Bowen cuts immigration redtape for business


Federal Immigration Minister announces red tape cut for businesses looking to address critical skills gaps by simplifying permanent employer-sponsored visa program

March 9, 2012

The Federal Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Bowen today announced the Government will cut red tape for businesses looking to address critical skills gaps by simplifying the permanent employer-sponsored visa program.

He says the Government will establish a fast-tracked pathway from the temporary skilled sub-class 457 visa to permanent residence under the employer-sponsored visa program, enabling skilled migrants to settle and work in regional and metropolitan Australia.

"These reforms will make it easier for businesses and potential migrants to navigate the permanent employer-sponsored visa program, while ensuring the integrity of our visa system," he says.

Around four in five permanent employer-sponsored visa applicants previously held a 457 visa and the majority of them stay with the same employer doing the same job.

"Skilled migrants deliver major benefits to the Australian economy in terms of contributing to economic growth and offsetting the impacts of an ageing population," Bowen says.

"We know these workers can do the job and are ready to make a commitment to Australia, so it makes sense to streamline their pathway to permanent residence," Bowens says.

The Government will replace the current six permanent employer-sponsored visas with two new visas and consolidate the existing three sponsored occupation lists – subclass 457, employer nomination, and state and territory sponsored general skilled migration lists — into one list.

The reforms to the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) will commence on July 1, 2012.

Permanent employer-sponsored visa places currently account for 39 percent of the total skilled migration program for 2011-12, including 16,000 places through RSMS. The program allows Australian employers to sponsor workers for permanent residence to fill skilled full-time job vacancies in their businesses.

The changes should help employers to better access overseas skilled workers in what remains a tight labour market, Ai Group Chief Executive Designate Innes Willox says.

"Notwithstanding the slow growth seen in employment over the past year, businesses across the economy are still experiencing skill shortages in key occupations, especially those in demand by the resources sector such as in engineering and the skilled trades," he says.

"The changes making it easier for existing 457 visa holders to transition to permanent residency are particularly welcome. Removing the need for language testing of current 457 visa holders applying for permanent residency is very sensible and will remove the possibility of rejection for those who may have failed to meet what are still arduous language requirements.

"Raising the upper age limit to 50 for permanent applications is also a sensible move which will increase the pool of potential migrants.

"The single, consolidated sponsored occupation list will simplify administration. Nevertheless, business would be concerned if it resulted in a narrowing of eligibility, particularly for the important skilled trades for which demand is so strong."

Willox says Ai Group will continue to engage closely with the Government on the immigration program including the size of the intake for the next financial year to be announced in the Federal Budget.

"It is Ai Group’s view that the current planning level for the 2011-12 migration program, which is set at 185,000 places, is below what is required to avoid pressure on capacity and its attendant impact on costs.

"We have proposed to the Government a modest increase in the 2012-13 planning level to 190,000 places with a continued emphasis on skilled migration."

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