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Australia to introduce stricter rules on working visas

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Malcolm Turnbull says the changes will put Australians firstImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Malcolm Turnbull says the changes will put Australians first

Australia will introduce stricter visa requirements for skilled workers from overseas, the government said.

PM Malcolm Turnbull said the current 457 visa programme will be abolished to prioritise Australian nationals.

In its place, two new temporary visas will carry additional requirements and draw from a smaller list of eligible professions.

The 457 scheme had attracted criticism that Australian workers were losing out to foreign counterparts.

“The new system will be manifestly, rigorously, resolutely conducted in the national interest,” Mr Turnbull said on Tuesday.

According to government statistics, 95,758 people were living in Australia on 457 visas last year, with the highest proportion coming from India (24.6%), the UK (19.5%) and China (5.8%).

What was the 457 visa?

A four-year business visa which allowed people to live in Australia with their immediate family.

It was designed to fill gaps in skilled labour but it had been criticised as being too accessible.

In 2016, the most 457s were granted to cooks, developers, programmers and medical workers

What are the changes?

Mr Turnbull said the current four-year 457 system will be replaced by visas lasting two or four years.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Almost 100,000 people were living in Australia on 457 visas last year

For the shorter visa, more than 200 jobs will be removed from an existing list of about 650 eligible professions.

The list for the longer visa will be even more strict, said Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

The changes will also require applicants to be more proficient in English, undergo a criminal check, and be subject to labour market testing.

Current 457 visa holders will not be affected by the changes, Mr Turnbull said.

Will it affect migration?

Yes, according to Mr Dutton. He described the possibility of eventual citizenship as a “significant part of the attraction” of the 457 visa.

“The existing 457 visa program is conducted for a period of four years, but essentially it is open-ended, and it results, in many cases, in a migration outcome,” he said.

“What we propose is that under the temporary skills shortage visa short-term stream there will be a two-year visa… but there won’t be permanent residency outcomes at the end of that.”

The new four-year visa will also result in fewer permanent residents because of the eligibility changes, he said.

It comes after Australian said last month that it would largely end granting visas to foreign workers in the fast food industry.

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