Further details of changes to the Australian 457 visa programme which take effect on 01 July this year have been published by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). The department reveals that one of the main reasons for change is that there was significant growth in 2011/2012 from applicants applying from onshore who held a working holiday maker visa or student visa.
‘These subclass 457 visa applicants held mostly vocational qualifications, and in some industries accounted for over half of total grants. This trend suggests the programme is being increasingly used by temporary visa holders seeking to remain in Australia instead of supplementing the Australian labour force,’ a spokesman said.
However, others are claiming it is an attempt by the current government to win votes in the Australian general election later. Many Australian citizens believe that jobs should be given first to Australians and foreign workers should only be employed if there is no local person qualified for the position.
Officially the reforms announced last week are aimed at strengthening the DIAC’s capacity to identify and prevent employer practices that are not in keeping with the criteria of the subclass 457 programme. The DIAC says that the changes will mean the introduction of a ‘genuineness criterion’ under which the department may refuse a nomination if the position does not fit within the scope of the activities of the business.
There is also an increase in market salary exemption threshold from $180,000 to $250,000 to ensure that higher paid salary workers are not able to be undercut through the employment of overseas labour at a cheaper rate. English language exemptions for certain positions are being removed.
‘Many long term 457 workers go on to apply for permanent residence, and this change will ensure that the 457 programme requirements are brought into line with the permanent Employer Sponsored programme which requires a vocational English ability,’ said the spokesman.
Quote from AustraliaForum.com : “The chairman of the Ministerial Council on Skilled Migration has claimed that government policies concerning the 457 visa program for temporary skilled workers have been beneficial to the country’s economy.”
‘This change will benefit visa holders by ensuring that 457 visa holders, who have an ongoing position with their employer and want to apply for permanent residence in the long run are not disadvantaged because of their language ability. Applicants who are nominated with a salary greater than $92,000 will continue to be exempted from the English language requirement,’ he added.
The DIAC will get enhanced regulatory powers to ensure that the working conditions of sponsored visa holders meet Australian standards and that subclass 457 workers cannot be exploited or used to undercut local workers. There are also amendments to existing training benchmark provisions to clarify that an employer’s obligation to train Australians is ongoing and binding for the duration of their approved sponsorship, including for newly established business.
‘The measures will ensure the subclass 457 programme better meets its overarching intent of acting as a supplement to, rather than a substitute for the Australian labour market. The measures will also close loopholes in the current legislative and policy settings to ensure that the programme can only be used by appropriately skilled persons and to fill genuine skills shortages. This will enable Australians workers to have fair and equal access to employment opportunities,’ explained the spokesman.
‘Further, the measures will strengthen the sponsorship obligations to ensure that the working conditions of sponsored visa holders meet Australian standards and that they are not exploited. Strengthening the sponsorship obligations will also provide further disincentive to use the program in a manner which was not intended,’ he added.