A long history of 457 visa problems
The 457 visa program has been a sore point with the IT industry for several years.
In 2014 the then assistant minister for immigration and border protection, Senator Michaelia Cash, announced an independent review of the 457 visa programme.
The review committee was required to examine the level of non-compliance, to examine whether the 457 visa requirements balanced the needs of business with the need to ensure integrity in the programme and the appropriateness of the current compliance and sanctions.
The Australian Computer Society (ACS) lodged a submission noting its timeliness following what it said had been “significant long-running debates in the media and online about 457 visas in the ICT sector and a view that this sub-class of visa is being misused to support the migration of ICT professionals for jobs that could or should have been available for the existing Australian workforce.”
It claimed also to have feedback from individuals of employer abuse of the 457 visa scheme. “Typically this feedback is where employers are perceived to have retrenched older ICT workers and replaced them with ‘cheap’ 457 skills due to perceived short-term cost and productivity drivers,” ACS said.
While not discounting these claims it noted the difficulty given the limitations of published data on 457 and ICT occupations as defined by the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO).
Also ACS noted that, while the ICT sector was the third largest user of 457 visas by industry, it was likely to be the largest by occupation because ICT occupations are spread across many industry classifications.
Its submission also took issue with the fact that 457 visas went in many cases to overseas nationals already resident in Australia. “Twenty six per cent of all 457 visa grants in ICT occupations went to persons already in Australia,” ACS said.
“While the overall onshore rate of the 457 program (43 percent) is higher than for ICT, it is still significant when compared to the number of domestic ICT graduates each year and that our graduates must therefore compete with around 3,000 foreign nationals receiving 457 visas each year and who are already in Australia – many already working for their 457 sponsor.”
The ACS called for the skills requirements for 457 visa recipients to be strengthened and for tougher obligations on employers to test the local market before applying for 457 visas for ICT roles.
Hale said that, as far as he was aware, the government had done nothing to address the ACS’s concerns.
Computerworld sought comment from ACS on the 457 visa issue but we were able to get only a written statement from CEO Andrew Johnson. He said: “Skilled migration in all its forms should be a source of competitive advantage for any country. It should not be at the expense of the domestic labour market and attracting full workforce participation.”