Reviewing the integrity of Australia’s Subclass 457 visa program

Yes, I finally found time to read the recently released Deegan report which reviewed the integrity of the Subclass 457 visa program.

Deegan Report

With 100 pages, the report is indeed very long but admittedly not as long as other Commission-styled reports supplied to us in the past.

The report was prepared by Ms Barbara Deegan, an industrial relations expert appointed by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship specifically to review the integrity of Australia’s temporary skilled migration program.

Ms Deegan was the Australian Government’s representative at the International Labour Organisation in Geneva and is a Commissioner with the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

Ms Deegan’s report has somehow become the catalyst in the passage of The Migration Legislation Amendment (Worker Protection) Bill 2008 into law. The legislation protects overseas workers working in Australia under temporary working visa arrangements including the subclass 457 visa program.

The subclass 457 visa program has been in place in Australia for more than a decade now but it was only in the last two years that public attention had focused on the program because of reported abuses and exploitation.

The program was introduced in September 1995 by the Keating Government and formalised by the succeeding Howard Government on 1 August 1996. Under the 457 visa program, subject to certain conditions employers are allowed to sponsor skilled workers from overseas for a period of three months to four years. Recipients of this visa are eligible to apply for a permanent skilled migration visa.

In year 2007-08, it is reported that more than 100,000 subclass 457 visas were granted with 60,000 of these visas being granted to primary visa holders.

The Philippines is in third spot as a source of overseas workers with Britain and India occupying the first and second spot, respectively.

Incidents of exploitation of workers

The Deegan report only confirmed the reported incidents of exploitation of workers on subclass 457 visas. The complaints include:

1. not being paid overtime

2. working longer hours aor days than non-visa employees

3. limited access to sick leave and dismissal if the Visa Holder takes sick leave

4. dismissal because the Visa Holder is pregnant

5. dismissal for taking leave to care for a sick spouse or child

6. overcharges on rent or other expenses organised the employer

7. sexual harassment

Major Recommendations

Deegan Report

The Deegan report had a long list of recommendations spread over nine pages. (Unfortunately, the report did not number the recommendations, but based on my count the report has 68 recommendations.)

In my view, the major report recommendations include the following:

1. Subclass 457 visa holders to work under the same terms and conditions of employment as all employees in the workplace and the progressive abolition of minimum salary levels with salaries being determined by collective agreements or market rate.

The report recommended that market rates of pay should be paid to all temporary visa holders with salaries less than $100,000 per year.

2. Subclass 457 visa holders should not be permitted to remain in Australia for more than 8 years in total on a Subclass 457 visa. Temporary visa applicants must go offshore before reapplying for a visa after the 8 year period.

3. The current English language requirement attached to the Subclass 457 visa program be retained.

4. Subsclass 457 visa holders involved in safety complaints should be given protection to allow them to remain in Australia for the purposes of a prosecution of a complaint.

5. Dependents of subclass 457 visa holders should be allowed full working rights upon attaining working age during the currency of the primary visa, until the dependent attains the age of 21 years when they are regarded as independent unless they are in full-time study or have a medical condition that prohibits them from becoming independent.

6. Employers should be expressly prohibited from entering into any arrangement for the purpose of obtaining money from a visa holder as a consequence of the visa holder obtaining the employment and be prohibited from making any deduction from the wages of a visa holder for payment to any agent.

7. Procedures for making complaints against migration agents be provided to all prospective clients together with a schedule setting out the standard fees generally charged for particular services.

8. Removal of the requirement for legal practitioners with practising certificates to be registered migration agents in order to provide immigration assistance

9. Amendment of Visa Condition 8107 to make it clear that subclass 457 visa holders may cease work for one sponsor and find work with another approved sponsor.

10. Subclass 457 visa holders be allowed up to 90 days to find a new sponsor

11. The government should institute a levy from employers for each subclass 457 visa holder they sponsor which levies should be used to fund the provision of services to visa holders and removal costs if required and also Medicare coverage of public health costs to subsclass 457 visa holders and their dependents.

The Deegan report has also recommended a number of initiatives that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship should carry out aimed at providing more information and assistance to Subclass 457 visa holders. These include publication of approved sponsors, guidelines for visa cancellation, etc. on the DIAC website.

I expect that the rate at which the visas are issued will continue to grow. Of late, we have observed from what we regularly receive in the Message board of our news site, The Filipino Australian, the concentration of Filipino 457 visa holders is the resource-rich states of Western Australia and Queensland.

Deegan Report

Given that the demand for skilled workers in Australia is across several industry sectors, we should also expect the other states like New South Wales and Victoria registering increases in 457 visa grants.

Australia needs skilled workers in health and community services, communication services, property and business services, manufacturing and construction. Professionals as another skills category had been reported to have exceeded the number of other 457 classes.


  1. Ramon S says

    Thanks for this information. Let’s hope there will be better working conditions for our kababayans in Australia.

  2. Romy says

    samonte_oz -From information gathered from the Dept of Immigration and Citizenship, applying for a 457 visa is a three-step process.

    Step 1 – A business needs to be approved as a sponsor, and approval is granted by the DIAC after assessment of the company’s eligibility and ability to meet obligations as a sponsor.

    Step 2 – A nomination for the position is filled up. This is when the nomination form for sponsorship as well as the offer of employment is issued to the employee.

    Step 3- Employee applies for a visa. Without the nomination and offer of employment from the employer, visa application is invalid.

