12 December 2006

Australia launches 457 work visa enquiry

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The Australian Government has launched an enquiry into the 457 Work Visa amidst claims the system is being abused by employers.

The 457 Visa scheme - or temporary business long stay visa- has been the subject of much controversy with the opposition Labour party claiming they are being used to bring in lower paid workers for jobs that could have gone to Australians.

The visa is used by employers to bring in overseas workers to fill nominated skilled positions in Australia for between 3 months and 4 years. Employers have to fulfill certain obligations towards the visa, including ensuring that the employee is paid at least the minimum salary level that applies at the time the decision is made on their visa.

A Senate estimates hearing in October was told the Immigration Department was investigating 190 companies over possible breaches of the 457 visa scheme.

The chairman of the joint migration committee, Liberal MP Don Randall, said the inquiry would examine eligibility requirements and monitoring, enforcement and reporting arrangements for people on 457 visas.

It will also review the way visa conditions are monitored and enforced to ensure migrant workers are not being exploited.

"There is a basic level of pay of $41,800 on general category," said Randall.

"If people are not being paid that level or if they're paid that level only or if they're not being paid their overtime after 38 hours that should be addressed."

Last year around 20,000 foreign workers were employed in Australia under the 457 scheme.

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