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Most changes are expected to be introduced on July 1st 2013. In summary, the changes comprise a set of measures designed to strengthen the integrity of the 457 visa scheme. The government’s intention is to define 457 visas as a supplement to, rather than a substitute for the Australian labour market.

According to the government, the new measures should close loopholes in the current legislative and policy settings to ensure that the program can only be used to fill in genuine skill shortages by adequately skilled persons. If implemented correctly, the 457 program should have a positive effect on the current Australians workforce providing them with a fair and equal access to the available local employment opportunities.

At present, every possible broadcast media in Australia is providing its own commentary on the proposed 457 reform and vividly debating the actual necessity for its introduction. Whilst the government revisits the 457 program with the view to improve it, some prominent commentators and even federal government key advisers on skilled migration (Mr. Peter McDonald and Mr. James Pearson) criticized Labor’s crack down on the 457 work visa program. The wide opinion is that economic consequences of shutting down 457 and skilled migration programs will see increased labor cost pressures, crush investor confidence and risk the capability to deliver on those investments.

Much of the current commentary reflects criticism of the current government moving in the wrong direction and making it harder for small local businesses to fill in their skill shortage gaps in a time effective manner.

The key criticism stems out of the fact that odd misuse of the migration law by a small number of local companies should not see the mainstream market penalized. According to Mr James Pearson, West Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive, DIAC statistics are indicating less than 1% of employers who are abusing the system.

At present there are approximately 93,000 primary overseas skilled workers who are currently living and working in Australia on 457 temporary visas. According to DIAC statistics, although 20% more 457 visas were issued to overseas skilled workers in the first two months of this financial year compared to the same period a year ago, this trend did not continue and since August 2012 the number of visas granted significantly declined. As a result the July – Dec 2012 figures have seen an increase of only 6.6% in the number of 457 primary visa granted in comparison to last year figures.

The total 2012-13 Migration Program is set at 190,000 places. This comprises 129, 250 place’s for skilled migrants who gain entry essentially because of their work or business experience, business qualifications, skills or sponsorship. Skilled migrant places represent 68% of the total Migration Program.

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