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Skilled work­ers from over­seas con­trib­ute to our eco­nomic suc­cess

Money Magazine Australia - - CON­TENTS -

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s sweep­ing changes to the 457 visa scheme have cre­ated con­fu­sion and con­cern among em­ploy­ers and work­ers across many in­dus­tries, in­clud­ing

IT, min­ing, oil and gas, re­tail and hos­pi­tal­ity.

The 457 pro­gram has worked ef­fec­tively as a de­mand-driven, tem­po­rary-skilled visa pro­gram, with the num­ber of visas granted ris­ing and fall­ing with chang­ing cir­cum­stances in the labour mar­ket. For ex­am­ple, ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment’s own statis­tics, cooks, IT pro­gram­mers and restau­rant man­agers were the top three oc­cu­pa­tions granted 457 visas in the sec­ond half of 2016.

The changes af­fect the hos­pi­tal­ity and IT sec­tors, and oth­ers, by tight­en­ing cri­te­ria, re­mov­ing the right of some skilled work­ers to ap­ply for a 457 visa or by re­duc­ing the visa term from four years to two.

Un­der the changes, work­ers such as web de­sign­ers, petroleum engi­neers and re­tail buy­ers will no longer be el­i­gi­ble and other pro­fes­sions face caveats too.

Oc­cu­pa­tions have been sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced from 651 to 435, with 216 re­moved and ac­cess re­stricted to 59 other oc­cu­pa­tions.

Other key changes in­clude tougher English lan­guage re­quire­ments, manda­tory po­lice clear­ances for ap­pli­cants, a levy on em­ploy­ers to­wards the new Skilling Aus­tralians Fund an­nounced in the 2017 fed­eral bud­get, re­stric­tions on visa re­newals and an in­crease in visa ap­pli­ca­tion charges.

From March 2018, the 457 visa will be re­placed by a tem­po­rary skill short­age visa of two or four years.

The changes in­tro­duced to date im­pact all lodged 457 nom­i­na­tions, visas that are still be­ing pro­cessed and cur­rent 457 visa hold­ers’ eli­gi­bil­ity for a fur­ther ap­pli­ca­tion.

Em­ploy­ers and work­ers should seek in­formed ad­vice about what the changes mean for them, recog­nis­ing that key im­pacts also con­cern eli­gi­bil­ity to progress from a 457 visa to per­ma­nent res­i­dence in Aus­tralia. Tim­ing is of the essence in as­sess­ing cur­rent op­tions that may not be avail­able from March 2018.

The pro­gram has been suc­cess­ful in at­tract­ing skilled work­ers and con­tribut­ing to our eco­nomic suc­cess. Any changes must en­sure the in­tegrity of the pro­gram and con­tin­ued sup­port within the com­mu­nity.

Robert Walsh, Fragomen, provider of im­mi­gra­tion ser­vices

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