It’s a pretty safe bet that the vast majority of us awoke this morning, rather groggy from the Easter weekend. What we all probably weren’t banking on however was the news from Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on plans to abolish one of the country’s visa programmes – the 457 Visa.
For anyone thinking about making the move to Oz, there’s absolutely no need to freak out. Here’s what you need to know…
What is the 457 visa anyway?
First off, it’s not the Working Holiday Visa that’s in jeopardy here so you can breath a sigh of relief on that front. The ever popular WHV remains in place (in fact they’ve recently proposed an expansion of it).
The 457 visa programme is a skilled visa that thousands of Irish have secured in the past and it allows foreign employees to spend up to 4 years living and working in Australia while sponsored by their employer.
The most affected industries are likely to be in medical, IT and restaurant (chefs). According to government statistics, some 95,758 people were living in Australia on the 457 visa last year, the vast majority of these being from India, the UK and China. At the end of 2016 the number of Irish on this visa stood at 6,139.
Why is this visa being scraped?
Critics of the programme in Australia have raised significant concerns about the visa being too accessible to a skilled workforce abroad and as a result stymied the growth of Australian careers and opportunities.
Speaking during the announcement Mr Turnbull remarked that “Australians must have priority for Australian jobs – so we’re abolishing the 457 visas,”.
He also stated that, “We’ll no longer let 457 visas be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians.”
The four-year programme has historically had a high percentage of conversion from the visa programme to seeking and ultimately obtaining residency. This was seen as a significant advantage to migrants and a reason why the programme had been so popular.
Is there something new coming into effect?
Yes, albeit it will be a more restrictive one. Currently there are 650 job titles that fall into eligibility of the 457 visa and this will be cut by 200 to focus on the most immediate skills shortages in the Australian economy.
Furthermore the temporary visas will last either two or four years with Turnbull stating his intention as follows, “What we propose is that under the temporary skills shortage visa short-term stream there will be a two-year visa… but there won’t be permanent residency outcomes at the end of that”.
The goal of the change is to put Australian jobs first while maintaining the influx of key skills, “designed to recruit the best and the brightest” and “get access to the skills they need to grow and invest”.
Will it affect anyone currently in the process?
No, this will have no effect on the 6,139 Irish benefactors of the visa.
When is this likely to change?
The plans set out today are not going to come into effect until March 2018, although this is subject to change. Until then, it’s as you were for the 457 visa and more importantly, as you were and will continue to be for Irish travellers wishing to live out their dream year on a regular Working Holiday Visa to Australia.