Proposed Reform to the 457 Migration System

Businesses will be allowed to bring employees to Australia for around a year without applying under a migration for 457 skilled worker visas -rule revamp being considered by the government.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection is proposing a new temporary entry visa for foreign workers that wouldn’t require the candidates to pass language or abilities requirements. Nor would employers demonstrate they cannot find an Australian to fill the position.

The planned “short-term freedom” subclass of visas would be available for “specialised work which may include intra-company transfers and foreign correspondents”, says a proposal paper obtained by The Australian Financial Review.

Fly-in, fly-out commuters, specialists or international partners who must provide brief spans of consultation or work to a firm would be covered. The visa would allow for multiple entrances.

The paper is a part of a review charged by the Abbott government as the biggest reexamination of skilled migration in 25 years and pronounced in October. The government desires to cut red tape and give businesses more flexibility to develop and compete for talent. But unions, which are largely hostile to foreign labour would be upset by the changes.

Skilled migration researcher Bob Birrell said the government will be picking a huge fight with white collar unions and professional groups by allowing greater extent to bring in people for short-term appointments to global firms.

“There are already significant issues with graduate employment in professions including dentistry, computer science, medicine and engineering,” he said.

“Liberalisation such that being mooted is going to crash head on with that situation. The government is going to have some angry professional associations on its hands.”

The existing category 400 visa, allowing skilled or specialist entrants to work for up to six weeks would be replaced by a short term mobility category.

There were 4587 visas of the kind allowed when it was initially offered in 2012 13. That jumped to 32,984 in 2013-14. Applicants are focused in construction, manufacturing, mining and schooling.

Company groups have already been pushing to get a less onerous visa in relation to the 457 to permit them to bring in specialists for shorter-duration endeavors. Employer groups say the six weeks is overly brief as well as the section frequently redirects applicants .

Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney said with unemployment at a 12-year-high of 6.3 per cent, 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 foreign, not make it simpler for businesses to avoid Australian workers, university graduates and apprentices,” she said.

Mark Glazbrook, the managing director -based Migration Solutions, said the lengthy mobility visa would be eagerly welcomed. “The current policy settings and regulations are rather strict and don’t let a lot of flexibility where there is really specialised or exceptional work to be done,” he said.

“If you consider a large international- based business with Australian operations, should they have a specialised piece of gear that’s in Australia and no one knows the way to install it, they want to be able to bring someone, possibly on multiple occasions, on a truly temporary basis.”

The existing employer-sponsored 457 visa could be absorbed into a new “temporary-skilled” category, as stated by the suggestion paper. It might continue to require candidates to satisfy labour market tests and English language, skills.

There would also be “long-lasting-independent” and “long-term-skilled” subclasses.

The “permanent-independent” subclass could be for “exceptionally proficient people to independently apply for permanent residence to work in Australia”. It’d replace existing ability visas that are distinguished.

Applicants in the long-lasting-proficient classification would have to demonstrate they have been filling a genuine vacancy in the local labour market. This class would subsume the existing 187 visas and 186.

“Competition for migrants amongst increase countries such as China and India, also as our conventional adversaries, will require that our skilled programs are not any longer designed to passively receive migrants, but are built to aggressively target ‘talented’ migrants in an extremely competitive environment,” the newspaper says.

Australian Mines and Metals Association manager Scott Barklamb said Australia would profit from “mobile, highly skilled professionals who briefly live and work where their specialised skills are most in demand”. “Australians working in the resource sector often have opportunities to work and live briefly all over the world as well as the Australian industry must similarly benefit from global engagement.”

The “genuine-temporary-entrant” test that was applied to student visas would be used for the short-term freedom subclass to prevent rorting.

The short-term mobility subclass would include a visa valid for three months or a year. Candidates for the visa that was shorter could be bought in in the invitation of an Australian company.

For the visa to be valid for up to 12 months, nominees would require a “statement of guarantee or undertaking in the Australian organisation detailing salary and any employment conditions reflective of the Australian standard for the duration of the stay should be supplied”.

There is also an overview of the ethics of the major investor visa program, the 457 visa system and an inquiry to the Business Innovation and Investment Program.

The government said it will be early to comment through the consultation period. A spokesman said the proposition paper was drafted by the department, not the government.

“The chief suggestion would be to free up temporary migration by developing a new group of visa subclasses for individuals coming in for less than a year,” Dr Birrell said.

“The consequence is that this wouldn’t comprise the rules and regulations now regulating the 457 visa, including some labour market testing.”