Australia has abolished the subclass 457 visa category and introduced a new visa type from March 18. The employer-sponsored 457 was popular among Indians, who were around 22 per cent of those holding the visa.
The visa tightening move is set to impact those looking for permanent residency Down Under. The 457, which had a maximum duration of four years, allowed holders to apply for permanent residency in the country.
But the new visa, Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS), has two types – Short Term and Medium Term. The short term visa is meant to enable Australian companies hire temporary expat skilled workers for jobs listed under the Short term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL). Visas under the medium term TSS can be granted to those hired for occupations included in the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL).
While short term TSS has duration of maximum two years, the medium term TSS has duration of up to four years. Those holding the short term TSS cannot apply for permanent residency unless the visa is extended to four years – which will happen only if an international trade obligation applies.
Further, the new visa norms call for higher English-language proficiency, minimum experience of two years, additional job skills and no criminal background.
The Australian government had previously stated its intention of making a visa change to prevent jobs meant for Australians from going to expats.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had in April 2017 announced the visa change to tackle unemployment as part of a broad ‘Australians first’ approach to jobs.
“We will no longer allow 457 visas to be passports to jobs that could go – and should go to Australians, he had said.
Used by over 95,000 foreign workers, the 457 was introduced in 1990s. It was criticised by many on the ground that employers were misusing the visa to get into Australia cheap workers who lacked necessary skills.
Australia also made key reforms in the visa programme. A minimum market salary rate has been fixed to ensure that Australian workers are not replaced by overseas workers, making it mandatory for employers to ensure there is no suitable candidate in the local labour market, and extending the permanent residency pathway from two years to three years.
The 457 visa allowed people to live in Australia with their immediate family. The UK and China constituted the second and third highest numbers of visa holders at 19.5 per cent and 5.8 per cent, respectively.
According to reports, Australia has been tightening its visa policy across all visa subclasses and not just work visas and the Home Department has been refusing visas without warning for the last six months.