Australia Immigration

Immigration minister hints that 457 visa changes may be in the works

by Ray Clancy on September 17, 2014

in Australia Immigration, Jobs in Australia

Proposals to reform Australian’s 457 visa programme are balanced and measured and are aimed at giving businesses access to the skilled workers they need to grow their businesses, according to Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.

Giving a speech to mark the one year anniversary of the current Australian government, he pledged to respond to the independent panel’s proposals as soon as possible.

australia visa stamp

Changes to the 457 visa program could be in store

‘I believe the panel’s recommendations keep faith with the necessary requirements for a robust integrity framework to support the 457 programme, while recognising and addressing the need to increase the skills capability of the domestic workforce,’ said Morrison.

‘The Review has recommended that the market rate framework continue to operate as a core component of the 457 programme. I support the continuation of the market rate framework, but will, in line with the recommendations of the review, look favourably on introducing a deregulation measure that brings the income bar for exemption from market rate assessment in line with the top marginal tax rate of $180,000,’ he explained.

‘I am also attracted to the proposals that support trusted legitimate sponsors and help them manage their compliance and reporting obligations more effectively, whilst making it more difficult for those with dishonest intent to make fraudulent application,’ he pointed out.

‘I agree that there is a need to simplify the process of sponsorship renewal, extend reporting time frames and bring forward legislation to make it unlawful for sponsors to be paid by visa applicants for a migration outcome, reinforced by a robust penalty and conviction framework,’ he added.

Morrison also hinted that there could be change to the English language requirements which he described as ‘unnecessarily restrictive’. He said that they serve more as an industrial lock out rather than an honest attempt to ensure appropriate language skills which the government does believe is important.

‘There are more practical ways to achieve what is needed here and moving to an averaging system would remove much unnecessary cost and complexity,’ he added.

He pledged to look at ways in which Labour Agreement negotiation time can be improved to enable demand driven and responsive pathways for temporary migration, where standard 457 programme arrangements are not suitable.

He pointed out that the recently announced Designated Area Migration Agreement will go a long way to facilitating a streamlined process model around which future pathways of this type may be shaped.

He also hinted that there will be greater collaboration with the Australian Taxation Office as recommended by the panel. ‘Greater information sharing between the two agencies will ensure that the department is optimally positioned to detect non-compliance in the 457 programme swiftly, and in doing so use less resources, whilst minimising the burden on those businesses doing the right thing,’ said Morrison.

‘We must be as tough on enforcing our immigration laws in the workplace as we are on our borders. To date, we have already achieved a significant escalation in compliance, investigation and integrity activities, across a broad range of immigration and visa product areas,’ he added.

Since the election there has been a 14% increase in compliance actions across the board, whilst field actions have increased by 27%, criminal investigations are up 7%, employment awareness visits up 41%, location of illegal workers up 18% and there has been an over 200% increase in the issuing of illegal warning notices.

Morrison also revealed that through Operation Tricord, a multi-agency effort across both state and federal jurisdictions, hundreds of illegal workers and non-compliant workers have been disrupted. In one operation alone that took place in May, 122 illegal workers and visa over stayers were identified and located in Northern Perth.

‘Operations such as these should serve as a warning to illegal workers and the employers who allow them to work illegally,’ he said, adding that in 2013/2014, the Operational Integrity cancellations network cancelled 42 600 visas, representing an increase in cancellations by approximately 45% on cancellations made during the previous year.

He also pointed out that he has strengthened the immigration department’s ability to act where it is suspected that bogus documents or information have been used to identify an individual making an application by imposing a ten year ban on the grant of another visa.

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