Australia scraps visa for skilled foreign workers

Employers have given the thumbs up to the Turnbull government's decision to scrap the 457 visa program for temporary foreign workers and replace it with a tighter regime.

Australia announced stricter work visa rules Tuesday, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying the change will prioritize Australian workers.

Still, some immigration experts say the new visa requirements will have little overall impact on immigration levels in Australia.

The changes are not expected to affect current visa holders.

The 457 visa which is mostly used program to sponsor skilled overseas workers to work in Australia for a period up to four years.

"We're bringing the 457 visa class to an end", Turnbull said at the press conference.

Turnbull used Facebook to announce the policy, which he said would "put jobs first" and "Australians first".

But PM Malcolm Turnbull said it will be abolished to prioritise the recruitment of Australian nationals.

A parliamentary enquiry previous year also found the current visa system left foreign workers open to exploitation.

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. As with the 457 programme, the H-1B is technically a non-immigrant visa meant for temporary employment of foreign workers with specialised skills.

It will be replaced with a two to four-year Temporary Skill Shortage initiative and won't impact those now in Australia on the working visa.

As the economy has tightened - particularly in Western Australia where the mining industry has contracted considerably - the programme has come under fire, especially from unions which claim it is prioritising foreign workers for jobs over Australians.

For the two-year stream, Turnbull said a broad list of occupations would be eligible but there would be a "substantial reduction", removing more than 200 jobs from the list. "They will continue under the conditions of that visa", Dutton said.

Companies such as Thomas Foods International and Costa Adelaide Mushrooms have defended their dependence on foreign workers in the face of criticism from some local residents, including at a forum in Murray Bridge during the last federal election campaign.

The two new visa schemes will have stringent measures and require foreigners to have better work skills as well as English language proficiency, he said.

Related news: