Irish planning move to Australia suffer blow as PM dumps its skilled worker visa scheme
Australia has abolished a popular skilled worker visa used by thousands of Irish - with the country's prime minster insisting that he wants to put Australians first.
The 457 visa has been hugely popular among the Irish since the economic crash in 2008 - but as of now it will not be available to any applicant.
The scheme will be replaced with a two- to four-year Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) initiative.
The visa allowed a skilled worker who was sponsored by their employer to live and work in Australia for up to four years.
At the end of 2016, there were 6,139 Irish people availing of this particular visa.
It is understood that those currently living in the country under the scheme will not be affected.
However, those who are in the process of applying or were looking into doing so, will not be allowed.
In a statement online, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was about protecting jobs for Australian people.
Mr Turnbull said: "We are an immigration nation, but the fact remains Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs.
"We'll no longer allow 457 visas to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians. It has lost its credibility."
He added: "It's followed on from a very careful examination of many of these issues by the review."
The TSS is due to be in place by March 2018 as a replacement, with the process beginning immediately.
This visa will comprise of a short-term two-year scheme and a medium-term four-year scheme.
Unlike the current 457 visa programme, those on short-term schemes will not be able to put themselves forward for Australian residency.
Those who are eligible for the four-year scheme will be able to apply for permanent residency after they complete three years working in Australia.
Applicants must have at least two years' experience in their skilled profession and there will be a minimum market salary rate to make sure Australian workers are not undercut.
Applicants will also have to prove they have a clean criminal record, and a strict age limit of 45 is in place.