Wednesday 22 November 2017

Explainer: Australia is set to scrap the popular 457 visa programme: here's what it means for the Irish

Irish people could find it a lot harder to go to Sydney now
Irish people could find it a lot harder to go to Sydney now

Kathy Armstrong

The popular Australian 457 visa programme has been abolished, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying he's "putting Australians first."

The scheme will be replaced with a two to four year Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) initiative.

Here's what it means for us.

What exactly was the 457 visa programme?

This system was designed to fill skill shortages among the Australian workforce.

If a skilled worker got sponsored by their employer they could live and work in Australia with their partners and children for up to four years.

How popular was it?

At the end of last year there were 6,139 Irish people living in Australia with a 457 visa.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

In the year leading up to June 2016 3,030 had applied for one of these visas, down from 4,119 during the same period the year before.

Overall there are 95,758 people in Australia on a 457 visa, the biggest portion of these are from India (24.6 per cent), followed by the UK (19.5pc) and China (5.8pc).

Why are they getting rid of it? 

The Australian economy has shrunk in recent years, particularly the mining industry, and critics have said that jobs needed by Ozzies are being snatched by foreign workers.

Mr Turnbull said in a Facebook announcement: "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's lost its credibility.

"It's followed on from a very careful examination of many of these issues by the review."

The reforms will begin straight away and will be complete by next March.

Read More: Hundreds of Irish expats to become Australian citizens in official ceremony

What will it be replaced with?

Mr Turnbull has said the 457 visa will be replaced with a Temporary Skills Shortage programme from next March.

General view of the Opera House in Sydney, Australia
General view of the Opera House in Sydney, Australia

The DIPB said: "The TSS visa programme will be comprised of a Short-Term stream of up to two years and a Medium-Term stream of up to four years.

"(It) will support businesses in addressing genuine skill shortages in their workforce and will contain a number of safeguards which prioritise Australian workers."

The requirements will be tightened, some of the provisions include that the number of skilled occupations has been reduced from 651 to 435, with a further 24 restricted to regional 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 aren't udnercut.

Applicants will also have to prove they've a clear criminal record, there's a maximum age limit of 45 and there will be stricter English language requirements.

There will be some concessions though.

How does this affect people who have 457 visas?

The DIPB states: "Existing 457 visas will continue to remain in effect."

In other words, they won't be affected.

The Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) in Brisbane (Australia) joins Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening initiative, to celebrate the island of Ireland and St Patrick.
The Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) in Brisbane (Australia) joins Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening initiative, to celebrate the island of Ireland and St Patrick.

Read More: Australia scraps visa for skilled foreign workers

What about applicants and those who were planning to apply for a 457 visa?

The DIPB says: "Current 457 visa applicants and holders, prospective applicants, businesses sponsoring skilled migrants and

industry.

"457 visa applicants that had lodged their application on or before 18 April 2017, and whose application had not yet been decided, with an occupation that has been removed from the STSOL, may be eligible for a refund of their visa application fee.

"Nominating businesses for these applications may also be eligible for a refund of related fees."

For more information see here.

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