additional skills assessments, all you have to submit in addition to your application form is your health certificate (see below), proof of health insurance (see below) and the following documents:
📝 Proof of ID (usually a colour scan of your passport biopage or your birth certificate)
📝 Employment references from the past three years (on letterhead paper, signed by your employer or supervisor and containing your employer’s contact details, the period for which you were employed, your position and your responsibilities)
📝 Colour scans of post secondary education certificates and any other relevant qualifications
📝 A copy of your CV
After you’ve lodged your 457 visa application, you’ll be asked to attend a health examination. If you’re applying from the UK, your options are limited to London, Manchester, Sutton Coldfield, Plymouth, Maidenhead, Glasgow and Cardiff.
Booking the appointment is easy but you may have to wait a week or so for availability, so it’s important to get it done as soon as possible so as not to hold up your application.
The health check will probably consist of a chest x-ray, urine sample and brief examination, and shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes. You’ll be asked to remove the clothing on the upper half of your body but gowns are provided. Results usually come back within a few days.
As part of your 457 visa application, you have to provide evidence that you have valid health insurance in Australia. This can become quite costly as the process may take months to complete. For this reason, it’s important to choose a good one.
I went with BUPA Australia, which turned out to be an excellent choice for many reasons:
👍🏻 They’re competitively priced.
👍🏻 They have special policies for overseas visitors, which are guaranteed to be accepted by your immigration officer.
👍🏻 They send you a confirmation letter as evidence to attach to your 457 visa application.
👍🏻 They will transfer the cover you’ve paid for to start on the date you eventually enter Australia, so you haven’t wasted your money.
👍🏻 If your 457 visa application is unsuccessful, they will refund everything except for the initial month and they will still let you move that month’s cover to a later date if you intend to visit Australia as a tourist.
👍🏻 If you need to contact them and don’t want to pay for an overseas phone call, they’ll happily correspond by direct messages on Twitter.
If your application is successful, once you arrive in Australia, you might want to check if your country has a reciprocal health care agreement. For example, UK citizens can apply for Medicare, which entitles them to free and discounted treatments. If you take this option, be sure to inform Australian Immigration and to make sure they’ll accept this as an alternative to continued health insurance.
COSTS OF THE 457 VISA APPLICATION
The costs of your 457 visa application can really add up so it’s important to be prepared and to check with your sponsor which expenses they would be prepared to take on or refund. As a guide, the application itself is AU$1060; the nomination fee is AU$330; the sponsorship fee is AU$420; and a UK health check is £230. My health insurance policy cost AU$96 per month and I also had to pay AU$810 for a skills assessment with VETASSESS and £180 for an accountant to approve my self-employment financial records. It’s also worth considering the possible financial implications of handing in your notice, leaving your current employment, or not having the flexibility to find temporary work while your application is underway.
Once your 457 visa application has been reviewed by an immigration agent, they may or may not request further information. If it’s clear that you have the experience and qualifications for the role you’re being sponsored for, that your role appears in the Skilled Occupations List, and you meet all of the health check, payment and document requirements, you’ll be granted a visa.
Unfortunately, for some applicants this decision isn’t so clear cut and you may be requested to complete a skills assessment. This is particularly relevant to trade occupations and ‘project and program administrators or specialist managers not elsewhere classified’.
The role I’d been offered incorporated communications, publishing, marketing, administration and strategy forming and, since it didn’t fall clearly under a specific Skilled Occupation heading, I was requested to complete the VETASSESS process for Project and Program Administrators. This was particularly brutal, requiring collation of evidence (pay slips, contracts, qualifications, ID documents, etc.), statements of service, a re-worked CV, detailed lists of responsibilities in past roles, and self-employment details (accounts, tax and national insurance records, evidence of collaborations, testimonials from people I’d worked with and a signed declaration from my accountant). This took three solid weeks to put together and was ultimately the failure of my application, since my past employment was deemed not to be sufficiently focused on project administration.
It’s impossible to obtain specific details of how long your 457 visa application might take to process. However, at the time of writing, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection states that it should take two to three months for an initial decision to be made. For me, it was seven weeks. However, it then took me three weeks (working eight hours a day) to complete the skills assessment, which itself had a processing time of 12 weeks.
Although not widely advertised, if you have to complete the VETASSESS skills assessment, you can fill out an urgent processing request form. Since my sponsor had informed me that they would not be able to hold the position open for the 12 weeks it might take to process the skills assessment, I asked them to provide me with an official signed letter on company letterhead paper, and this was sufficient evidence to have my skills assessment decision fast-tracked. After receiving my request, the decision came through in one week, so it’s definitely worth considering if you can support your request with proof of urgency.
FOR HOW LONG IS A 457 VISA VALID?
The 457 visa usually entitles you to work in Australia for up to four years. The exception to this is if your sponsor is a new business, in which case, it will only last 18 months. You must take up your new role within 90 days of arriving in Australia (if you were outside Australia when it was granted) or within 90 days of being granted the visa (if you were in Australia when it was granted), and you must not cease employment for a period of more than 60 days. As a primary visa holder, during your stay in Australia, you must continue to work in your nominated profession. If you cease employment with your sponsor, you must notify the Department of Immigration and you will have 60 days to either find a new sponsor in your nominated profession, be granted a different kind of visa or leave the country. You must also inform the Department of Immigration if you change your address, receive a new passport or become pregnant.
