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New centres of excellence to process temporary work visas.

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Senator Chris Evans Minister for Immigration and Citizenship

New Centres of Excellence to process temporary work visas

Friday 11 July 2008

Applications for temporary skilled (457) visas will be processed faster and more efficiently at three new dedicated Centres of Excellence now up and running in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said today.

The centres were established on July 1 to deal with the increasing demand for overseas workers by Australian companies to meet skills shortages. More than 100 000 subclass 457 visas were granted in 2007-08.

The 457 visa enables employers to employ skilled overseas workers to fill nominated positions in Australia on a temporary basis for a period of between three months and four years.

Senator Evans said the establishment of three Centres of Excellence was a key recommendation of the External Reference Group of industry experts commissioned by the Rudd Government to improve the efficiency of the 457 visa program.

All subclass 457 visa applications with Australian business sponsors are now processed in the Centres of Excellence rather than in eight separate offices prior to their establishment. Additional staff have been trained to man the centres and existing staff have undergone refresher training.

Senator Evans said subclass 457 visa applications were already being processed faster.

‘In June 2007, an average of 400 cases was processed within seven days whereas in June 2008, more than 1200 applicants were granted visas within a week,’ Senator Evans said.

‘The 457 program is critical to meeting the current labour market demands and the new Centres of Excellence will continue to improve the effectiveness of the processing of visas.’

The department has now cleared a backlog of about 13 000 subclass 457 visa applications on hand since March, many of which were outside the acceptable standards for processing.

The standards provide for 75 per cent of cases to be processed within three months from lodgement. All outstanding applications that could be finalised by the department have been completed.

The only cases now outside the published service standard are those where the department is either waiting on further information from clients or a third party, or where there are integrity concerns that require further investigation. There were 2312 applications in this category as at July 1.