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New changes to skilled temporary visa laws.

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Kevin Andrews MP Minister for Immigration and Citizenship

New Changes to Skilled Temporary Visa Laws

Thursday, 26 April 2007

The Australian Government today announced new changes to the Skilled Temporary Visa Laws.

The changes include new civil penalties for employers who breach the law, greater powers for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, and the Office of Workplace Services, to investigate employers, faster processing of applications for some employers and a higher English language requirement to be eligible for a Skilled Temporary Visa.

The Migration Act will be amended to ensure employers of skilled temporary overseas workers (457visas) face tougher penalties if they breach their sponsorship obligations.

New civil penalties will apply for those employers who commit the most serious offences. Offences will relate to such matters as failure to pay the minimum salary level and using workers in unskilled jobs.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship will also be given stronger powers to enforce employer compliance with the 457 visa programme, including the power to conduct unannounced audits of employers and their premises.

This will be complemented with greater powers for the Office of Workplace Services to investigate breaches of the Minimum Salary Level.

The Australian Government will put in place formal arrangements for the fast-tracking of applications from those employers who have a strong and demonstrated record of complying with the 457 visa programme

Applications lodged by fast-tracked employers and their overseas personnel will be priority processed, helping to streamline access to skilled workers.

These changes will be introduced this year.

From 1 July 2007, employers will be required to ensure that overseas workers they sponsor have English language skills equivalent to an average score of 4.5 in an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test, or a higher level where required as part of licensing or registration.

Applicants will be required to detail their English language skills and on a targeted basis, may be required to complete an IELTS test.

The manner in which this requirement would be implemented will continue to be discussed with key industry groups.

Due to a strong economy and unemployment at a 30 year low, some Australian industries are experiencing a temporary shortage of skilled workers.

Employers must recognise that access to skilled temporary migrants is a privilege, not a right, and if they abuse this privilege, then they will face strong penalties.

The changes that have been announced today will ensure that further obligations are put in place to protect and strengthen the integrity of the 457 visa scheme.

Media enquiries: Kate Walshe 0421 588 794