09 May 2007

Changes to Australian 457 visa laws put Brit migrants on the ‘fast-track’

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Australia’s 457 Visa Laws are set to be changed following a recent announcement by the Australian government, spelling potential success for hopeful British migrants.

Among the changes to the 457 Visa scheme - or temporary business long stay visa - is the faster processing of applications for employers who have a running history of complying lawfully with the skilled temporary visa system. The Australian Visa Bureau predicts that this will benefit British migrants by both speeding up the formal process of application and guaranteeing the legitimacy of affected businesses.

Another feature of the new legislation amendments that could boost Brits’ chances is a higher English language requirement, an addition that will help place native English speakers in pole position to successfully qualify for emigration.

The purpose of the changes is to crack down on employers who take advantage of temporary skilled workers from overseas, with other additions including tougher penalties set for anyone breaking their “sponsorship obligations.” For the most serious offenders (i.e. employers failing to pay the minimum salary or those who use workers in unskilled jobs), civil penalties will be set as a significant deterrent.

The intended purpose of these changes is to ensure that working in Australia remains an enticing prospect for skilled migrant workers, and that fair compensation and treatment is guaranteed for valid visa applicants.

Last year alone saw a number of high-profile skilled temporary visa cases hit the headlines, with some employers failing to pay minimum wages, working immigrant employees beyond legally allowed hours per week and being caught employing workers in positions that did not match the Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL).

The 457 work permit scheme has seen a boom in applicants since its introduction, with a 17 per cent increase in the number of visas awarded in the last six months of 2006 (compared to the corresponding period of the previous year), but critics have claimed that it has been poorly handled by the Immigration Department.

As a result, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DoIC) will be granted increased powers for enforcing employer compliance with the 457 visa program, which will involve both audits of employers, as well as on-site inspections. The Office of Workplace Services will also see a boost in its powers to successfully investigate breaches of the Minimum Salary Level. Anyone interested in moving to Australia should complete an online assessment to see if they qualify.

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