Melbourne: Australia will abolish a popular work visa used by over 95,000 foreign workers, majority of them Indians, to tackle the growing unemployment in the country and replace it with a new programme requiring higher English-language proficiency and job skills.
The programme known as 457 visa allows businesses to employ foreign workers for a period up to four years in skilled jobs where there is a shortage of Australian workers.
"We are an immigration nation, but the fact remains: Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs, so we are abolishing the 457 visa, the visa that brings temporary foreign workers into our country," said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The majority of the visa holders under this category were from India, accounting almost a quarter of the intake, followed by the UK and China at 19.5 per cent and 5. 8 per cent respectively, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported.
"We will no longer allow 457 visa to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians," he said.
He said Australia will adopt a new 'Australians first' approach to skilled migration.
As at September 30 last year there were 95,757 workers in Australia on primary 457 visas and 76,430 secondary visa holders (members of their family), the report said.
The programme will be replaced by another visa programme, with new restrictions.
"It is important businesses still get access to the skills they need to grow and invest, so the 457 visa will be replaced by a new temporary visa, specifically designed to recruit the best and brightest in the national interest," Turnbull said.
Turnbull said the new programme will ensure that foreign workers are brought into Australia in order to fill critical skill gaps and not brought in because an employer finds it easier to recruit a foreign worker than go to the trouble of hiring an Australian.
The new visa will include mandatory criminal checks and tighter English language requirements.
The new 'Temporary Skill Shortage Visa' programme will comprise two streams – Short Term and Medium Term – and will be underpinned by more focused occupation lists that are responsive to genuine skill needs and regional variations across Australia.
Short term visas will be issued for two years, while medium term visas will be issued only for more critical skills shortages and for up to four years.
Both streams will include mandatory labour market testing with limited exemptions, a new non-discriminatory workforce test; mandatory criminal history checks, a market salary rate assessment and a new two-year work experience requirement.
Additionally there will be tightened English language requirements for the Medium Term Stream.