It's never a dull moment in the world of Australian visas, as further changes to the employer sponsored (subclass 457) visa program came into effect today (15th of May, 2009).
The changes saw the removal of some occupations from the standard sponsorship arrangements for regional based employers. The occupations affected by this change include all occupations listed under Major Groups 5 to 7 on the Australian Standard Classification of Occupations (ASCO), which includes occupations in the tourism, clerical and agricultural industries.
As a result, the only way for regional employers to now sponsor workers in the removed occupations is through a Labour Agreement. This is an agreement that must be formed with both the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR).
This is the second major reform to the 457 visa program to be implemented in recent weeks, and it follows the increase in the English language requirement on April 14.
While DIAC say they want to allow regional employers to be able to employ temporary migrants in these less-skilled occupations, they've also clearly made the decision to ensure that any influx of migrants doesn't undermine employment opportunities for locally trained workers.
The Labour Agreements are designed to provide a means for industries experiencing skill shortages to bring in foreign workers, while also ensuring that the recruitment of migrants doesn't affect the long-term improvement of employment opportunities for Australians. However, there has been increased rigour applied to the consideration of any request made for a Labour Agreement.
Commenting on the changes, a departmental spokesperson said: "This change will ensure employers using the 457 visa program to gain access to these occupations satisfy all their obligations under the program, including those on training."
This isn't the first time that DIAC have made changes to Australian visas to force the regional sponsorship of an occupation through the Labour Agreement system, as they have done the same thing previously with Truck Drivers (due to specific concerns with that industry). However, that was limited to just one occupation; today's changes now mean that all occupations under Major Groups 5 to 7 on the ASCO can only be recruited from overseas by means of a successful Labor Agreement, meaning the impact on the number of Australian visas granted to employer sponsored workers could be significant.
- Tony Coates is a Migration Caseworker for the Australian Visa Bureau
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