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Skilled workers from overseas contribute to our economic success
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