24 September 2008

Australian 416 visa expanded for Pacific Island 'guest workers'

Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Senator Chris Evans announced yesterday new regulations have been introduced to allow thousands of Pacific Islanders to work in Australia temporarily as seasonal guest workers.

The existing 416 visa has been expanded to allow for the new regulations, which means Pacific Islanders can now be invited by a Government-approved employer to work in a seasonal horticultural occupation.  Workers under the new Australian visa scheme will be stationed only in those regional parts of Australia that are recognised as struggling from labour shortages, so that local Australian workers will not be displaced by overseas workers.

"The Rudd Government has responded to calls for assistance from the Australian horticulture industry, which says up to $700 million in fresh produce is left to rot because of a lack of reliable workers," Senator Evans said.

The pilot scheme has invited four Pacific nations to take part (Vanuatu, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea and Tonga), and will run for three years.  2,500 visas are available for nationals from these countries, and each visa will allow guest workers to remain in Australia for up to seven months of a twelve-month period.  416 visa holders will be able to return each year with a renewed visa.  The conditions of the visa also mean that all applicants must meet the health and security requirements as outlined by the Government. 

Employers taking part in the guest worker scheme will have to prove they have exhausted resources from the local workforce and committed to training programs for the development of Australians before using overseas workers.  They also must ensure all employees who are holders of the 416 visa are paid the same wages as Australians and are subject to the same employment conditions.

'Guest workers' are due to commence employment by the end of the year, and 18 months later a review into the pilot scheme will assess its success in meeting the needs of regional employers and ensure it is not denying the local Australian workforce of employment.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people apply for an Australia visa.

Article by Jessica Bird, Australian Visa Bureau.

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