Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image
Scroll to top

Top

Proposed New Laws to Reform 457 Visa Program

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, will introduce new laws to help prevent the exploitation of temporary skilled foreign workers and ensure the wages and conditions of Australian workers are not undercut. The Minister today released a discussion paper seeking stakeholder feedback on proposed reforms to the 457 visa regime following the $19.6 million commitment in the 2008-09 Budget to improve the processing and compliance of the temporary skilled migration program.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, will introduce new laws to help prevent the exploitation of temporary skilled foreign workers and ensure the wages and conditions of Australian workers are not undercut.

The Minister today released a discussion paper seeking stakeholder feedback on proposed reforms to the 457 visa regime following the $19.6 million commitment in the 2008-09 Budget to improve the processing and compliance of the temporary skilled migration program.

A Bill to amend the Migration Act (1958) is planned for September and it is proposed that a range of measures be introduced, including:

  • Expanded powers to monitor and investigate employer non-compliance with the 457 visa scheme
  • A framework for punitive penalties for employers found to be in breach of their obligations
  • Improved information sharing between government agencies to improve compliance
  • A redefined sponsorship obligations framework for employers of 457 visa workers and a range of other temporary work visas.

The discussion paper proposes legislation to enable specially appointed officers with investigative powers to enter and search workplaces to determine whether employers are complying with their sponsorship obligations.

The proposed powers would be similar to the powers of workplace inspectors under the Workplace Relations Act 1996.

Employers who provide false or misleading information could face penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment or a fine of up to $110 000 or both.

Administrative sanctions including the cancellation or suspension of an employers’ entitlement to sponsor 457 visa workers will remain.

The proposed legislation will enable the department to publish the names of employers found to be in breach of their obligations where non-compliances have not been remedied or for repeat offenders.

The paper proposes legislative amendments that will allow the department to share and receive information with other government agencies where that is currently not possible. This includes the Australian Taxation Office in relation to whether a visa holder is being paid the correct amount.

The discussion paper also seeks feedback on additional potential obligations that sponsors may have in relation to temporary workers from overseas.

The uncapped temporary skilled migration program will exceed 100 000 places in 2007-08 but these temporary visa holders are currently not entitled to a range of government services available to residents and citizens of Australia, such as health and welfare benefits.

The intention of the Bill is to clarify sponsor obligations and provide further fair and transparent mechanisms for temporary workers from overseas.

The additional obligations set out in the discussion paper are simply options and should not be interpreted as a complete list of obligations which would otherwise be imposed.

Stakeholder feedback from employers, industry groups and unions will be considered in drafting the Bill and associated regulations.

The release of the discussion paper forms part of the broad reforms currently being pursued by the Government in relation to the temporary skilled migration program.

Industrial Relations Commissioner Barbara Deegan is examining the temporary skilled migration program to address concerns about the exploitation of migrant workers, salary levels and English language requirements in order to improve the integrity of the scheme.

Ms Deegan is due to present her report in October.

A report by an External Reference Group of industry experts earlier this year has resulted in the establishment of dedicated 457 processing 'centres of excellence' and a commitment to clear the backlog of applications by June 30.

The Rudd Government is committed to ensuring the 457 visa scheme operates as effectively as possible in contributing to the supply of skilled labour while protecting the employment and training opportunities of Australians and the rights of overseas workers.