Mixed reaction to proposed new short-term Australian visa

by Ray Clancy on January 8, 2015

in Immigration Documentation

There has been a mixed reaction in Australia so far to proposals for a new visa that would allow highly specialised workers to stay in Australia for up to 12 months without having to apply for a 457 skilled migrant visa.

The discussion paper from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) does not specify who would be eligible for the visa, only saying it would be for “highly specialised and intermittent work”.

A short term mobility visa category would replace the existing category 400 visa

A DIBP spokesman said the government would not comment on the visa proposal until the consultation phase was finished, but the government’s priority was to ensure any changes to the visa system supplemented Australia’s work force.

A short term mobility visa category would replace the existing category 400 visa, which allows skilled or specialist entrants to work for up to six weeks. There were 4,587 visas of this type granted when it was first offered in 2012/2013, rising to 32,984 in 2013/2014 with applicants are concentrated in mining, manufacturing, construction and education.

According to Angela Chan, president of the Migration Institute of Australia, it is likely to apply only to a small number of people, including company directors and high level executives who were coming to Australia to set up divisions and subsidiaries, or software developers creating specialised programmes for Australian companies.

“There is a need to have this new visa for flexibility to get these things done. There is a need to meet the skills in this area for intermittent work,” she said.

Under the proposals, applicants would not need to pass English language or skills requirements and employers would not have to prove they cannot find an Australian to fill the position. The visa would allow for multiple entries.

Employer groups have been pushing for a less onerous visa than the 457 to allow them to bring in specialists for shorter term projects. They say the six weeks offered under the 400 visa is too short and the department often re-directs applicants to 457 visas.

“The current policy settings and regulations are quite strict and don’t allow a lot of flexibility where there’s very specialised or unique work to be done,” said Mark Glazbrook, managing director of Migration Solutions.

“If you consider a big international-based company with Australian operations, if they have a specialised piece of equipment that’s in Australia and no one knows how to install it, they want to be able to bring someone, possibly on multiple occasions, on a genuinely temporary basis,” he added.

The proposals is regarded as part of a wider plant to cut visa red tape and give companies more flexibility to grow and compete for talent. But the proposals have already upset trade unions, who say that it will prevent Australians getting jobs.

According to Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney, as unemployment, at 6.3%, is at a 12 year high, the focus should be on employing and training locals.

“The review of Australia’s skilled migration system must strengthen requirements for employers to advertise jobs locally before recruiting ¨workers from overseas, not make it easier for companies to bypass Australian workers, university graduates and apprentices,” she said.

But not all unions agree. According to Master Builders Australia some projects of a short duration, for example three months, are currently going through the time consuming and costly process of applying and securing 457 visas which are not flexible enough.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Clive S January 12, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Correction : Master Builders Australia is an employer group not a union

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