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The 457 visa: what you need to know

What is a 457 visa?

A 457 visa is a temporary business (long stay) subclass visa. It allows businesses to sponsor a skilled worker to fill a job vacancy which cannot be filled with local workers. The visa is valid for up to four years. Secondary visas can be given to an applicant's family members.

How many 457 visa holders are there in Australia?

At January 31, 2103, there were 105,330 primary visa holders, according to the Department of Immigration's Subclass 457 state/territory summary report 2012-13. This was a 22.4 per cent increase compared to the same date in the previous program year.

Why is the government talking about reforming 457 visas?

The Federal Government has announced a crackdown on 457 visas to ensure local jobseekers do not miss out on jobs. On Thursday the Prime Minister Julia Gillard targeted the IT industry in its campaign to reform 457 visas.

"It is just not acceptable that information technology jobs, the quintessential jobs of the future, the very opportunities being created by the digital economy, precisely where the big picture is for our kids, should be such a big area of imported skills," she said.

Maurene Horder, CEO at the Migration Institute of Australia, an association for Australian migration service providers globally, said Gillard's speech "may lead some people [to have] a distorted impression about exactly who is coming to Australia and how the [457 visa] programs are actually being applied."

"I think that's what's going on at the moment is a discussion ... that our people are not getting all the jobs. But if you look at that and say 'why aren't they?' you can soon conclude it's because we don't have enough people with the right skills for jobs that we have available," Horder said.

She said the MIA has not seen any evidence of abuse of the 457 visa system and does not believe there is a problem. Instead, Horder believes the programs are working well, particularly after the government tightened up restrictions in 2009.

"Where we have a shortfall, what are we going to do? Shut the doors and not let anyone in? That's crazy. You can't run programs, you can't run jobs [and] you can't run a labour market with a stop start policy -- that wouldn't work," she said.

"The Prime Minister hasn't said that's what she wants but if we start getting into a heated debate and pitting one group of workers against another I think that's not good for anybody. It's certainly not good for Australia. It's not good for our reputation and it doesn't make people feel positive in their aspirations to be part of the Australian workforce."

How many 457 visas are there in the IT industry?

The Department of Immigration does not list the IT industry as a separate industry, but Gillard said the IT industry is the largest sector that employs overseas workers. Horder believes the broader IT industry makes up around 11 per cent of 457 visas holders. "So it's not a huge number of people in the whole scheme of things," she said.

What IT occupations have the highest number of 457 visas?

Overall, the Department of Immigration lists developer programmers as making up 2.5 per cent of all occupations for primary applications granted, coming in third out of 15 listed professions. This is a 14.7 per cent drop compared to 2011-12.

ICT business analyst is the only other IT-specific occupation in the top 15, making up 1.8 per cent of total 457 visas. This is a 6.4 per cent increase compared to 2011-12.

What IT occupations have 457 holders across Australia?

Some states and territories have more IT-related occupations listed in the Department of Immigration's top 15 occupations.

While not a specific IT-related occupation, Horder said IT workers could also fall under the umbrella of program or project administrators.

Below, states and territories have been listed which have IT jobs in the top 15 occupations for primary applications granted in 2012-13 to 31 January, 2013. Percentages are the total number of 457 visas in Australia.

ACT

ICT business analyst

2.5 per cent

Program or project administrator

1.9 per cent

NSW

Program or project administrator

4.9 per cent

Developer programmer

4.3 per cent

Software engineer

2.7 per cent

ICT business analyst

2.6 per cent

Victoria

Developer programmer

3.8 per cent

ICT business analyst

2.8 per cent

Analyst programmer

2.6 per cent

Program or project administrator

2.1 per cent

Software and applications programmers

2.0 per cent

ICT systems test engineer

2.0 per cent

ICT project manager

1.8 per cent

South Australia

Program or project administrator

2.2 per cent

Tasmania

Software and applications programmers

1.7 per cent

Are 457 visas being issued in low or high paying jobs?

Overseas workers coming to Australia on 457 visas must be paid a minimum $51,000 per annum, according to Horder. The Department of Immigration statistics reveal the average nominated base salary for primary applications granted in 2012-13 to 31 January, 2013 was $83,500.

"It's not a cheap way to get employees, contrary to the impression some people may get," Horder said.

"There's a minimum wage you can't go below and they also have to match the market value. If the market for a particular job is higher than that minimum ... they can't go below that no matter what."

What changes does the Federal Government want to make to 457 visas?

Minister for Immigration, Brendan O'Connor, announced that the Federal Government wants to make key changes to 457 visas. This includes:

" making companies who sponsor employees on 457 visas commit to employing Australian citizens" forcing companies to train Australian citizens as part of their requirements for 457 applications" companies must show their position is "genuine"" restricting the number of workers a business can hire on 457 visas" tightening the definitions of eligible roles" tightening 'on-hiring arrangements' so sponsors cannot let overseas employees work for another company at a different salary rate.

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU


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