Australia Tightens Rules on Worker Visas as Unemployment Rises

Published On: April 18, 2017 02:49 PM NPT By: Agencies

CANBERRA, April 18: Australia will tighten temporary skilled migration visas, scrapping the current 457 program used by almost 100,000 people, as the country’s labor market weakens and anti-immigration sentiment spreads among developed nations.

The migration system has to be “seen to ensure that Australian jobs are filled by Australians wherever possible,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in Canberra Tuesday. “That foreign workers are brought into Australia in order to fill critical skill gaps, and not brought in simply because an employer finds it easier to recruit a foreign worker than go to the trouble of hiring an Australian.”

The new visa will allow workers to stay for two years, rather than the current four, and reduces the number of skills that qualify, Turnbull said. Applicants will be required to have a higher standard of English and undergo a full police check, while labor market testing will be required to demonstrate someone from offshore is needed, he said. There’s also a medium-term visa with more stringent requirements. Neither will lead to permanent residency, Turnbull said.

Turnbull is struggling in opinion polls nine months after scraping an election victory with a razor-thin majority. His hard-line conservative predecessor Tony Abbott has called on him to slash immigration, stoking populist sentiment as unemployment has climbed to 5.9 percent and underemployment remains high.

The country issued 45,400 457 visas last fiscal year, and including family members there are 94,890 people holding them, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“We’re bringing the 457 visa class to an end,” Turnbull said at the press conference. “It’s lost its credibility.”

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