The government will replace the six employer sponsored permanent visa programs with two simplified categories.
The Australian Government has announced plans to make it easier for skilled migrants to become permanent Australian residents.
The Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says the changes will simplify the process for people who hold 457 visas which give temporary work rights, to apply for the permanent employer-sponsored visa program.
From July this year, overseas workers in the 457 category won’t have to have a second skills test and English test to become eligible for residency.
But the changes will tighten the application process for people who apply for permanent visas without having worked in Australia already.
Mr Bowen says applicants seeking direct entry to Australia will first be expected to sit a basic English test .
“Particularly remembering these people are often living in regional Australia, where perhaps the level of access to English training might not be as extensive as it would be in capital cities, and they will be working in occupations that will require a good level of English in any event,” he said.
Mr Bowen says the government will also replace the six employer sponsored permanent visa programs with two simplified categories.
He says the changes will help deal with critical skills shortages in some industries.
The chief executive of the Australian Federation of Employers and Industries, Gary Brack, told Radio Australia the streamlined process could help alleviate labor supply shortages in some sectors.
“One of the most important aspects of this is the speed with which you can actually make the transition,” he said.
“Employers get caught short in the market if they can’t recruit somebody. A lot of them are desperate to get people at a particular time. So if it can be expedited in the way that it’s been discussed, then that will certainly be advantageous.”
Ged Kearney, the president of Australia’s peak union body, the ACTU, says while the changes would have distinct advantages for overseas workers, it must not undermine the ability for local workers to obtain those jobs.
She told Radio Australia there is a possibility that migrant workers could be exploited by their employers under the planned changes.
“We would not like to see a situation where the overseas worker’s still bonded to an employer simply because they have been encouraged to hang on – maybe in sub-standard terms and conditions or sub-standard wages et cetera, with the promise that if you work for less money, or work for less conditions, we can now get you permanent residency,” she said.
The Opposition says the government should go further with its attempts to cut red tape for skilled migration.
The Coalition’s immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says the government should also reintroduce the immigration concessions that were scrapped in 2009.
“The government abolished the regional concessions for 457s when they came to government ,which was a major and important program for particularly small and regional business,” he said.
“The government has not restored those concessions.”
The new system will operate from July 1.
Source: Reuters – Anna Henderson and Girish Sawlani, Canberra Fri, 9 Mar 2012