22 April 2009

New Australian 457 visa requirements causing trouble for chefs

As of last week, 13 April 2009, the Australian 457 visa program acquired new English language requirements for chefs and tradespeople, meaning that they now need a higher level of English in order to get their temporary Australian working visa.

The Australian 457 visa changes are an attempt to protect overseas workers from exploitation and protect jobs for Australian people.  The new English language requirement from the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) has been raised from 4.5 to 5 for trades and chef applicants only, which is intended to make it much tougher for overseas workers in these occupations to find a job in Australia, and encourage employers to exhaust the Australian market before looking to people emigrating to Australia

However, many restaurateurs are fearing that the hospitality industry will take a hit.  According to Adelaide Now, not only will those chefs already working on 457 visas be left high and dry from the new requirements, restaurant owners will be hard-pressed finding qualified chefs suitable for their business.

For example, Eric Leung, owner of a yum cha restaurant, has said that while he could source a chef from the local market to head his kitchen, the success of his business relies on him having the most qualified yum cha chef, which needs to be sourced overseas.

"I want to expand, that's for sure, but at this stage in Adelaide there is no way I will be able to find a yum cha chef that is better than the chef I have found in China."

Again, Indian restaurant owner Robby Gupta said his kitchen does not require a high level of English and that those chefs he requires need to be experienced in Indian kitchens, not in the English language.

"What we look for is someone who is hard-working who has worked in a busy Indian restaurant and who understands Indian cuisine - we don't need a chef who is good at office work with excellent English but who is not hands on," he said.

The new requirement came into effect last week, 13 April 2009, and will affect all Australian visa applications lodged for the Subclass 457 visa, as well as all current 457 visa holders who are applying for an extension of their Australian visa. 

Soon to come into effect is the indexation of the minimum salary level for 457 visa holders, which will be 4.1 per cent from the 1 July 2009, and market-based pay rates from September 2009, which is designed to encourage employers to exhaust local labour opportunities before utilising temporary Australian visa holders.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with emigrating to Australia.

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