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Now That You Have Your Australian 457 Visa…

After seven years, a student visa, a ‘special programs’ visa, three temporary work visas, and a permanent residency visa, I’ve learned a lot about Australian immigration. I’ve previously shared everything you need to know to apply for the 457 temporary work visa, but it doesn’t end there.  Even once you are granted your 457 visa and you’re allowed to stay in Australia for the next 2-4 years (depending on the individual visa), there are a few things you need to know if you don’t want to run into problems with immigration.

Please note: I am not a migration agent, nor do I work for immigration. This post has been written to help you understand the restrictions that are placed on you as a 457 worker and is from my personal experience going through the process myself.

The Australian Coat of Arms

The Australian coat of arms.

Most importantly, you have to continue working for the employer that sponsored you. Besides the fact that it would be bad form to get your employer to go through all of that paperwork only to abandon them, the Australian government has strict controls to ensure this doesn’t happen. As soon as you leave your job, your employer is required to notify the Australian government. Once they have been notified, you have 90 days (prior to 2013, it was 28 days) to either find another job or leave the country permanently.

90 days is more time than the government used to give you to find a potential employer and go through the entire interview process (it used to be 28 days), but you’ll want to get looking ASAP. Fortunately, once you find this employer, you can transfer the visa across to them (provided they are willing to take on the responsibilities that come with sponsorship, which includes things like paying for a search if you disappear/become an illegal immigrant). To do this transfer, the employer will need to fill in a nomination form on your behalf.

When changing employers, you should make sure that your nomination is approved before you begin work. If you jump the gun, you risk having your visa completely cancelled. In addition, applying for an employer change does not extend your visa, so your potential employer needs to know that they will likely have to go through the process again.

Speaking of work restrictions, you cannot work for any other employers while you are on a 457 visa, even if it is a second job. You can do volunteer work, but if you get paid and the immigration department finds out, your visa is at risk.

Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner

This didn’t count as a second job, even though cooking Thanksgiving dinner is definitely not in my job description.

Work and taxes are two things that unfortunately go together. The good thing is that Australian taxes are fairly straightforward, but there are a few things you need to know that will save you a lot of money in the long run:

  • Even though you are not a permanent resident, as soon as you settle in Australia to work you become a resident for tax purposes. This means you will earn your first $18,200 tax free and then be taxed accordingly; otherwise, if you claim non-resident status, you are taxed a heavy 32.5c on every dollar.
  • Provided you are not from a country that offers reciprocal Medicare agreements, you are not eligible for the 1.5% Medicare levy. This is automatically taken out of your salary. However, at the end of the tax year (30th June), you can apply for a Medicare levy exemption certificate; once you have this certificate (which may take a few months, so I recommend applying as soon as you can after the end of the financial year), you can claim this exemption on your taxes and get your money back.
  • The health insurance requirement on this visa means you will never be eligible for the 1% Medicare levy surcharge either, which is charged if you earn over $77,000. Filling in your policy details on your tax return is sufficient to prove this.

As an Australian worker, you are entitled to superannuation — essentially, a forced retirement fund. Your employer is required to put at least 9% extra on top of each paycheck into this account, which is an investment account that you’re not allowed to touch until retirement age. However, if you work in Australia for a few years and then return home, you are eligible to claim your superannuation back (so make sure you know all of your account details before you leave!).

The other major requirement on the visa relates to health insurance and is a reasonably new addition to the sponsored work visa. Prior to the 14th of September 2009, employers were required to pay certain medical costs for their sponsored employees — mainly emergency expenses. For visas granted after this date, the responsibility instead falls to the employee to ensure they have valid health insurance.

Unfortunately, this insurance is quite expensive. It you take into account the fact that you  don’t have to pay the Medicare levy, it’s actually only slightly more than having Medicare + private health insurance…but this still doesn’t dull the pain of having to pay around $200 a month for health care you may or may not use. It may be tempting to get rid of this expense once you’ve successfully applied for your visa, but the health insurance company will notify the government as soon as your policy becomes non-457-compliant. So don’t get rid of it! Plus, it could be handy if you bust your knee and have to have surgery two weeks later like I did a few years ago.

Lastly, it is no longer a requirement that you have a visa label added to your passport. Even though they take up an entire page in my passport, I’ve continued getting them — even for my permanent visa. This is because, while border control can see my visa on their computers, airlines can’t. Nearly all airlines will ask for proof of your right to stay in the country at checkin — especially because I have no ticket out of Australia — and being able to turn to a page in my passport is infinitely easier than trying to dig up a piece of paper. However, the government is now charging a mandatory $70 fee for this service, so it’s up to you whether it’s worth it to save potential hassles down the road.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I hope it helps to smooth your transition into living in Australia and that it answers a few questions that immigration hides deep in the bowels of their website. Good luck, and you won’t regret it — Australia’s a great country to live in.

UPDATE (26 April, 2016): After 3.5 years of answering questions regarding issues around applications for 457 visas, I have closed comments on this post. I feel like my initial post plus my 200+ responses to questions below are as much as I can offer on this subject, particularly as I last went through the 457 process in 2010. 

Please read through all of my posts on the subject (including Australian Sponsored Work (457) Visas: A Primer, Australian Sponsored Work (457) Visas, Step 2: Applying, and Australian Sponsored Work (457) Visas, Step 3: Special Cases and Things to Consider) and search the comments below to see if your particular question has been answered. Please note that all of this advice is from personal experience and should not be construed as official or professional advice.

If your question has not been answered, please call immigration or search for a migration lawyer in your local area that you can consult with. Please do not contact me. As stated above, I cannot offer professional advice on visa matters and I no longer have the time to answer the daily emails that come through.

Thanks, and good luck with your visa process.

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