The Federal Government is set to scrap the 457 visa and replace it with two new ones, but it also plans to remove a stack of jobs that qualify for the visas, including travel agency managers.
The 457 visa is a business visa given by the Australian Government for four years to a worker and their family from another country.
The visa is designed to fill job vacancies that are difficult to find Australians for. There are 95,758 people who have the visa, including family members.
Per media reports, current visa holders wouldn’t be affected, but the new system would be “manifestly, rigorously, resolutely conducted in the national interest”.
Per Turnbull, this is “about jobs for Australians”.
The changes affect the number of occupations eligible for two-year visa visas, which will be largely reduced by 216 from the current tally of over 650.
In addition, changes would stop the “open-ended” nature of 457 visas, which often lead to migration.
Among the list of occupations to be removed are bed and breakfast operators, travel agency managers, aeroplane pilots, translators, and flight attendants.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said there would be a “grandfathering arrangement”, according to the ABC, for current visa holders, but the changes would stop the “open-ended” nature of the scheme.
“The existing 457 visa program is conducted for a period of four years, but essentially it is open-ended, and it results, in many cases, in a migration outcome,” he said.
“What we propose is that under the temporary skills shortage visa short-term stream there will be a two-year visa, with the options of two years, but there won’t be permanent residency outcomes at the end of that.”
What the industry thinks
Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) has urged the Federal Government to ensure that changes to skilled labour visas did not disadvantage the tourism industry.
The CEO of TTF, 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.
“Tourism is now a super growth industry in Australia, and a critically important contributor to our national economy,” Osmond said.
“The industry directly employed 580,200 people in 2015-16, or 4.9 per cent of the national workforce, and continues to grow. By comparison, agriculture employed 321,600 people and mining provided 227,800 direct jobs.
“TTF stands ready to work with the Federal Government on the implementation of the new temporary skilled migration program to ensure the best possible outcome for the sector.”
Osmond said Australia’s global campaigns to attract more international visitors had been and continued to be a resounding success.
“We now need to ensure that the industry is sufficiently resourced to continue supporting the visitor economy, which is now a bigger export earner than coal or agriculture, and will continue to grow.”
Meanwhile, the Australian Hotels Association (WA) has positively met the Federal Government’s announcement that it is reforming the skilled migration programme and putting the focus on jobs for Australians.
AHA(WA) CEO Bradley Woods said abolishing the 457 visa and introducing a new Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa will continue to support businesses that are experiencing genuine skills shortages.
“The hospitality industry is one of the biggest users of 457 visas for chefs and experienced cooks and it’s important that industry has access to overseas workers to fill the gaps,” said Woods.
“The new visa system appears to strike the balance between supporting young Australians who are looking for work and supporting businesses who can’t find enough skilled locals to fill positions. The new visas also remove the pathway to permanent residency for low skilled workers.”
The new Short-Term visa stream of up to two years and a Medium-Term stream of up to four years will support businesses in addressing genuine skill shortages.
“Cooks and chefs will remain on the occupations list used for skilled migration assessment, however with caveats, ensuring that they are working in skilled positions – for example not in fast food outlets,” said Woods.
Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) has also welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement of a revamp of the 457 temporary skilled labour visa system, saying that it would ensure the integrity of our immigration system, address genuine skills shortages and prioritise opportunities for Australian workers.
TAA said that while full details were still to be revealed, the accommodation sector was confident that the specific skills’ needs of the hospitality and tourism sector – particularly in regional Australia – would be catered for in the new system.
The Federal Government identified the industry’s critical skilled labour shortage in its 2015 Australian Tourism Labour Force Report, which estimated that the tourism and hospitality sector would require an additional 123,000 workers by 2020, including 60,000 skilled positions.
“We welcome the Prime Minister’s move to protect Australian jobs through a more streamlined and rigorous visa process,” said TAA Chair, Martin Ferguson.
“The tourism and hospitality sectors are investing heavily in training and career development programs to grow local jobs, but with our industry growing at an unprecedented rate, there will certainly be a need for temporary skilled positions in the short-term.
“Once we have seen the full content of the Government’s changes we will be making representations to relevant Ministers to ensure that our industry – one of the country’s largest growth industries – receives the support it requires over the next five years.
“We are also seeking greater investment in training and development of local residents to ensure that we can offer world-class service standards to complement the massive transformation of the industry’s physical product.”
The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) has also met the Prime Minister’s announcement of a new visa system with open arms, in the hopes it will support the sourcing of temporary skilled workers for Australian industries struggling to find the right staff.
“Replacing the 457 visa with a more targeted temporary visa system should help the fast growing tourism export industry meet some of its very immediate labour issues,” said ATEC Managing Director, Peter Shelley.
“The skilled occupation list attached to this visa will be reviewed every 6 months, giving our industry more opportunities to inform the Government where there are significant labour force needs in Australia’s tourism industry.
“With international visitor numbers growing at 11%, there is no doubt the tourism industry will continue to be in need of more skilled and semi-skilled labour and this announcement recognises the value of investing in tourism’s future needs.”