19 Apr 2017

Australia, US move to curb skilled worker visas

9:38 am on 19 April 2017

Changes to Australia's four-year working visa have removed pathways to permanent residency for less-skilled migrants, and removed 30 percent of eligible jobs.

Malcolm Turnbull

Malcolm Turnbull (file photo) Photo: RNZ

The country's federal government today abolished the 457 visa introduced in 1996, moving to a new scheme based on two visas - one for a higher-skilled category over four years and another for two years with a possibility of a further two-year renewal.

The new visas will also have new requirements, including higher English language skills, at least two years of relevant work experience, and a criminal history check.

The changes are not expected to affect current visa holders. New Zealand citizens without a criminal conviction or untreated tuberculosis can visit, live and work in Australia without a tourist or work visa.

The new visas also removed 200 of the 650 jobs previously eligible under the 457 visa, and permanent residency would only be available to those with the higher-skilled four-year visa.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the migration programme "should only operate in our national interest".

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to review a temporary visa programme used to place foreign workers in high-skilled US jobs.

The order directs agencies to enforce government rules on excluding foreign contractors from bids for government projects.

He signed the so-called Buy America, Hire America order on a visit to a tool factory in the US state of Wisconsin, though it falls far short of his campaign pledge to end the H-1B visa programme.

The government allows 85,000 immigrants each year through the H-1B visa programme, which is reserved for foreign nationals in "specialty occupations" and is largely used by the technology industry.

The government uses a lottery system to grant 65,000 visas every year and randomly distributes an additional 20,000 to graduate students.

In recent years, the US has been overwhelmed by applications for the programme.

But the number of applicants for the H-1B visa fell to 199,000 this year, down from 236,000 in 2016, according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services.


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