Govt flags 457 visa changes

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The Federal Government is making further changes to the 457 visa program which it says will balance the needs of employers and local workers.

It ordered a review a year ago, amid fears that some employers were abusing the system, and using it undermine local wages and conditions.

Federal Immigration Minister Chris Evans says the changes will help to ensure that migrant workers are not exploited or taking jobs away from local employees.

"There have been concerns about its integrity and some of the abuses that have occurred and this is about fixing those things, making sure we've got proper policy settings for the scheme," he said.

The 457 is an uncapped temporary visa program used to fill specific skills shortages, but the Government says there has been a decline in applications this year due to the global economic slowdown.

The seven measures announced today include a new minimum salary for new and existing workers from September this year, the introduction of indexation of 4.1 per cent from July and increasing the minimum language requirement.

The Government will also increase the language requirements for applicants, and among the other changes are greater scrutiny of applicant's skills, and measures to make sure employers are hiring local workers where available.

Senator Evans said there have been situations where visa holders have failed to meet their stated qualifications.

"It's, it's those with higher risk where we know perhaps less about their qualifications systems. Clearly if you've got someone coming from Great Britain, we're fairly familiar with their qualifications but someone coming out of Asia, some of the Asian countries we just don't have that some level of understanding," he said.

"And I want to make a point that we get a lot of good tradesmen out of Asia and China and India these days but it's just about making sure that those that claim to have the qualifications do have them."

Opposition spokeswoman Sharmane Stone says the Government has failed to implement key recommendations from the review.

"You [should] have 90 days to find a new position before you have to exit the country," she said.

"That was a recommendation of the review. The Government hasn't taken it up. Workers currently have 28 days to find new work, the Government says that period of grace won't be extended."


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