Back in April, it was announced that the Australian government is putting an end to the Visa 457 program which allowed Australian companies to sponsor foreign workers who would then come over and work for them. For anyone who runs a business and for everyone who knows someone who has family outside of Australia, this decision was the biggest news of the year up to that point.
But, will this decision really affect the way people come over to Australia? Will the visa 457 decision really affect Australian companies in a big way?
The Visa 457 program was envisioned as a way to help Australian economy deal with the shortage of skilled workers in certain industries. It provided a way for Australian companies to hire people from abroad and sponsor their stay and work in the country for four years. It also made it quite easy for foreigners to stay in the country legally and work towards a more permanent solution. Namely, many foreign professionals chose to parlay their Visa 457 into a permanent residency visa and further on.
Over the years, however, news broke out every now and then that the program was being abused by certain companies which paid their foreign workers pittance, knowing that their livelihoods depended on their sponsorship. Some people were also clamouring that the program enabled companies skipping over Australian workers in favour of foreign, cheaper ones.
It should be pointed out that the government did not completely block every channel for foreign professionals to come into the country and work legally. They replaced the Visa 457 program with two different ones – the temporary skill shortage visa and the medium and long-term skill shortage visa.
The names speak for themselves, really. The temporary skill shortage visa is a shorter one, lasting for only two years while the other one lasts for four years, making it very similar to Visa 457.
Both these visas will be more difficult to procure since the level of vetting will be much higher and since the command of English language will be particularly tested, especially for the longer visa. In addition to this, more than 200 occupations overall have been removed from the list of those that are deemed in a shortfall. Finally, companies which decide to use these new programs and hire foreign professionals will have to pay a fee to the government which will go towards retraining Australian workforce.
If you want more details on the legal aspects of the decision and the replacement visa programs, make sure to check out this article from Rigas Law, one of Sydney's premier immigration law firms.
It is probably too early to say with any degree of certainty how this decision will affect Australian companies, but there are a few conjectures that will probably become a reality down the road.
For one, there is a fear among many business owners, especially startups and companies that require the services of truly specific talent that they will not be able to convince foreign experts to come to Australia if their future is uncertain. For example, a big data expert from somewhere in Eastern Europe will find Australia much less alluring now that there is little chance they will be able to transition to a more permanent solution.
Some people are also saying how this decision will discourage foreign graduate and post-graduate students as well as researchers and professors from coming to Australia to do their thing. As a result, this will dramatically reduce the number of highly skilled professionals in the already challenged job market.
There are, of course, those who think that this is the best thing to happen to the Australian worker in decades. They believe that this new decision will put a stop on basically wrongful "import" of employees when there are perfectly skilled Australians to do certain jobs.
Unfortunately, the whole visa 457 debate seems to be a political one at its core. It feels as if everyone is invested in a more personal and emotional way as opposed to dealing with facts and trying to predict exactly what will happen.
It seems that only time will tell.
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