Visa overhaul to slam door on 55,000 skilled migrants

September 11, 2017
Visa overhaul to slam door on 55,000 skilled migrants

The government’s visa crackdown is on track to slash Australia’s ­annual skilled immigration intake by more than 55,000, or about a quarter of the total, according to new research.

The study, by the Australian Population Research Institute, suggests such a move could ease congestion and house price growth. Demographer Bob Birrell says the number of Australia’s permanent employer sponsor visas will plummet by “at least two-thirds” and the number of temporary 457 visas issued will fall by “up to half”, particularly as the government’s changes from March 2018 make it harder for foreign students to stay on after their studies.

The report — The ­Coalition’s 457 Visa Reset: Tougher Than You Think — says the Coalition’s “reset puts an axe to the two pillars of past immigration policy of ­encouraging employers to recruit as many skilled temporary foreign workers as they want and then ­facilitating their transition to permanent residence via employer sponsorship”.

“It is the first serious sign that either major political party is prepared to tackle the immigration issue,” Mr Birrell said, adding that the government move had left Labor “exposed and inert on ­immigration policy”.

In May, the Turnbull government slashed the number of occupations eligible for employer sponsorship by one-third to 435, lifted English-language requirements, and announced the ­replacement of the 457 visa with a new temporary skills shortage visa. Almost 45,400 skilled temporary 457 visas were issued in the 2016 financial year and 48,250 permanent employer sponsorship visas, together making up about half of Australia’s net overseas immigration of 200,000.

“This is a game-changer ­because over half of the 457 visas currently being granted are to ­onshore applicants and most of these are former overseas students or working holidaymakers who will struggle to find the required experience, even though they may hold graduate credentials,” the ­report says, pointing to the new ­requirement for two years of relevant experience.

The report says the number of permanent employer-sponsored visas will fall by two-thirds, given 250 occupations would in effect no longer be eligible. Employers will be less interested in sponsorship, too. “They will have to pay ­additional visa costs and training levies and they will have to provide evidence that they have labour-market tested,” the report says, ­referring to minimum salaries of $53,000 for visa holders.

“The ­existing points-tested visas are not about the ­recruitment of highly skilled professionals and tradespersons,” Mr Birrell said. “This is a well-cultivated myth. These visa subclasses are mainly about supporting the overseas student industry. Over the last few years, around 70 per cent of Australia’s net gain from overseas ­migration has been locating in these two cities (Melbourne and Sydney) — thus contributing significantly to their housing affordability crisis, ­increased congestion and competition for public services, such as hospital care.”

But a spokesman for the Business Council of Australia said: “Any changes that diminish the skilled component of the ­migration program … risk undermining economic growth.”

Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said the changes to work visas were not likely to have a significant impact on student visas or Australia’s attractiveness as a destination for international students.


source:  The Australian