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Are chefs and cooks on a temporary Australian work visa up for the chop?

by Tony 07/04/2009 12:15:00

After an extensive review in 2008, changes have been announced to the Temporary Business - Long Stay (subclas 457) Australian work visa.  The main changes involve the introduction of far stricter demands on the English language ability of applicants, which looks set to severely affect the thousands of tradespersons who have very little English language ability who are currently working in Australia on the subclass 457 Australian work visa.

The most obvious losers will be the Asian restaurants that employ workers in the occupation of Chef (ASCO: 3322-11) and Cook (ASCO:4513-11), where there is a strong argument that English language ability is not so important in the competent performance of their duties. 

As a result of these changes, it's highly likely that we'll see an increase in the demand for skilled Asian cooks and chefs who do have reasonable English language skills, although affected restaurants will still find difficulties securing an Australian work visa through the conventional skills pathway as another change in requirements is the introduction of a formal skills assessment.  Currently, TRA (Trades Recognition Australia) are the only relevant skills assessment body for the above occupations, and the majority of Asian cooks and chefs would be unable to be approved through this body without undertaking a workplace assessment.

Asian restaurants aren't the only Australian employers who are going to find it a lot more difficult to sponsor overseas workers on an Australian work visa through the 457 visa pathway. The onus is now on the employers to clearly identify and evidence the benefit to Australia and also show that local Australian workers are given employment opportunities ahead of overseas workers.

For your information, below are the 7 recently announced changes in full:

  1. The indexation of the minimum salary level (MSL) for all new and existing 457 visa holders by 4.1% on 1 July 2009, in line with all employees’ total earnings last year as reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This ensures that the wages of overseas workers keep pace with local wages.
  2. The implementation of a market based minimum salary for all new and existing 457 visa holders from mid September 2009, to ensure overseas workers are not exploited and local wages and conditions are not undermined (a key recommendation of the Deegan Review).
  3. Increasing the existing minimum language requirement from 4.5 IELTS to 5 IELTS for 457 visa applicants in trade occupations and chefs, to address concerns about the exploitation of workers from non-English speaking countries and align the 457 visa English language standard with the permanent sponsored visa for trades’ occupations.
  4. Progressively introducing formal skills assessment from 1 July 2009 for 457 visa applicants from high risk immigration countries in trade occupations and chefs.  The Government will consult with stakeholders in finalising an assessment framework that reflects Australian standards and meets the expectations of Australian workplaces.
  5. Introducing a requirement that employers seeking access to the 457 visa program have a strong record of, or demonstrated commitment to, employing local labour and non-discriminatory employment practices. This will help address concerns that some employers may discriminate against local labour in hiring overseas workers.
  6. The development of training benchmarks to clarify the existing requirement on employers to demonstrate a commitment to training local labour.
  7. The extension of the labour agreement pathway to all ASCO 5 – 7 occupations, to ensure that employers using the 457 visa program to access these occupations satisfy obligations on local training and employment.

The full impact of the changes are yet to be seen, but in their current form, they could severely limit the options available to many Australian employers looking to fill skills shortages by means of a 457 Australian work visa.

- Tony Coates is a Migration Caseworker for the Australian Visa Bureau

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

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