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457 Visa Application cost to double in price

From the 01st July, the application fee for skilled foreign worker visas will increase from $455AUD to $900 AUD. The price hike was announced in the budget yesterday. The decision comes as the government continues its crackdown on the 457 visa scheme. As part of this crackdown, the office of the Fair Work Ombudsman will also gain $3.4 million over four years as it gets powers to look more closely into alleged rorting of the 457 visa scheme.

Calls for cost of 457 visas to be increased

A report by The Migration Council Australia says that the cost of employing temporary skilled migrants should be increased, in order to encourage Australian businesses to look harder for Australian workers.

The report was based on a survey of 3,800 people working in Australia on 457 visas and 1,600 businesses that employ the temporary migrants.

The report is overwhelmingly positive about the scheme, saying 457 workers have a high level of job satisfaction and integrate well into the Australian workforce.

However, it calls on the federal government to increase sponsorship and nomination fees associated with the scheme, to act as a price signal.

Currently, nominations cost $85 and sponsorships cost $420.

“This should be increased to ensure that more businesses look to hire Australian workers where available,” the report says.

Extra revenue from the scheme could help strengthen compliance and settlement services, it says.

The report identifies some rorting of the scheme, with about two per cent of 457 workers being paid less than the necessary threshold.

It therefore recommends improved monitoring of the scheme.

The report also says more than 70 per cent of 457 visa holders intend to become permanent residents in the future.

Government releases 457 Discussion Paper

In December 2012, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship prepared a discussion paper for the Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration regarding changes in the Australian labour market and the integrity of the 457 visa program.

The paper noted that the 457 visa program ‘has been growing strongly’ and it ‘is now timely to evaluate the efficacy of the existing integrity measures and, where needed, adjust those measures to ensure that program continues to deliver on Australia’s interests’.

The paper then outlines a series of measures that former Minister Chris Bowen was considering to ‘strengthen DIAC’s capacity to identify and prevent employer practices that are not in keeping with the fundamental tenets of the subclass 457 visa’.

This paper, which has been released under Freedom of Information laws, is one of several important pieces of information which have been used to formulate the Gillard Government’s ongoing reforms to the 457 program. It is not, however, the sole determinant of the government’s decisions.

The discussion paper is now here

457 News roundup

Yet again this week, it’s the 457 Visas which have been hitting the headlines. Since Brendan O’Conner, the Minister for Immigration, outlined his intention to crackdown on 457 visas earlier this year, there’s been a steady conveyor of individuals & organisations determined to have their say on the matter. This week, in the red corner, we have the Transport Workers Union who is demanding the government crackdown even harder on 457 Visas. The TWU want a change in the law, so that companies that have made workers unemployed in the last 12 months are prohibited from seeking to employ overseas migrants for at least 1 year. The TWU are also calling for stronger sanctions and more onerous sponsorship costs to apply for 457 visas; a legislated minimum timeframe for employers to advertise for jobs domestically; a public register naming companies that use 457 workers and how many they have; extra restrictions on importing “semi-skilled” foreign workers; and for whistleblower laws to protect 457 visa-holders who report “unscrupulous” employers from retribution. On top of this, the TWU wants employers to be required to tell migrants before they even depart their home country that they have the right to participate in a trade union and how they can contact them.

On the other side of the coin, one of Australia’s leading cyber security experts says Australia needs 457 visas and the 457 visa debate threatens Australia’s cyber preparedness. Carlo Minassian, whose company Earthwave protects Australian government and corporate systems, says we need a rethink of cyber defence education immediately. “Around the world we see major players, like the US and Europe, building up their ranks of cybersecurity talent. Corporates are doing the same. Australia simply does not have enough home-grown cybersecurity talent to protect our country. We must import it, while simultaneously cultivating it here on our own soil.” Earlier this year Minassian made a public call for a unified civil cyber defence approach to protect critical Australian infrastructure, said that the political debate was out of step with market reality. He believes a growing number of potential employers are competing for a severely limited number of top tier cybersecurity talent. “There is a finite global pool of these people. Even without 457 visa uncertainty we risk missing out because of our distance from larger markets,” Minassian says.

“We just saw the US enter the recruitment market in a huge way by more than quadrupling the size of their cyber command by 4,000 technical personnel. US defence officials recently acknowledged that they will be hard pressed to find the talent. If the US, which is like a giant sponge sucking up all this talent, is going to find it difficult, where do you think that leaves Australia?”

Elsewhere this week, it is being reported that the goverment are considering a A ”GENUINENESS” test for foreign workers on 457 visas as it contemplates expanding a crackdown. The test, if adopted, would be applied through a criteria aimed at preventing 457s being used to fill unskilled positions or as a back door way to move family and friends to Australia. If the ”genuineness” criteria was adopted a visa applicant could be scrutinised about ”whether the nomination is genuine in circumstances where the nominee is a relation or personal associate of an owner or relevant person of the sponsoring business.” Businesses could also be required to account for the number of 457 visa holders after previously businesses who had intended to sponsor a small number of workers then employed hundreds.

Over in Western Australia, the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson has weighed into the 457 debate, with regards the federal govt’s  “extreme claim” that 10,000 workers were involved in rorts.

“It sounds very inflammatory and exaggerated,” he said.

“It sounds more like a nice round figure plucked from the air.”

WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief James Pearson also questioned the claim, saying the Immigration Department had told the Government’s skilled migration advisory council, of which he is a member, that just 1 to 3 per cent of visa holders featured in rorts.

“We must not tarnish a scheme that is working very well across the country when to date there has been little evidence of rorts,” he said.