The 457 Visa Program and the Changes
On 18th April 2017, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that the current 457 visa program would be abolished. The previous visa program came into effect since 1996 by the Howard government. It offered working visa for foreign workers in more than 650 jobs. Permanent residency would be provided after accomplishing the two year working visa and their families were able to live in Australia as well. The reason for this action is to ensure Australian jobs belong to Australians themselves instead of foreign visa holders. Mr Turnbull emphasised “Australian First”, the concept which focuses on the priority of the Australian’s interests.
Mr Turnbull believed that his action would help Australia become a better country, a more cohesive and secure society. “Australia must continue to attract people who will embrace our values and positively contribute, regardless of nationality or religious belief,” Mr Turnbull said.
Authorised by the Prime Minister, the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton declared that the 457 Visa would be replaced by two temporary visas—one for two years and the other last for four years. No more permanent residency would be given under the new scheme. At the same time, applicants are supposed to fulfil higher language tests and longer related working experience. The current occupation list will be cut at a large extent and more than 200 jobs are affected, including market specialists, club manager, chemical engineer, etc.
Is Mr Turnbull Following Donald Trump’s Step?
Mr Turnbull’s adaptation on 457 Visa is believed as similar as the President of the United States—Donald Trump’s view—“Buy American, Hire American”. An executive order signed by Mr Trump is implemented, which mainly mentioned about the changes in H-1B Visa system that is so-called to prevent immigration fraud and abuse. President Trump said “the H-1B visa will not and never be used to replace Americans”.
Many people consider the PM’s decision is made to “save his job” because of the success of the Populist Party and he is already influenced by the concept of “One Nation”.
However, facing those comments as well as criticisms, Mr Turnbull claimed that Australia is still an immigration nation and people with multicultural backgrounds are welcomed. He insisted the decision was based on a series of data and careful researches, denying receiving any pressure from the Party. “The new system would be manifestly, rigorously, resolutely… It is a decision of the Government… It is not about politics, it is about policy,” he says.
“A Careless and Unrealistic Policy Making”
After Prime Minister’s announcement of abolishing the 457 Visa program, it aroused huge controversy around the whole society. I am honoured to make an interview with Ms Shue Han, a lawyer and specialist with more than 20 years’ experience. She is working in a top immigration consulting agency in Sydney, ever helping over 3,000 people successfully applying permanent residency of Australia. Therefore, her comments on this issue will be doubtlessly meaningful and professional.
“Honestly, from my personal perspective, this measure is apparent one of the most unrealistic and frustrating policies in these years, Mr Turnbull’s Government will pay the price in his next election period.” “It will become a disaster for those visa applicants, and for Australia itself as well,” Ms Han says.
She also mentioned that: “Under the upcoming visa scheme, the first thing we are sure that there is no more permanent residency available after the working visas expire, no matter the 2-year or the 4-year one.” “We know the majority of the 457 visa applicants aim to obtain permanent residency. Therefore, it will inevitably change their plan of life in a great deal,” she added.
“It will also be an obstacle for those talented, high skilled people to work and live in Australia, which I believe could do more harm than good for the improvement of our society.” “Based on the information we know at the moment, the so-called fresh visa streams in replacement of the 457 visa program, it narrows the classification of the occupation list, requiring higher language ability standard and more expensive visa application fees.”
“The real situation is not as bad as Mr Turnbull said,” Ms Han added. According to the latest data collected in 2016, the number of 457 visa applicants fell to 95,758, compared with over 120,000 in 2012. Furthermore, the unemployment rate remained low in this age, at 5.6% (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2017). Therefore, Australians do not lack enough ‘jobs’ to take.
“Mr Turnbull’s Decision Changed My Plan, and Hopefully Not My Life”
In order to better understand the impact of the decision on those groups of people, it is grateful having a conversation with Mr Razor, a previous 457 visa applicant working as a baker currently. He shared his experience and views towards the abolishment of the 457 visa program by Prime Minister Turnbull in the following short video.
“I was born and bred in China and have been in Australia for 4 years. After achieving the Certificate 4 from TAFE, I worked for a French restaurant as a chef in Brisbane for 2 years”, he introduced himself.
“I like the people and the life here. And I appreciate the Australian values that welcoming different people around the world. Therefore, my employer agree to help me apply the 457 visa program for staying in Australia.”
“Everything goes well before the Prime Minister announcing the abolishment of the visa”, “It changes my plan a lot. Thus, I have to switch to apply 187 visa program, quitting my current job, selling my car and moving to Noosa (a small town at north of Brisbane) as a baker.”
“I am very disappointed when hearing the news. It makes everything start from the bottom again… his one discussion changed my plan and hopefully would not change my life as well.” “Before governors making any policies, basically they are supposed to consider the interests of those affected groups,” Mr Razor concluded.