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Frequently Asked Questions About English Language Requirements

Employer Sponsored Workers

I am a carpenter who lodged a visa application on 1 August 2009 and I have passed International English Language Testing System (IELTS) (average band score of 5). I have not heard about my application. Do I need to meet the new English language proficiency requirement (requiring IELTS 5 in each test component)?

Yes.  As the new English language proficiency requirement applies to all new visa applications as well as visa applications which were lodged before but not decided by 14 September 2009, you will be required to meet the new English language proficiency requirement. 

If your IELTS result of 5 average was based on a score of at least 5 in each of the test component, then you do not need to undertake the IELTS test again provided your test result is less than 2 years old. 

However, if you have an IELTS result of 5 average but you scored less than 5 for one of the test components, then you will need to undertake the IELTS test again and achieve a score of at least 5 in each of the test component in order to be granted a Subclass 457 visa. 

I am a motor mechanic and was granted a Subclass 457 visa on 1 February 2008 valid up to 31 January 2012 and did not have to meet the English language proficiency requirement as I was paid a salary of $80 000 (which was the relevant income threshold for English language exemption at the time).  If I change employers, and the new employer was to pay me $50 000, do I need to meet the new English language proficiency requirement?

No.  Under the changes which came into effect on 14 September 2009, holders of Subclass 457 visas are no longer required to apply for a new Subclass 457 visa in order to change employer.  The new English language proficiency requirement will not apply to you, unless you were to apply for a new Subclass 457 visa in order to extend your proposed stay in Australia beyond 31 January 2012.

Before you can commence working for your new employer, your new employer must nominate you first and have that nomination approved.  Your new employer also has an obligation to pay you the appropriate ‘market salary rate’, that is the same terms and conditions of employment which is provided, or would be provided, to an Australian citizen or permanent resident to undertake equivalent work in the employer’s workplace at the same location.  So whether $50 000 is an appropriate salary for you will depend on whether it is the ‘market salary rate’ for that position in that workplace.

More information on ‘market salary rate’ is available.
See: Subclass 457 – Market Salary Rates

I do not meet the new English language proficiency requirement. Can I apply for a short stay business visa instead?

The short stay business visas (Subclasses 456, 459, 956, 977) are not intended to be used as work visas.

Work is only permitted on a short stay business visa in limited circumstances:

  • where the work is highly specialised in nature (ASCO 1-4) and is not ongoing, that is, not longer than six weeks; or
  • the work is for an emergency or urgent situation, and is not ongoing, that is, not longer than six weeks; or
  • the work is in the national interest.

The short stay business visas are not an appropriate visa for people intending to take up ongoing employment in Australia.

Do the changes to the English language proficiency requirement for a result of at least IELTS 5 in each of the four test components in the Subclass 457 program affect the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS)?

No. This change in the English language proficiency requirement does not have an effect on the Employer Nomination Scheme and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme.

Last reviewed Tuesday 19 November 2013

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