Travel agency managers – along with goatherds, turf growers, futures traders, blacksmiths, cattery operators, jockeys and judges – can no longer enter Australia to work under skilled labour provisions, now that the 457 visa category has been abolished.
The tourism industry is concerned about the visa changes – more because of their likely effect on hospitality workers than on goatherds.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the changes will “put Australians and Australian jobs first”.
The Government is axing the 457 visa class and replacing it with two new visas, including a two-year visa – which can be renewed for another two years – and a four-year visa targeted at specific high-level skills.
Both visas require at least two years of relevant work experience (not needed under the 457 scheme) while the longer visa calls for higher standards of English proficiency. Applicants must also complete a criminal history check instead of the self-declaration under the now-abolished scheme.
The application fee for the two-year visa would be AUD 1150, or AUD 2400 for the four-year visa, ABC News reported, although details of extra payments by businesses remain unclear.
New Zealand is doing something similar. The New Zealand Government is introducing a new three-year limit for workers on temporary visas, followed by a minimum stand-down period before they can apply again. Workers in seasonal industries will also have their visas shortened to the length of their work.
Australia’s Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) tourism advocacy group has urged Australia’s Federal Government to ensure changes to skilled labour visas do not disadvantage the tourism industry.
TTF chief executive Margy Osmond said a “continuous pipeline of skilled labour from overseas” was vital for sectors such as hospitality, which suffers recurrent shortages of key staff, including chefs and hotel managers.
“Tourism is now a super growth industry in Australia, and a critically important contributor to our national economy,” Osmond said.
“The industry directly employed 580,200 people in 2015-16, or 4.9% of the national workforce, and continues to grow. By comparison, agriculture employed 321,600 people and mining provided 227,800 direct jobs.
“TTF stands ready to work with the Federal Government on the implementation of the new temporary skilled migration program to ensure the best possible outcome for the sector.”
Osmond said Australia’s global campaigns to attract more international visitors had been and continued to be a resounding success.
“We now need to ensure that the industry is sufficiently resourced to continue supporting the visitor economy, which is now a bigger export earner than coal or agriculture, and will continue to grow.”
Written by Peter Needham