Joint media release with Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Minister for Industry Ian McFarlane and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison.
The Government will reform the 457 visa programme for skilled migrants, while maintaining strong safeguards against abuse.
The 457 programme must be a means of filling genuine skills gaps in the local labour market while not placing unnecessary administrative burdens on business.
An effectively managed skilled migration programme ensures foreign workers supplement rather than substitute Australian workers. A business that is forced to close because it is unable to access the labour that it requires employs no-one. That is a lose–lose situation for both employers and employees.
Following an independent review of the 457 programme, the Government will:
Streamline the processing of sponsorship, nomination and visa applications to reward low risk applicants and refocus compliance and monitoring activities on high risk applicants;
Increase the sponsorship approval period from 12 to 18 months for start-up businesses, to give start-ups more time to make their businesses sustainable;
Provide greater flexibility in relation to English language testing and skill requirements for 457 applicants, to ensure that the standards required are appropriate for the industries and occupations being sought; and
Retain the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold at $53 900, ahead of a review within the next two years.
Safeguards will remain in place to ensure that the 457 visa programme is not rorted. It will continue to be a requirement that a foreign worker receives at least the same market rates and conditions that are paid to an Australian doing the same job in the same workplace.
The Government will also expand and improve the Significant Investor Visa programme.
At present, SIVs are available for applicants having an eligible investment in Australia of A$5 million, for a minimum of four years.
The Government will reform the programme to encourage more high net worth individuals to make Australia home and to leverage and better direct additional foreign investment, while maintaining safeguards to ensure the migration programme is not misused.
Changes will include:
Streamlining and speeding up visa processing, further promoting the programme globally and strengthening integrity measures, to increase the attractiveness of investing and settling in Australia while ensuring Australia's interests are protected;
Aligning the criteria for eligible investments with the Government's national investment priorities. The investment eligibility criteria will be determined by Austrade in consultation with key economic and industry portfolios;
Introducing a Premium Investor Visa (PIV), offering a more expeditious, 12 month pathway to permanent residency than the SIV, for those meeting a $15 million threshold; and
Tasking Austrade to become a nominating entity for the SIV (complementing the current State and Territory governments' role as nominators) and to be the sole nominating entity for the PIV.
The changes to the SIV will take effect during 2014-15, with the Premium Investor Visa to be introduced from 1 July 2015.
The Government will soon make further announcements on the recommendations of reviews into both the 457 and SIV programmes.