New Laws Make Moving To Australia Tougher

Jonathan Samuels, Australia Correspondent
New Laws Make Moving To Australia Tougher

New laws in Australia have made things tougher for skilled Brits wanting to work Down Under.

The Australian government has clamped down on the popular 457 visa which allows foreign workers to move to the country for up to four years.

The visa is especially popular with British managers, professionals, technicians and trades people who want a new life in Australia along with their families.

Almost half of those on the visa eventually end up settling in Australia permanently.

Recent restrictions however have meant even those already living in Australia on the 457 visa are finding life harder.

A tax incentive called the Living Away From Home Allowance has been scrapped, and some states charge visa-holders to put their children through schools, which are free for locals.

Adam Marshall and his family moved to Sydney on the visa three years ago. He told Sky News: "It's not been a great financial move for us really.

"If I'd known how much it was going to cost in real terms I'm not sure whether we would have made the move. It's hard to say in retrospect, because we love living here."

The previous Labor government brought in the changes, claiming the visa was being abused by some employers looking for cheaper foreign workers.

New legislation now requires companies to spend longer looking for Australians to fill vacancies, and application fees for the visa have increased dramatically.

A hard-hitting TV campaign was recently launched by Australia's Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), featuring workers which the union claims have had their livelihoods threatened by abuses of the 457 visa system.

Union national secretary Dave Noonan said: "We've had lots of workers who are Australian citizens or residents who tell us they have been applying for work, they are skilled people and they haven't been able to get work, and they know this same employer is bringing in people on 457s."

Many employers however disagree, and hope the new conservative government led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott will relax the legislation.

IT and computing are areas which have traditionally sourced highly skilled employees from abroad using the 457 visa.

Peter Acheson, who runs Australia's biggest IT recruitment company Peoplebank, told Sky News the crackdown on the 457 visa was stifling business.

"I think it's ironic, there is all the talk about the digital economy, the future of the online world which is IT driven, yet on the other hand we are saying we are going to make it difficult for Australia to source IT people.

"I think that's highly ironic and ultimately Australia is going to be the loser out of this I think unless the legislation is changed."

A recent survey by Migration Council Australia questioned 3,800 visa-holders and 1,600 businesses. The report revealed that 457 workers have a high level of job satisfaction, demonstrating that they are integrating well into the Australian workforce.

Migration Council Australia chief executive Carla Wilshire said the findings showed the 457 visa programme is critical in keeping Australia competitive in an era when industry is global and 98% of innovation happens outside of Australia.

She said: "Four out of five multinational companies are using 457 visa holders to train and develop Australian workers.

"The survey results reinforce the message that skills transfer and knowledge from 457 visa-holders play an important role in building Australia's human capital.

"Temporary migration does not just fill skills shortages, it addresses skills deficits and plays a central part in workplace development at the enterprise level."

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