Government fast-tracks 457 visas

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen recently announced that a new accreditation scheme to fast-track businesses that wish to bring in skilled workers from overseas will be introduced as of today.

According to NineMSN, businesses can be given priority for future visa applications if they have been an active 457 visa sponsor over the past three years, taking care of at least 30 overseas workers over the past 12 months – and can guarantee that their local workforce is at least 75 per cent Australian.

Under the new scheme, workers can also be given approval for a stay of up to six years, double the previous limit of three.

“This will continue to ensure that the 457 program is responsive to the economic cycle and provides a flexible avenue for employers to fill immediate and short-term skill vacancies, while maintaining opportunities and conditions for Australian workers,” said Bowen.

The Minister claimed that average processing times for 457 visa applications are 30 per cent lower than they were in 2006-07 – down from 31 to 22 days.

“Our aim is to see 457 visas processed within 10 days,” he told NineMSN.

Businesses are finding the 457 visa an increasingly attractive proposition, with a 38 per cent jump in successful applications in 2010-11 to 54,360. According to a recent report by accounting firm KPMG, four in five Western Australian firms are planning to bring in workers from overseas in the next year.

Some groups are troubled by the growing popularity of the 457 visas, with UnionsWA secretary Simone McGurk telling The West Australian that skilled immigration was damaging local training.

?We are concerned about a culture developing in which employers turn to 457 visa workers rather than training,? she said.

Sources: NineMSN, The West Australian, Australian Mining

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