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457 Secondary Applicants: The Basics

Written By John Unger
Thu, Apr 6, 2017
John Unger

Where family members apply for 457 visas, they are ‘secondary’ applicants.  It is your sponsored employee who is the ‘primary’ applicant.

If you are an employer that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has approved as a 457 visa sponsor, you are able to nominate a skilled person you want to employ and also include members of their family.  This should generally be understood to mean members of the immediate family, and would typically include a spouse/partner and/or children.  The family members can be included in the employee’s visa application, and when the application is approved all the family members receive 457 visas.  In order to allow this to happen, as an employer you would include all the family members in the nomination form you lodge with the immigration department.

As an alternative scenario, it is possible to nominate just the employee in the first instance, and then have the family members complete and lodge an application for 457 visas at a later date.  The DIBP electronic lodgement system refers to this as a subsequent entry.  As an employer in this scenario, you would submit a written confirmation that you support the 457 secondary application when the family members lodge their subsequent visa application. 

In a third possible scenario, you may have an employee on a 457 visa who was unmarried at the time you sponsored him or her, but has now married and asks you to support a 457 visa for their spouse.  As with the second scenario above, you are able to submit written confirmation of your support. 

Tip - It is possible to include family members in a nomination even if the intention is that the family members will lodge 457 applications at a later date.

There are legislative criteria for who is considered to be a family member.  Unmarried partners - de facto and same-sex partners - can be included subject to specific criteria.  Issues most commonly arise in cases involving:
-  children over 18
-  children from previous marriages where a natural parent may still have custody rights
-  family members not of the immediate family (e.g. mother-in-law) where your sponsored employee provides financial support

Tip - In any of the above situations it would be prudent to seek professional advice whether the person can be included as a family member.

A 457 visa granted to a secondary applicant is dependent on the 457 visa granted to the primary applicant.  If you retrench your sponsored employee and their 457 visa is cancelled as a result, the immigration department would also take action to cancel the 457 visas of the family members.

As a sponsoring employer, you are taking on certain responsibilities by including the family members.  For example, there is a potential liability to pay for return airfares.  You also take on a potential liability to pay location and removal costs where a family member becomes unlawful and disappears into the community. 

Tip - A 457 visa granted to a secondary application is dependent on a continuing family relationship.  If you nominate an employee together with their de facto partner and the relationship breaks down, it is appropriate to notify the immigration department.  The Department can then consider cancellation of the visa held by the de facto partner, thereby mitigating your sponsor responsibilities.

Tip - When a family member is granted a 457 visa, the visa allows them to work in Australia.  There is no requirement that you employ them.

Tip - As a visa sponsor you cannot pass the costs of a sponsorship and nomination application to the sponsored employee.  There is no obligation for the sponsoring employer to pay for the costs of the visa application, however, although many employers choose to do so.  Similarly, there is no obligation to pay the costs of the visa application for family members.

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