18 Apr 2017

Australia first: Strict Visa for Foreign Workers

A stricter visa regime for skilled workers now takes effect in Australia, said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. He announced that from today (18th April) the so-called Visa 457 is no longer effective and will be substituted by a completely new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS).

Following the example of Donald Trump’s policy “buy American, Hire American”, Turnbull said: “We are an immigration nation, but the fact remains: Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs.”

Visa 457 was the most popular program used by Australian employers to hire overseas workers. It was issued for a period of two or four years. There were two ways of receiving a visa – business sponsorship or self-sponsorship. It was first introduced in 1996 to tackle the Australian worker shortage in some skilled professions.  According to the rules, the candidates for the permit were assessed through a point-based system, evaluating things like experience and standard of education.

The new TSS will also include a harder test in English language, stricter labour market testing (which requires the employers show that they have advertised the position to be filled and that there no local available to fill the position). Mandatory police check and a minimum of 2 years of experience in the required job position are also required now. There are also 216 (out of 615) professions ranging from helicopter pilots, through butchers and blacksmiths to actors, film directors and entertainers, that are not eligible for work permits anymore. However, professions like nurses and cooks, which also fall under Visa 457 will remain on the list. There are changes in the price of permit too – from $1060 to $1150 for the two year-visa and the four years’ one will be $2400.

Currently in Australia there are 95,000 people who are working with Visa 457, but Turnbull said they will not be affected. The most popular sectors using the permit are accommodation, food services, information, media and telecommunications with the majority of the employees coming from India, the UK, Ireland and China.

The changes in the work permit were welcomed with controversial comments from business and political bodies in the country. Labor leader Bill Shorten, who originally was supportive of changes of the “dodgy 457”, criticized the measure of the government saying, “the only job Malcolm Turnbull cares about saving is his own”. Representatives of Australian unions were also moderate in their support, claiming that it’s “more spin than substance”.  However, the leader of the Australian Industry Group Innes Willox welcomed the decision commenting that “Ending that visa category, adding limits and more clearly defining its successor visas will help draw the focus back to the program’s primary purpose: addressing the pockets of skill shortages that persist in our economy”.

Apart from Visa 457 there are few other types of visas you can get, based on what are you going to do in the country. Students visas, separated in number of categories, are relevantly easy to get with a confirmation letter from the educational institution. Also there are family visas – if you have relatives in the country and there’s the investor visa – for foreign businessmen-which can become Permanent Residential permits after 4 years of stay.

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