“…no longer allow 457 visa to be passports”
Melbourne, April 18: Adopting a new “Australians first” approach to skilled migration, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced that he will be abolishing the existing 457 Visa programme, currently used by temporary foreign workers to gain employment and down the line, permanent residency in the country.
The 457 Visa programme is used mainly to hire foreign workers in the restaurant, IT and medical industries and the majority of such visa holders come from India, Britain and China.
Turnbull used Facebook to announce the policy, which he said would “put jobs first” and “Australians first”, signalling a reduction in the occupations available to skilled foreign workers and raising the threshold to qualify.
“We are putting jobs first, we are putting Australians first,” he said. “We are an immigration nation, but the fact remains that Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs.”
Stating that Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs, he said: “We will no longer allow 457 Visa system to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians.”
At a press conference in Canberra, Turnbull said the 457 Visa system needed to be replaced because it had “lost its credibility”.
The scheme will be replaced by two temporary visas that will impose tougher English language tests, stricter labour market testing, at least two years of work experience and a mandatory police check.
The numbers of jobs eligible for the two-year and four-year visa streams will be slashed, with 216 occupations ranging from antique dealer to fisheries officer to shoe-maker, axed from a list of 651 professions on the list.
Actors, pilots, butchers, flight attendants, jockeys, public relations managers, radio journalists, web developers have also been removed by the Department of Immigration under the new visa regime.
- The new visas will require a criminal record check, currently not required.
- The new two-year visa will not allow permanent residency.
- Applicants must be under the maximum age requirement of 45 at the time of application.
However, accounting giant KPMG criticised the decision, saying “there is no evidence the current system is not working”.
But PM Turnbull dismissed that claim, arguing the abolition of the 457 Visa regime was “a decision of my government… this has been a careful exercise in policy development”.
People currently on a 457 Visa, which lasts for four years, will be exempt from the new regulations.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said that for the two-year stream, which could be renewed for two years, “there won’t be permanent residency outcomes at the end of that”.
“In relation to the medium-term stream which, as the Prime Minister pointed out, is targeted at higher skills, (there will be) a much shorter skills list”.
He said the government would work with companies to ensure they met labour market testing requirements, and warned “there will be a particular focus on companies that have an unnecessarily high proportion of 457 or foreign workers in jobs as well.”
Employers seeking workers under the employer sponsored permanent skilled visa will now be compelled to meet the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold set at $53,900 as at 12 April 2016.
- A fee of $1,150 will apply for the short term visa, while medium-term applicants will pay $2,400.
- The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will collect Tax File Numbers and data will be matched with the Australian Tax Office’s records.
Employers themselves will also be required to contribute to a Fund to train Australian workers and pass a non-discriminatory workforce test in favour of Australian workers.
The 457 Visa programme was introduced by the former John Howard government in 1996-97. Mr Turnbull however, said that it had failed under Labour and would therefore be abolished.
India consulting stakeholders – Indians form a quarter of 457 workers in Australia
Meanwhile, India on Tuesday said it is examining the announcement and consulting all stakeholders.
According to last year’s statistics, 95,758 people currently live in Australia under 457 Visa programme and the highest proportion are Indians constituting 24.6 per cent.
Britons constitute 19.5 per cent of overseas workers and Chinese are at 5.8 per cent.
Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said that the government was examining consequences of the new policy in consultation with all stakeholders.
“This is also a matter we will be looking at in the context of CECA (Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement) negotiations (with Australia),” Baglay said.
The Ministry noted that it was “examining the consequences” of the new policy and it would examine this “in the context” of trade negotiations with Australia – a clear spanner in the possibility of Australia’s free trade deal with India.
India had earlier, been seeking an expansion of approved skill categories — essentially to allow more Indian professionals to work in Australia.