    There are certain visa fees and charges for sponsorship and visa applications. Details of charges are available at the DIAC website at

  3. Bob Gee says

    The rights of voluntary 457 visa workers is certainly important. So are my rights, my job “evaporated” and I was replaced with a British 457 “specialist” who had no qualifications recognised in Aussie. More needs to be done to protect Australian workers.

    • says

      I could not agree with you more, Bob. Hiring less qualified 457 visa workers work is disadvantageous to the “more qualified” workers for losing their job but also to the “less qualified” workers for getting paid less but doing the same job. I think these are the anomalies in the system that the reforms are addressing. Thanks for dropping by.

  4. amay says

    Hi Romy,

    I badly needed an advise from my fellow kababayan. Im a 457 visa holder working as a manager and Im working almost 2 years now. I got pregnant and is due on august. according to the ‘Job Offer’ sent to me when I was offered this job that I am entitled to a parental leave in which maternity is under this clause but the clause did not directly say if it’s PAID but says that ‘will follow mcdonalds policy and state legislation’. I checked the mcdonalds website and confirmed that it is a PAID maternity leave. I discuss this with my employer and told me that they don’t necessarily adhere to that. Im confused and unsure if I really have a case but afraid of losing my job. please help.

    • says

      Hi Amay,

      Thanks for dropping by. Kindly send me a copy of the Job Offer you have in your possession so I can refer that to our friends who may be able to help. I have sent you a message you can send the Job Offer copy to my private email.


  5. Leonida L. Bautista says

    Hi Romy,

    I have a concern about my dismissal from my job, actually this story start when I talked to my employer that I will go home in the Philippines for at least two months, because I need to attend to my husband whom have a renal mass on his right kidney, Dr. recomend an operation, to remove his right kidney, my employers knew everything about it and they let me go, coz the reason is valid, so I went home last dec.25 2009, and from there we got an exchange of communication with my employers, when can I possible comback to work? I reply with them last Dec 28,2009 that I will email them as soon as I found out the status of my husband surgery details, so that I did, last January 2010 I email them that I will coming back for work Feb 24,2010 is my booking, coz my husband operation will be February 9 or 10 2010, and they email me back that they can not wait for me,coz it is long time for their business, but I receive a notification that they cancelled my visa 457, and they send a notification to DIAC that they terminated my employment with them Dec.24,2009. With this I want to ask an assistance how can I file a complaint and what department best to file a complaint? They exlpoit me with this dismissal, please give me an advice.
    Thank you
    Leonida L. Bautista

  6. Yegana says

    Hello, i’ve got a question about maternity leave. My husband and i arrived in Australia 1 month ago and both of us are working on 457 visa (i am a secondary holder) i was wondering if i get pregnant, am I eligible for a maternity leave and how long i can stay at home with kid?

  7. Donnie says

    Hi sir, I had a job offer last month regarding a job from an IT company in Au. They express interest in hiring me, but they do not sponsor candidates since it is not part of their program. They advised me to apply for a skilled visa (independent since no sponsorship) for Australia and call them once it was approved. I was trying to get in touch with the Australian embassy here in the Philippines but I got confused by the long automated machine calls. I made a few inquiries to an Australian Immigration solutions company and the cost amounted to $ 6,500 (Skill assessment fee, Immigration department visa fee + their work fee), this money is a fortune compared to what I have right now, so I decline their assistance.
    Honestly, I really have no idea how to do this. To make matters worse last week, another company took another interest in my online CV, this time an IT recruitment agency, they too are willing to help me once I got there. Now I am quite frantic since this is a rare opportunity for me to help my parents. My questions are;
    457 visa vs skilled visa. which is cheaper and easier to get? How much does it cost here in the Philippines, how do I Apply, what do I need, where do I go?

    Thanks and Regards

  8. Will Alfa says

    I accepted a 4-year fixed term employment as a manager in Queensland on a 457 visa with my wife and child under 18. I wanted to bring my son 25 years old and daughter 22 years old, both nurses. What is the legal best and economical way to bring them to OZ?

    The visa agent recommend they must have an offer to study from schools in Australia in as part of the documentary proof for visa application. Am reading websites indicating between 8 to 10 months of study and allowed to work. Are there short course study they can avail and at same time work?

    The visa agent is trying to get them on 457 as secondary visa though a long shot. I have submitted dependency requirements as requested except for the study offer. What are their chances? What are options?

  9. yna says

    Hello Mr. Romy, i have student visa w/a course for 2 yrs in tafe.I want to bring my single son 25 yrs of age who is 2nd yr college in Philippines. Can i bring him w/me? if ever what will be the visa? can he still be my dependent child? thank u Mr.Romy in advance.

    • says

      Hi yna,

      Thanks for dropping by.

      The closest answer I can find for your question is at the website of the Dept of Immigration and Citizenship where it is stated:

      “Your family members may be eligible to apply for a visa to accompany you to Australia. Family members are subject to the same Assessment Level as the student, regardless of the type of passport the family member holds.”

      It might please you to know that recently the Australian Immigration department has announced a reduction in the Student Visa Assessment Levels for the Philippines. The Philippines is listed as one of the countries with the lowest Assessment Level 1. Having a very low AL1 means low documentary evidence to support claims for the grant of a student visa. These include evidence of English proficiency, financial capacity and academic qualifications.

      You can find more information by visiting the Immigration website from here.

      Hope this helps. Let me know how I can be of further assistance with regard to your query.