What South Africans need to know about Australia’s strict new emigration requirements

South Africans looking to emigrate to Australia and New Zealand were dealt a massive blow earlier this year, when the countries’ governments suddenly tightened their visa laws.

In April, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that he would be abolish the country’s popular temporary work visa system and increase the standards of its citizenship test with immediate effect, to promote “Australia first” values.

The new requirements for citizenship will now require candidates to be permanent residents for at least four years (as opposed to the previous one-year requirement), applicants must be competent English speakers, must show a job record and prove they have integrated into the local community.

Turnbull also announced that he would be replacing the country’s popular temporary 457 work visa programme to focus on creating jobs for Australians first.

The 457 visa, now used by about 95,000 foreign workers, will be replaced by a new temporary visa and the list of occupations that qualify for a visa will be reduced by more than 200.

The move was quickly followed by island neighbour New Zealand which announced it would also be tightening access to its skilled work visas.

These changes, which would now require a minimum income requirement and limitations on seasonal workers, would be implemented at a yet undecided date later in 2017, said New Zealand immigration minister, Michael Woodhouse.

South Africans


The overnight changes has led to widespread confusion and speculation as to how one can apply for an Australian visa, according to Sam Hopwood of emigration specialists, Sable International.

Despite many saying the temporary work visa (subclass 457 visa) is abolished, in reality it has actually been replaced.

“Earlier this year, the Australian government announced that the temporary skills shortage visa (TSS) will be introduced in place of the subclass 457 visa.”

“The TSS visa will include short-term occupations for up to two-years and medium-term occupations for up to four-years,” Hopwood said.

Following a number of queries, he broke down exactly what you need to know about these new changes.

  • Applicants aged 45 and above are no longer able to obtain permanent residence as sponsored employees or a general skilled worker. The previous age limit was 50 years of age.
  • The number of occupations available for state sponsored work visas and general skilled migration visas has been reduced by 216 occupations. You can find the changes here.
  • The consolidated skilled occupations list was renamed to the short-term skills shortages list.
  • The skilled occupations list was renamed to the medium and long-term skills shortages list.
  • Only those in occupations on the long-term skills shortages list can be sponsored for permanent residence by employers.
  • Those on the short-term skills shortages list can only receive a two year work visa, which is renewable for another two.
  • There is now a tougher English language test, involving reading, writing, listening and speaking.

How to get a state sponsorship

Despite the big changes made to Australia’s emigration policies, it is still very much possible to get a state sponsorship to Australia, said Hopwood.

There are two ways to get this type of visa – apply directly to the state, or through a blood relation.

“Despite the reduction of occupations available for those seeking sponsorship by state governments, there has been and increase in the amount of sponsorships that are being handed out,” said Hopwood.

“Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania have diversified their occupations list and managed to increase the amount of work visas being issued.”

Anyone with close family living in a state or territory of Australia is also allowed to be sponsored by that state for occupations that are not on the list, he said.

These “off-list” occupations are many and varied.

“Tasmania, ACT and South Australia have already increased their number of sponsorships being granted for “off-list” occupations. This was done soon after the migration changes were announced, no doubt to offset any decrease in migration to these areas,” he said.

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What South Africans need to know about Australia’s strict new emigration requirements