Australia scraps visa for skilled foreign workers

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The Australian government today abolished a visa programme used by over 95,000 temporary foreign workers, a majority of them Indians, in an attempt to tackle the issue of growing unemployment in the country.

The programme will be replaced by another visa programme, with new restrictions.

The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group), which represents more than 60,000 businesses, said the changes would improve the integrity of Australia's visa programme. "There have been concerns around exploitation of the 457 visa holders but also around whether Australian workers are getting first access to jobs".

Axing of the popular Australian 457 visa this week will have minimal impact on the Dubbo business community, says Dubbo Chamber president Matt Wright.

According to government statistics, 95,758 people were living in Australia under 457 Visa programme a year ago, with the highest proportion coming from India (24.6 per cent), followed by Britain (19.5 per cent) and China (5.8 per cent).

In a Facebook video posted on Tuesday (18 April), Turnbull stressed that visa reforms will focus on "Australian jobs and Australian value". Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs.

In the 12 months to June 2016, just 3,030 Irish people, including workers, their partners and children, were granted these skilled visas, down 26 per cent from 4,119 the previous year, and 71 per cent since the numbers peaked in 2013.

"What we want to make sure is where there are long and enduring skills shortages in Australia, that Australians are being trained to do that work".

Turnbull announced, "Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs".

The 457 visa is a temporary work visa which allows skilled workers from outside the country to work in Australia for up to four years with sponsorship from an approved company. Both the H-1B program and the 457 visa have been dominated by Indians in recent years, and have often been used as a path towards permanent residency.

TTF CEO Margy Osmond said a continuous pipeline of skilled labour from overseas was vital for sectors such as hospitality, which has ongoing shortages of key staff including chefs and hotel managers.

This news has come as blow to Irish people, as thousands have availed, and hoped to avail of the 457 visa in future.

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

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