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457 Visa holders escape school fees in Western Australia

October 2013, 07
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The Western Australian government has revealed it will postpone the introduction of school fees for children who are attending state schools where their parents are in the country on a temporary work visa. 
 
The announcement from the Treasury marks a u-turn on the subject after originally announcing that all workers arriving on a 457 work visa would have to contribute to the cost of schooling their children. 
 

A change in government policy

The number of children in Western Australian state schools from parents who are international workers has risen sharply in the last eight years. So much so in fact, that the government agreed that it had become necessary for temporary migrant workers to bear some of the cost. 
 
However, the Australian Treasury for the state has now conceded that it might be a little unfair for workers already in the country or is in the throes of moving to suddenly have large fees for schooling thrust upon them. 
 
The announcement regarding the need for the introduction of school fees was originally made in Parliament in August after the numbers of children from families on temporary work visas rose from just 290 in 2005 to 8600 by 2013, an increase of more than thirteen-fold. State treasurer Troy Buswell unveiled a new fee structure which would have meant international workers would have had to pay AUD4,000 to put their child through school. 

Western Australia
Australia is one of the world’s wealthiest nations
 
However, the Premier of the state, Colin Barnett, has now said that the plans are being put on the backburner until 2015 in a bid to provide more time for families to acclimatise to the change. In addition, when they are introduced, they will only apply for the first child at the higher rate; all subsequent children will only be charged AUD2000. 
 
The state is planning to re-introduce the school fees for temporary international workers with effect from 2015. 
 

Fears of driving away valuable immigrant workers

Although the public statement suggested that the reason the plans had been delayed was to allow workers already in the country – or those close to arriving – time to arrange their finances, some people have suggested that the real reason is very different. 
 
Western Australia relies on its international immigrant workforce and without which, it would struggle in a number of skilled areas. Some insiders have suggested that the plug was pulled on the move due to feedback which suggested the vast majority of immigrant workers would not be able to afford to stay under the new rules. 
 
Some MPs are still concerned over the possible introduction in 2015 and has suggested that the government introduce some kinds of means testing in order to avoid international workers being forced to choose between leaving and withdrawing their children from education. 
 
But despite fears that much-needed immigrant workers will be driven away, some MPs are still questioning how the gap in the state's finances will now be filled. 
 

What is the 457 visa?

The 457 temporary visa is the main means by which an international worker can reside in Australia. The position they fill must be on Australia's Skilled Occupation list, and it must also be sponsored by an authorised Australian employer. 
 
There are more than 100,000 international workers currently in Australia on a 457 visa. Individuals may bring their spouse and children with them for the four year duration of their 457 visa and are also free to leave the country and return whilst their visa is in force.
 

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