Melbourne, April 19: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reiterated the new “Australia first – essentially meaning Australians will be given first preference for Australian jobs – bringing on sweeping 457 skilled visa changes, with lasting impact on .
The Australian Government announced that it would abolish the 457 visa and replace it with two new visas to protect the interests of native workers.
The 457 visa category enabled Australian firms to hire skilled foreigners for four years due to shortage of native workers with same skills. That category is being replaced by two new streams of short-term (2+2 year) and long-term category from March 2018.
The local IT industry encompassing web developers, IT engineers, programmers and technicians are scrambling to make sense of the changes and whether the changes may disallow many to skilled workers to work further in Australia.
The Digital Industry contributed $79 billion to the economy in 2014, according to a Deloitte report. The report also forecasts a growth to $139 billion by 2020, which will add more than 5 per cent to the GDP.
Indians – mostly engaged in Australia’s digital industry make up for a quarter of the overseas skilled workforce. Understandably, many of them as PR applicants under the 457 scheme are worried about their career, their families and their future.
However, the Indian IT industry’s representative body Nasscom said that Indian techies working in Australia would not be affected by Australia’s move on visas granted to them under a specific category.
“Our initial assessment is that the move should not have a major impact on visas granted to Indian IT workers, as the ‘457 visa category’ covered a lot of fields and was difficult to manage,” said the National Association of Software Services and Companies (Nasscom) in a statement.
The Indian tech-industry sees the move as being “driven by domestic political compulsions” where “immigration is a matter of huge political concern within the current geo-political environment.
“As the 457 visa is valid till its expiry, its holders can stay and work in Australia although under a restricted occupation list category,” Nasscom said.
About 95,000 foreigners, including many Indians are in Australia under the 457 visa norm, which the government wants to scrap, so that these openings become available for locals.
Nasscom termed the changes as “evolutionary and a new policy of the Australian government”.
Nasscom is currently working with the Indian and Australian governments on the changes and to ensure that the changes can be implemented without disrupting business continuity and value for Australian customers.
According to last year’s statistics, 95,758 people were living in Australia under the 457 Visa program with the highest proportion being Indians at 24.6 per cent.
India cognizant of US, Australia policy changes
With US President Donald Trump ordering tougher conditions for issuance of H-1B visas and Australia deciding to abolish the 457 Visa system, India said it is in touch with both governments.
On Tuesday, hammering his “America First” campaign theme, Trump signed an order tasking the department heads of State, Justice, Homeland Security and Labour to propose reforms in order to ensure H-1B visas are given to the “most-skilled or highest paid” petitioners.
The move is seen as a deterrent to Indian IT firms which send software engineers to the US on H-1B visas.
Indians working in US and Australia are seen to be the biggest beneficiaries of the H-1B visas in US and 457 visas programmes.
Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay, in a statement, also pitched France as another destination for jobs for Indians with advanced degrees.
He was referring to the fact that India had agreed with the French government last year to allow Indian students holding postgraduate degree and above to extend their stay in France for two years.
Referring to US, he said that the cap for H-1B visas had “remained at 65,000 since December 2004 when the H-1B Visa Reform Act of 2004 was enacted by the US Congress.”
He also said that senior Australian officials had conveyed to India that the “impact of the changes will be negligible on Indian workers, most of whom fall in high skill category,” Baglay said.
“The government is in touch with the governments of the United States and Australia on these matters and is also making full assessment of impact of these recent changes, in consultation with all stakeholders.”