The 457 visas won’t be abolished until March but Simon Christie’s business is already feeling the pinch from the federal government’s changes to the visa system.
Christie owns video production company Adventure Set Production and has spent the past two years trying to hire two Chinese staff on 457 visas to try and target the China market..
“You are not really given any timelines on how long it is going to take,” Christie says. “It disadvantages small businesses massively. It’s very hard for us to grow, we have put a lot of effort and time with flights and travel to China. It’s just been a huge drain and we’ve invested a lot into driving our business into China and this has put it all on hold and it’s just embarrassing.”
Real cost is time away from business
Adventure Set Production produces television shows about the outdoors and driving, employs 10 people and turned over about $1.3 million last year.
Christie estimates he has spent $70,000 on the two 457 visa applications in an attempt to hire two Chinese citizens with on-the-ground, up-to-date experiences with the culture, language and marketing mechanisms in China.
“The real cost is the hours and time I’ve had to spend away from my business,” he says.
Christie says Adventure Set Productions has missed out on substantial revenue opportunities as a result of the delays, including fulfilling a broadcast opportunity with a Chinese television station.
“We had a meeting and they said ‘You put subtitles on and we will start airing them’,” Christie says. “That opportunity was given to us 12 months ago but we needed the people to do the graphics and translations. That’s a small business into a small provincial television station in China but their broadcast range is 80 million people. That’s huge for us.”
Adventure Set Productions two 457 visa applications were rejected and Christie plans to appeal the decision.
“We’re now going through the appeal process which is costing us tens of thousands per person just for the basics,” he says. “The outrageous part is that the government is applying new standards to old applications. New rulings mean that despite our applications meeting the requirements at the time of submission, the government has moved the goalposts, meaning we’re losing time and money trying to meet all of the new demands.”
Spike in assessment time frames
Dimitrios Katsaros, partner at law firm Katsaros & Associates, says there has been a spike in assessment time frames for almost all types of applications particularly 457 visas, which allow skilled migrants to work for an Australian employer for a temporary period and may lead to permanent residency.
He says 457 applications are now taking an average of nine months for a final decision to be given from the time of application, an increase from an average of three months, which had been the consistent time frame for over 10 years.
“The changes mean small business owners who are desperate for staff are being made to wait up to a year, or more in many cases, only to find out that the application was refused,” Katsaros says. “This is hurting Australia businesses and in turn the services and products they have to offer Australians.”
Small business and family enterprise ombudsman Kate Carnell says small businesses are struggling to deal with the changes.
“We understand why the changes were put in place – to ensure that where Australians are qualified to do the job they should get first bite of the cherry,” she says. “But we’re concerned about unintended consequences including delays with processing and changes to the list of approved professions.”
Carnell says the reality is that many small businesses in industries like agriculture and hospitality can’t get the people they need to run their businesses.
“It’s a dog’s breakfast,” she says. “There needs to be a good look at the red tape to make it easier for small businesses to employ the skilled people they need.”
The hospitality industry is expected to be one of the hardest hit by the 457 visa changes.
Jonathan Plowright, the founder of online hospitality learning platform Typsy, says he is already seeing the impact of the skills shortage among the small hospitality businesses which are Typsy’s clients.
“What we are seeing is people are already questioning how they are going to find staff next year,” he says.
A spokesperson from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection says complete applications are generally processed in less than 90 days while 75 per cent of applications are processed within five months.
“Visa processing times are dependent on a range of factors, including the personal circumstances of the applicant,” the spokesperson