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Australia tightens work visa rules, scraps popular temporary work visa

PM Malcolm Turnbull says Australia will replace the 457 visa with a new program requiring greater English-language proficiency and prior work experience
BY Braingain Staff Writer |   18-04-2017
Malcolm Turnbull with Narendra Modi on the Delhi Metro’s Blue Line earlier this month
(image from the official Facebook page of Malcolm Turnbull)

Australia will abolish a popular temporary work visa and replace it with a new one that requires better English-language and job skills, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Tuesday. He said the measure would attract more skilled workers, and also ensure that Australians got jobs rather than cheap foreign labor hired under the 457 visa program.

The 457 visa was introduced in the 1990s to facilitate the entry of business professionals and highly skilled migrants, but over time it came to include a wider range of workers. The visa allowed foreign workers to stay in Australia up to four years, but reports say this will now be reduced to two years, and a second four-year visa will require greater proficiency in English. Critics of the old 457 program say some employers misuse the visa to import cheap workers, rather than to meet genuine skill shortages.

Turnbull said in a Facebook announcement, “We’re putting jobs first. We’re putting Australians first.” He said the new temporary visa that would replace the 457 visa would “better target genuine skill shortages”. He added that the new visa would require previous work experience, better English language proficiency, and labor market testing. The government would also help Australians fill skills gaps, he said.

“I’ll have more to say about all this in coming days and weeks, but our reforms will have a simple focus: Australian jobs and Australian values,” he said.

 Media reports quoted Turnbull as saying at a press conference in Canberra: “We are bringing the 457 visa class to an end. It's lost its credibility.”  

Turnbull, struggling with poor voter approval ratings, was reported as having rejected suggestions that the new visa policy was in response to far-right political parties demanding more nationalistic policies.

Media reports said that those who are currently in Australia on 457 visas would not be affected by the change. Most of these visas are held by Indians, followed by workers from the UK and China, reports said. As of September 30, there were reportedly 95,757 workers in Australia on this visa program.

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