23 July 2008

Australia's skilled migration scheme successful

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Senator Chris Evans said yesterday the temporary skilled migration (subclass 457 visa) program has been a success during 2007-08.

New data shows the numbers of 457 visas granted to foreign workers increased by 27 per cent last year, meaning a greater number of positions in the Australian workforce are being filled by overseas workers who move to Australia.  110,570 visas were granted last year to temporary visas and their dependents, compared to 87,310 in 2006-07.

The data shows that New South Wales is the biggest user of the scheme, while Western Australia increased its usage by 40 per cent last year.  81 per cent of the workers on a subclass 457 visa were highly skilled professionals, such as IT professionals, nurses, and business professionals.  The average nominated base salary is currently sitting on $73,100.

UK residents comprise the largest group of foreign workers on a temporary visa for Australia, making up one quarter of the 110,000.  The conversion rate of temporary visas to permanent residency is also up by 30 per cent; nearly 25,000 subclass 457 visa holders became permanent residents last year.

The Government is currently using the scheme to fill nominated positions in the workforce which are highest in demand.  The Minister has said it is vital to fill these positions at a time when the unemployment rate is low, in order to maintain the country’s economic momentum. 

The Government also recently introduced legislative changes to the Migration Act so that the rights of lower-skilled workers can be protected from abuse from employers. 

"Although incidents of migrant worker exploitation are the exception rather than the rule, the Government is moving to improve the protections in place to prevent exploitation of temporary skilled workers from overseas," Senator Evans said.

"Minimum Salary Levels for subclass 457 visa holders will increase by 3.8 per cent from August 1 after remaining frozen for more than two years.  The Government will also introduce new laws to help prevent the exploitation of migrant workers and ensure the wages and conditions of Australian workers are not undercut," he added.

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

Article by Jessica Bird, Australian Visa Bureau.

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