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The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) recently announced planned changes to the temporary skilled worker (457) visa program. The purpose of the program is to enable employers to temporarily fill vacant positions by recruiting qualified overseas workers where they cannot find appropriately skilled Australians. The program includes features that protect working conditions in the local labor market as well as measures to prevent exploitation of overseas workers.
While acknowledging that the 457 program is meeting its overall intent, the DIAC noted that it has concerns with its use by some employers. For example, in 2011-12 there was a significant increase in 457 applications from working holiday and student visa holders. Many of these 457 visa applicants were nominated to work in occupations and regions that were not experiencing widespread skills shortages, and in some industries they accounted for more than half of the total grants. The DIAC views this trend as indicative of program use driven by temporary visa holders trying to stay in Australia, rather than by real shortages of skilled labor.
On February 23, 2013, the DIAC announced a number of reforms “to strengthen the integrity” of the 457 program. The reforms will be implemented on July 1, 2013, and include:
The DIAC stated that these measures should not adversely affect processing times and only have a minimal impact on business.
Less than one month after the DIAC announced its reforms, the Australian Senate initiated an enquiry into 457 visas and other migration programs. The purpose of the enquiry is to obtain multiple views on the 457 visa program. Submissions by interested parties will be accepted through April 26, 2013. People in companies utilizing the 457 program and other interested parties now have an opportunity to become involved and express their opinions on the program and the DIAC’s proposed changes.
Elaine M. Kumpula, counsel for Faegre Baker Daniels, concentrates her practice in U.S. immigration law and global mobility.
Republished with permission. © 2013
Faegre Baker Daniels. All rights reserved.
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