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March 2015

Improvements To Be Made To Australian Temporary Visa System

Published: Wednesday 18 March 2015

The Australian Government has announced it will act on the recommendations of a recent independent review of the 457 visa programme. The review, which was commissioned by the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Michaelia Cash, in 2014, was tasked with examining compliance within the 457 programme by sponsors of overseas workers to ensure that the scheme was being used as intended – to address skill shortages which cannot be met from the Australian labour market. Key recommendations of the now completed review include an increased focus on targeting employers who seek to misuse the programme, greater transparency around the department's sanctions processes and proactive sharing of information between key government agencies. “The Government will introduce a new penalty making it unlawful for sponsors to receive payment in return for sponsoring a worker for a 457 visa,” Minister Cash said. “The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will work collaboratively with the Australian Taxation Office to cross check records to ensure that workers on 457 visas are receiving their nominated salary and are not undercutting Australian workers. Further, we will proactively prosecute and name and shame offenders exploiting overseas workers and misusing the programme,” she added. The Government will also ensure businesses that utilise the 457 programme appropriately will incur less regulation and cost, without compromising on the necessary safeguards that underpin the scheme. “We will reduce the regulatory burden for those businesses with a proven track record by streamlining sponsorship requirements,” Minister Cash explained. “An important recommendation which is subject to further consultation is the proposal to replace the current training benchmark provisions which are complex, costly, and susceptible to misuse. Our intention is to better direct training funds derived from 457 sponsors to ensure that Australians are trained in those occupations where we are currently experiencing skills shortages and relying on skilled migrants.” The Government will also appoint a Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration (MACSM) with new terms of reference. The Council will be tasked with reviewing the list of occupations available for sponsorship under the 457 programme to ensure it is responsive to the genuine skill needs of employers, the labour market and the economy. Minister Cash said contrary to allegations made by some critics of the 457 visa programme, the review did not find there was widespread rorting in the system. “It did make some sensible suggestions, however, for strengthening existing provisions to ensure Australian workers have priority, while supporting employers with genuine skill shortages to access the skills they need,” the Minister stated. Implementation of the review's recommendations has already begun and will be further rolled out throughout 2015.