Australia is a migrant country and in the 2011 census there were 252 overseas places of birth registered. There are 190,000 places available on Australia's Migration Programme over the 2014-15 period. Of these it is expected that 68 per cent will be skill stream visas and 32 per cent will be family stream visas. The skill-based visas will be made up of four types of visas: employer sponsored, skilled independent, business and state, territory and regional nominated.
Employer-sponsored visas make up the highest proportion, with 38 per cent of the overall allocation for skill stream visas. These visas are provided to immigrants who have skills necessary for jobs in Australia, however it is hard to find employees with the relevant skills. The purpose of this migration is to build the economy, shape society, support the labour market and reunite families.
If your company relies on skilled migration it is important to ensure migrants are provided with a good working environment and the appropriate benefits. However, it can be hard to navigate the health insurance plan that will work best for your employees.
What is a 457 visa?
The Temporary Work (Skilled) Visa (subclass 457) enables individuals with necessary qualifications to migrate to Australia for a maximum of four years, provided they are working for, and sponsored by, an approved business. This is the most common form of visa program used by employers to sponsor workers who are coming from overseas.
Approved businesses can sponsor individuals for this visa provided they cannot find a person already in Australia with the necessary skill set to carry out the work required. The visa is valid for a period of one day to four years in skilled occupations as outlined by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
What does it require from me as an employer?
If you are unable to employ an Australian citizen or permanent resident to meet the skill requirements, then you can apply to become a sponsor. The first step in this process is applying to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to be an approved standard business sponsor.
To be a sponsor you will need to prove to the department that you have tried to employ local labour and have not been able to meet skill shortages and your training practices for Australians will be assessed. Once your status as a sponsor has been approved it is your responsibility to nominate a position for overseas-based skilled workers to fill.
Your industry may also be required to enter a labour agreement, which allows for recruitment of overseas workers to occur. For some industries such as meat-processing and on-hire this is the only temporary migration pathway open to employers.
If you become an approved sponsor you are obligated to ensure you are only recruiting migrants to meet skill shortages. The working conditions for the employee must also be equivalent to the operating conditions to Australians in the same position.
Subclass 457 visa and health insurance
A person applying for the subclass? 457 visa must show evidence that they have made arrangements to obtain health insurance throughout their stay in Australia before the visa will be granted. As an employer, you can help the skilled worker through this process by having a business health insurance plan or helping them through the process of getting a health insurance policy for the subclass 457 visa that covers the minimum requirements outlined by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
You may be exempt from this if your new employee is from a country that has a reciprocal healthcare agreement (RCHA) with Australia and has also enrolled in Medicare. Employees from RCHA countries may still need a Complying Health Insurance Product to avoid Medicare Levy Surcharge liabilities.