21 March 2013

Australian immigration authorities limited over 457 visa enforcement

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A spokesperson for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has said the department is limited as to how it can detect abuse of the 457 visa scheme.

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The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has said it is limited as to how it can punish abusers of the 457 visa system.

The Australian 457 visa scheme - which allows foreign workers to live and work in Australia on a temporary basis - has dominated news in recent weeks following Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor's announcement that he would be cracking down on abuse of the system.

The minister said that 'rorting' of the system - undercutting local workers by bringing in low paid foreign workers - was rife and he would be introducing measures to tighten the scheme's rules.

The announcement sparked an intense debate which quickly reached the office of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who backed her minister despite criticism.

The scheme's backers, which have included the federal opposition, businesses and even some state Labor Party politicians, claim the 457 visa scheme is vital in supporting the Australian economy.

However, a DIAC spokesperson has said that under current Australian immigration legislation, it is limited in how it can detect and punish abuse of the system.

"While most employees are using the subclass 457 program appropriately, the department is aware of certain employers sourcing their skilled labour from offshore in preference to recruiting or training locally,” said the spokesperson.

"This practice is at odds with the overarching intent of acting as a supplement to rather than a substitute for the Australian labour market.

"The department’s capacity to intervene in these circumstance is limited under the current legislative settings.

"Further, while the practice of engaging overseas workers ahead of Australian workers goes against the intent of the 457 program, it is not unlawful and as such the identification of employers engaging in this practice cannot be stated publicly."

The spokesperson said the department must wait until legislative changes come into effect on 1 July, 2013 to proper 'detect, act and deter behaviour which is inconsistent with the intent of the 457 program'.


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