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Australia Withdraws 457 Visa Programme

April 2017, 22
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Australia Withdraws 457 Visa Programme
Australia has made changes to its immigration policy likely to affect Indian and other foreign workers heavily. The popular destination for skilled foreign workers has canceled its 457 visa programme which is often utilised by Indian workers.

The change is a stance by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to address unemployment in Australia and concerns that the 457 programme has been misused and enabled foreign workers to take lower skilled jobs which could be available to Australians.

He described Australia as an immigration nation but that Australian worker is a priority for jobs in the country. The scheme will be replaced by a new permit targeting the “best and the brightest” immigrants in the countries interest as part of an Australia first policy.

The 457 visa or the Temporary Work (Skilled) (Subclass 457) visa was named such in 2012 but developed from the Temporary Business (Long Stay) visa introduced by Prime Minister John Howard in 1996.  Employers can hire foreign workers in jobs where there is a shortfall of Australian workers, for up to four years using the visa. Figures to September 2016 show there were 95,000 workers in Australia using the 457 visa, 26.8% of them from India. The changes will not affect those currently employed in Australia using the visa but is expected to have a significant impact going forward, especially for India.

The planned replacement program will require a higher level of language proficiency and at least two years’ valid work experience. The list of occupations which qualify for this type of visa in Australia will be reduced from currently more than 200. The new visa will be for two years with a four-year visa requiring a higher level of English language proficiency.

There are concerns amongst the business community that the restrictions will affect the availability of skilled labour despite other concerns in the country that it has been overused and lost jobs for Australian workers. The move by PM Malcolm Turnbull has been compared to the America first policy of President Donald Trump and his restrictions to US skilled worker visas. The changes so far by the new American administration have caused reverberations across companies in the high-tech sector in the USA, who are concerned they will not be able to fulfill valuable highly skilled roles without more open immigration policies.

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