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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced that the government will be replacing the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457 visa). The aim of the change is to provide more jobs to Australian citizens. The Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa, the replacement visa will be finalised in March 2018. Until then the 457 visa will have revisions and restrictions applied.

The Prime Minister wants to give Australian citizens priority for jobs that are currently also available to overseas workers. He aims to replace the 457 temporary worker visa with a temporary visa designed to recruit “the best and the brightest in the national interest”.

About the 457 visa

The arrangements will be grandfathered, meaning that any current 457 visa holders will NOT be affected by the new changes. There are currently 95,758 visa holders living and working in Australia on a 457 visa. A high proportion of these are from India (24.6%), the UK (19.5%) and China (5.8%).

This visa has been the most used method for bringing skilled workers into Australia on a temporary basis. It was introduced in 1996 with the aim of attracting more skilled workers to Australia. The visa has long been an issue of contention. There have been concerns over exploitation, labour contention and the amount of approved applications in the past, as the visa in uncapped.

The number of 457 visa holders has dropped to approximately 45,000 in the past year, this is far below its peak of over 100,000. Last year the majority of 457 visas went to cooks, developers, programmers and medical professionals.

The replacement temporary visa

The plan is to replace the 457 visa with a new temporary work visa which will enable foreign workers to work in Australia for two or four years, depending on which stream of the new visa they apply for. Applicants will be required to have two years’ work experience, a criminal record check and in most cases, labour market testing.

  • The short term stream – two year visa

A broad list of occupations will be eligible under the new temporary work visa but the Prime Minister has forewarned that there will be a significant reduction, with the plan to remove more than 200 occupations from the eligibility list (there is roughly 650 on the existing list). The Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton has also stated that this visa pathway into Australia would not lead to a permanent residency for applicants.

  • The medium term stream – four year visa

The Immigration Minister has stated that the four year visa would have an even tighter list of available jobs. This option for those who are successful in their application would be eligible for permanent residency after three years.

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