10 February 2011

Australian immigration rejects opposition’s flood relief ‘visa free-for-all’

The Opposition's proposal to ease work restrictions on tourist and student visas would undermine Australia's visa integrity, Australian Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, said.

Australian immigration

The Australian Immigration Minister has rejected the Opposition's proposal to ease work restrictions for temporary visa holders.

Mr Bowen said this proposal was rash and ill-conceived idea from Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Scott Morrison that would hinder rather than assist with the flood rebuilding.

“While ideas to assist with the reconstruction effort following the devastating floods are welcome, this proposal from Mr Morrison is unworkable and would weaken Australia's visa system,” Mr Bowen said.

The Coalition has tabled a notice of motion in Parliament yesterday, calling for work restrictions and any other conditions that might prevent work, to be waived for temporary visa holders, in particular students, so they can be employed for a pre-defined emergency period in reconstruction.

“This temporary relaxation of conditions could result in tens of thousands of temporary visa holders already living in Australia to be sponsored in reconstruction jobs. All visa conditions would be reinstated following the period of work,” Mr Morrison said.

“Such waivers could also be extended to those on working holiday visas or even tourist visas where people had the requisite skills.

Mr Bowen said Government has announced the expedited processing of decision-ready 457 visa applications and a dozen companies have already approached the Australian immigration department about getting speedy access to overseas workers.

“The first company lodged applications for workers this week and the carpenters it was sponsoring were approved within 48 hours, having met all the 457 visa application requirements. As more companies lodge applications, these, too, will be quickly processed,” Mr Bowen said.

Mr Bowen said other temporary visa programs, such as those for students, working holiday makers and tourists were intended for non-work purposes and temporarily changing the work rights associated with other visa programs would undermine the purposes of those programs.

“For example, while students already have limited work rights to supplement their living costs in Australia, the primary purpose of this visa to undertake study. If students abandon their study to help with reconstruction efforts their visas could be cancelled due to failing course requirements.

“And what of people who claim to be tradespeople whose qualifications have not been vetted? Band-aid policy making on the run would result in all sorts of breaches of the Migration Act and other legislation,” Mr Bowen said.

Mr Bowen said the Opposition also failed to understand that temporary visa holders could currently undertake volunteer work within the scope of their visa conditions.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people lodge their Australia Visa application with Australian Embassy. 

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