Businesses sponsoring skilled migrants will be able to extend the amount of time their international employees can spend in the country under recent changes introduced by the federal government.
From November 7, organisations will be able to hire foreign workers for a period of up to six years - double the length of time previously available for most temporary agreements - as well as gaining access to priority processing.
Minister for immigration Chris Bowen said that the new changes would help both businesses and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) by streamlining the application procedures.
A number of restrictions do apply to the new regulations - organisations need to already be hiring 457 visa holders and must ensure that at least 75 per cent of their labour pool is Australian.
Speaking on the recent developments, Bowen said: "These businesses will be able to seek accreditation that qualifies them for sponsorship approval of six years rather than the current three, as well as ensuring faster processing times for all future subclass 457 nominations and visa applications.
"While employers should first look to Australians to fill skill vacancies, the subclass 457 visa provides a fast and flexible process for the entry of overseas workers where they are needed to fill skill vacancies."
Bowen also pointed out that the scheme - developed with consultation from the Skilled Migration Consultative Panel - would actively help to improve the employment situation in the country as it obliged companies to hire on local workers.
Additional requirements would also be put in place by the initiative - with qualified organisations needing to be a government agency, a publicly listed company, or a private company turning over at least $4 million a year over the last three years.
In addition, the companies need to have had a minimum of 30 primary Subclass 457 visa applications granted in the last year.
This could be good news for a number of industry sectors, with a booming resource market and increasing demand for information technologies two areas that obviously stand to benefit from the new changes.
While the number of 457 visa holders in the country have held fairly steady at 75,000 over the last 24 months, application numbers have started to increase dramatically - particularly in Western Australia and Queensland.
Companies that are seeking international workers may wish to seek the advice of an experienced migration lawyer before proceeding with sponsorship - as the process can be time consuming and involves a number of non-refundable fees.
By consulting with a lawyer for immigration, managers will be able to ensure that their application has the best possible chance of being accepted.