Employers in Australia will be able to hire temporary foreign workers for six years, double the current period, and get quicker visa approvals for workers under changes announced by the government.
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, confirmed that businesses using the subclass 457 visa programme can now gain access to priority processing and approval for six years under a new accreditation scheme.
‘This new scheme recognises that many Australian businesses have a long history of dealing with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) and an excellent record of compliance with workplace and migration laws,’ Bowen said.
‘From 07 November, these businesses will be able to seek accreditation that qualifies them for sponsorship approval of six years rather than the current three, as well as ensuring faster processing times for all future subclass 457 nominations and visa applications,’ he explained.
Businesses will need to meet certain additional benchmarks to qualify for accredited status, including being an active 457 visa sponsor for the past three years and a commitment to ensuring at least 75% of their domestic workforce is Australian.
‘While employers should first look to Australians to fill skill vacancies, the subclass 457 visa provides a fast and flexible process for the entry of overseas workers where they are needed to fill skill vacancies,’ Bowen said.
‘The new accreditation scheme was developed in consultation with the Skilled Migration Consultative Panel, which includes representatives from major employer groups, unions and state governments,’ he added.
The 2011 KPMG Skilled Migration Survey of employers found that the subclass 457 visa program provided a flexible avenue to alleviate skill shortages in growth sectors such as the mining industry.
Use of the subclass 457 visa programme is increasing, with 54,360 subclass 457 primary visas granted in 2010/11, an increase of 38.2% compared to the same period the year before. The UK was the most popular source country, with 11,820 primary applicants granted visas.
The median processing time for a subclass 457 visa remains at a historically low level of 22 days.