457 visa changes: what lawyers need to know

Are you a lawyer looking to relocate to Australia? If so it is likely that you will need a visa to live and work here.

The majority of lawyers obtain a “Temporary Work (Skilled) visa” which allows for an employer to sponsor a skilled overseas worker to live and work in Australia for a period of up to four years. This visa is more commonly known as a 457. In order to be eligible for this visa, you must fall within one of the 650 “designated” occupations and an employer must prove they can't find a suitable Australian worker to fill the position. Under the current rules, “lawyer” is on the list.

However, on 18 April 2017, the Australian government announced that it was abolishing 457 visas which caused quite a stir and made me question what it meant for lawyers who are looking to make the move.

What you need to know about 457 visa changes

The 457 visa will be replaced with two new visa programs; the two-year visa system and the four-year visa system, called the Temporary Skill Shortage Visa. And although the 650 occupations has been reduced by over 200, lawyers are still firmly on the list.

The whole crux of the 457 visa and changes to the system is that businesses have to prove they can't find a suitable Australian worker to fill the job. Here at Taylor Root I work with law firms to help them find lawyers for their busy and ever-growing teams. There is a huge need for lawyers across a broad range of practice areas including corporate, banking & finance, TMT, competition and litigation and there simply aren’t enough in the local market to satisfy demand. This has been caused by multiple factors; most stemming from the global financial crisis, when law firms stopped hiring and training junior transactional lawyers as there was very little transaction work being undertaken. Demand has now bounced back, but lawyers with three to five years’ experience are nowhere to be found.

So the reality is that Australian law firms will find this requirement an easy one to fulfil. Overseas lawyers are in high demand and this isn’t going to change anytime soon.

As such, if you’re thinking of making a move, don’t let the visa changes deter you!

For a confidential chat about the Australian legal market and the opportunities available to you, please feel free to contact me.