WHAT IF YOU’D LIKE TO STAY LONGER?
If you’d like to continue to work in Australia when your 457 visa is about to expire, you can apply for another one. However, many people choose to aim for residency instead. This is done via the Employer Nominated Scheme or via an application for a Skilled Migration visa. You can apply for the Employer Nominated Scheme after two years working for your sponsor if they decide they would like to make your position permanent.
CAN YOU ENTER AUSTRALIA WHILE YOU WAIT?
While it’s not impossible, you’re highly discouraged from attempting to enter Australia while you await your 457 visa application decision. Of course, if you’re already there on a different kind of visa such as a working holiday visa there’s no problem, but applying for a tourist visa can cause significant issues.
First of all, when you apply for the tourist visa, it will flag in their system that you have a 457 visa application in progress. They will become suspicious about why you might want to travel sooner and may ask you to provide evidence of a return flight or evidence from an existing employer that you intend to return to work after your trip and before you activate your 457 visa.
You may also cause a delay with your 457 visa application and there is no certainty that you will eventually be offered the visa. Even if you do eventually receive the 457 visa, the application process might take longer than expected and, in the meantime, you’ll have no way to support yourself financially. If you try to work without a visa, you risk deportation, a ban from re-entering within a specific timeframe, and the likelihood that you would never again be considered for a visa.
SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR THE MOVE
If you’ve just received a 457 visa or it looks likely that you’ll have one soon, there are a number of things you can do to make your transition easier.
BOOK YOUR FLIGHTS
When it comes to booking flights, the earlier you can start looking into it the better. An infographic by Flight Centre on tips for Brits visiting Australia reports that you can find 50% cheaper fares if you book five months ahead as opposed to two. It also lists January as the best month for getting a good deal.
SET UP A BANK ACCOUNT
You can apply for an Australian bank account before you enter Australia. After providing basic details, they’ll supply you with online log-in details so you can set about transferring funds in preparation for your move. Then, when you arrive in Australia, all you’ll need to do is pop into a local branch with your identification to collect your bank card.
It’s a good idea to look into different options for transferring money overseas. I did a lot of research on this and the best I could find was Transferwise. This is the fastest and cheapest way to send money overseas. While many banks will tell you it’s free to transfer money with them or that they charge zero commission, they often add a hefty markup to the exchange rate instead, which ends up costing you up to eight times more than Transferwise. Transferwise uses the actual exchange rate and keeps costs down by having bank accounts all over the world. If you needed to send pounds to Australia, you would pay your UK currency into Transferwise’s UK account and they would send you AU$ to your Australian bank account from their account in Australia. This avoids the charges associated with money actually having to cross borders.
APPLY FOR A TAX FILE NUMBER
Your tax file number (TFN) is a way for you to be identified for tax purposes. If you have one you pay less tax and are entitled to government benefits. Once you receive your 457 visa, you can apply online and, as the system matches you up with the details held by the Department of Immigration, you don’t even need to supply ID.
SET UP A SUPERANNUATION ACCOUNT
In Australia, everyone pays superannuation. This is similar to a pension scheme. You pay a certain percentage of your salary into a nominated account and your employer is obliged to contribute too. You can set up your own superannuation account, and many people find it easier to use the same bank as their savings account. If your visa expires and you’ve left Australia, you can claim a proportion of this money back.
FIND A PLACE TO LIVE
One of the best platforms for finding a new home in Australia is flatmates.com.au. This website enables people to share details of their accommodation if they’re looking for a new housemate. It’s really easy to select which regions or boroughs to search in, and most people share photos and information about their property and its tenants. Get started early, as this is a good way to get a feel for different areas before you move.
It’s also possible to buy property in Australia; however, you will first have to go before a Foreign Investment Review Board, there’s a hefty fee for non-residents and you’re obliged to live in the property for the duration of your stay. Also, if you leave Australia, you have only a short timeframe in which to sell.
For me, one of the most difficult things about the 457 visa application was the constant uncertainty. For four months, I was on tenterhooks never knowing when I might suddenly receive a positive outcome and have to move. This meant I couldn’t make plans more than a few days in the future, which affected my freelance work and meant I missed out on some exciting opportunities.
There was also the guilt of making my future employer wait so long, although they assured me they had taken this into consideration when offering to sponsor me.
Finally, it can be a crushing experience to put so much time and energy into applying for a role, preparing to move to the other side of the world and undergoing an intense visa application process only to receive a negative outcome.
This is not to say you shouldn’t consider the 457 visa application. The only reason I didn’t get the visa was because the job I’d been offered wasn’t specific to a particular skill on the Skilled Occupations List. Moving to Australia for an exciting new job opportunity could be a hugely exciting and life-changing experience that’s well worth all the bureaucracy.