Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Australia's Visa Noose Tightens

Australia, like other major powers in the western world, has seen a rise in right-wing populism such as the vitriolic anti-immigrant rhetoric from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party. The nationalistic language used around the immigration issue has a very detrimental impact. There is a faction that castigates people on 457s; the visa has been held up by some as the epitome of the biggest evil: reducing local employment opportunities for Australian workers. It is a vastly simplistic argument, of course. An unemployed mine worker in northern Queensland is not going to get a job as an IT consultant in Brisbane just because the foreign guy on a 457 visa can no longer apply. But those views are loudly articulated by those who hold them.

Over the past decade, many people have relied on the 457 visa programme which allows employer-sponsored foreign workers and their dependents to live in Australia for up to four years as a route into Australia; a pathway to permanent residency and a long future here.

By March 2018, the 457 visa will be replaced by a two or four-year Temporary Skills Shortage visa. The number of eligible occupations will be reduced from 651 to 435, with caveats on a further 59, and the threshold to qualify will be raised.

There are two types of people who are now coming to Australia. Backpackers come for a year or two to travel and work a bit along the way and return to their home country after their working holiday visas expire. They will be unaffected by these changes (unless they seek to stay on by applying for a skilled temporary visa).

The other group are those who come here looking for something longer term. Many of these people will still be catered for by other independent permanent residency visas, if they have good qualifications and demonstrable relevant work experience in areas where there are labour shortages. The changes will affect people who don’t have the basic required skills to qualify for independent sponsorship and need an employer to nominate them, i.e. those who are less qualified or have less experience or poorer English language skills. Even if they qualify for one of the new TSS visas, they may not be eligible to apply for permanent residency to stay here in the longer term.  The people who will be most unfairly affected are those who have just graduated from university and don’t have the work experience, or others from a trades background who might have years of experience but no formal qualifications. These people would have relied on employer nominations in the past, and they will struggle now.

This has an impact on people’s perceptions of Australia, and how welcome they feel here as immigrants. It is easy to fall into the trap of feeling that you have done something wrong for being on a visa type that everyone thinks is terrible.

1 comment:

ajohnstone said...

Australia will make it more difficult to gain citizenship in a major overhaul of its migration process.
Aspiring citizens will undergo tougher tests on their English language skills and ability to demonstrate "Australian values", PM Malcolm Turnbull said.
Applicants must also have completed four years as a permanent resident - three years longer than at present.
The move comes two days after Australia unveiled stricter visa requirements for skilled workers from overseas.

A more stringent English language test involving reading, writing, listening and speaking;
Providing evidence of integration into the community, such as employment history, school enrolment or membership of community organisations;
Having already been a permanent resident for at least four years;
Allowing applicants to apply only three times,