In a shocking announcement on Tuesday, Malcolm Turnbull said that the government will replace skilled 457 visas with a new category, in a move to give Australians priority for Australian jobs and tackle the growing unemployment in their country.
“Australians must have priority for Australian jobs – so we’re abolishing the [class] 457 visas, the visas that bring temporary foreign workers into our country,” he said.
Mr Turnbull said the new visa would ensure that foreign workers were brought into Australia to fill critical skill gaps and not simply because an employer finds it easier to recruit a foreign worker than go through the trouble of hiring an Australian.
At present, a whopping 95,758 people are in Australia on a 457 visa. The majority of the visa holders were from India, which accounted for almost a quarter of the intake.
The 457 visa, allows business to employ foreign workers for a period up to four years in skilled jobs where there is a shortage of Australian workers.
“What we are doing is making some significant changes in abolishing the program, but introducing a temporary skills shortage visa through two streams.”
The new scheme will have more safeguards to prevent the inappropriate use of the visas, including better English language proficiency requirements and labour market testing.
People currently on a 457 visa, which lasts for four years, will be exempt from the new regulations.
The government will replace the 457 scheme with two separate visas, one for two years and another for four years. They will both require two years of prior work experience before a candidate is eligible for the visa. The number of skills part of the new visa program is significantly reduced than the current scheme, Mr Turnbull said.
The current 457 visa is valid for four years and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said it was often used for “permanent migration outcomes”.
“At the moment the existing 457 visa program is conducted for a period of four years, but essentially it is open-ended, and it results, in many cases, in a migration outcome, somebody going into permanent residency and becoming a citizen, which is a significant part of the attraction to using the 457 visa.”
“We will no longer allow 457 visa to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians,” he said.
The new two-year visa will not be able to be transferred into residency but can be rolled over for a second two-year period.
“It is important businesses still get access to the skills they need to grow and invest so the 457 visa will be replaced by a new temporary visa, specifically designed to recruit the best and brightest in the national interest,” Turnbull said.
Mr. Turnbull’s announcement comes days after he visited India where a range of issues, including national security, counter-terrorism, education and energy, were discussed and six agreements were signed.