Australia scraps visa for skilled foreign workers

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Introduced by John Howard's government in 1996, the 457 visa has been the most common way for employers to bring skilled workers into Australia temporarily.

The programme allowed business to employ foreign workers for a period up to four years in skilled jobs where there is a shortage of Australian workers.

The Subclass 457 Visa will be abolished and replaced with the Temporary Skill Shortage Visa.

The aim, according to the government, is to give Australian workers first priority for local jobs, while still allowing businesses to temporarily take on skilled workers from overseas if local skills shortages would otherwise mean going without.

In a "major announcement" on Facebook, Malcolm Turnbull said: "We're putting jobs first; we're putting Australians first".

The majority of the visa holders were from India followed by the Britain and China.

Employers who don't properly search for Australian workers won't be able to bring in foreigners under the Turnbull government's new visa regime.

Turnbull said that the new version of the 457 visa programme, largely used by Indians, will only recruit the "best and the brightest in the national interest". The Australian High Commissioner to India Harinder Sidhu said the entry of skilled workers is vital to Australia's economic growth and prosperity.

But he expected some businesses would pay more under the changes.

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The new program will offer a two-year visa with a broader list of occupations, and a four-year visa with stricter requirements and a smaller job pool.

Employees with a two-year visa will no longer have the option of permanent residency.

According to the Federal Government, the number of eligible jobs for the visas will be cut from 651 to 435, with application fees to increase.

The Australian government, however, assured expats that the 95 000 people already in Australia on 457 visas will not now be affected by the change.

The Australian PM hopes scrapping the visas will help prioritise its own nationals for jobs.

Those who are on the 457 visa in Australia now will not be affected by the new visa reforms.

Turnbull also announced the establishment of a new training fund to help Australians fill skills gaps that now exist in the country.

There are now 95,758 persons in Australia on the 457 visa.

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