CLIENTS of a Joondalup migration agency are among those affected by the Federal Government’s skilled migration reform.
Visa Solutions managing director Dan Engles said the decision to abolish the temporary work (skilled) or 457 visa and replace it with a temporary skills shortage visa would affect employees and businesses.
The change saw 216 jobs removed from the occupations list and the replacement will comprise a short-term stream offering a stay up to two years and a medium-term stream of up to four years.
“The problem is that some existing 457 visa holders may be trapped with existing employers because new nominations are not being approved for occupations removed from the list,” he said.
“Those in the offshore resources sector will find that occupations where they’ve been able to fill gaps with skilled international workers have now been removed from the eligible list.”
Mr Engles said clients were concerned if they lost their job they would be unable to remain in Australia.
“There are people who have been here for years; they have kids and even have houses,” he said.
Belgian-born Philip Lagrange enlisted Visa Solutions’ help with a 457 visa application but the occupation he applied for was one of those cut from the list.
He had received sponsorship from an overseas business to sell thermal insulation products that would be used by companies in the mining, oil and gas industries, which he said would result in large energy savings.
“These products are not known in Australia yet,” he said.
“We’re bringing a highly technical industry.
“It’s what I have done in three different countries already.”
The company director, who has 25 years experience, has submitted another application and is currently in Perth on a business visitor visa awaiting the outcome while his wife and child remain in Mauritius.
Mr Lagrange said bringing the product here would be of enormous benefit to the resources sector and to the country because of its energy efficiency, and saw opportunities for the business to grow in Perth, including the possibility of manufacturing locally.
He believed Australia needed highly technically skilled people.
“People like me can bring a lot to the country,” he said.
“I think this is very important for the country.”
The Australian Hotels Association WA welcomed the Government’s reform, with chief executive Bradley Woods saying it struck a balance between supporting young Australians seeking work and businesses needing to meet skills shortages.
“The hospitality industry is one of the biggest users of 457 visas for chefs and experienced cooks and it’s important that industry has access to overseas workers to fill the gaps,” he said.
“Cooks and chefs will remain on the occupations list used for skilled migration assessment, however with caveats ensuring that they are working in skilled positions. For example, not in fast food outlets.”
But Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA chief executive Deidre Willmott was more apprehensive and said changes should not make it harder for business to access skilled labour quickly.
“Western Australian workplaces are home to many niche, technical skills that can take years to develop,” she said. “When the economy is thriving, WA employers need access to these skills quickly so their businesses can grow and create more jobs for all workers.
“If these skills are unavailable locally, it is vital that employers have the flexibility to source these skills overseas. In the year to June 2012, WA employers made more than 16,000 applications for 457 visas.”
She said it was also important that State and Federal governments reform the training system to ensure WA had a skilled and capable workforce to respond to future growth areas.