Shreya Bose chose to pursue her business management degree from the University of Melbourne over universities in the UK and Singapore for a good reason. Australia seemed to provide her with not only quality education, but also employment opportunities under its lenient work visa programme – visa 457.
All that is set to change with Australian Prime Minister Mark Turnbull’s announcement on Tuesday to scrap the 457 visa that allowed foreign nationals easy employment in the country. As many as 95,000 foreign nationals work under the 457 visa – 25 percent of whom are Indians temporarily employed in the country.
Turnbull’s decision has left students like 23-year-old Bose in a fix.
Like most Indian students studying abroad, I have a student loan. I was looking to work in Australia for at least a couple of years after I complete my course. The 457 visa was my most sought-after option as it is particularly for skilled work permit. But now, I’m pretty clueless.Shreya Bose
Like Bose, Tanvi Iyer, who went to Australia as a student and was employed in a well-known multinational three years ago as a business analyst, is left with little choice. With just one more year to go for the expiry of her 457 visa, Iyer said she will start looking for opportunities in India.
It is a little discomforting that there is suddenly a ‘native-country-first’ attitude in countries that were predominantly employing Indians. In the case of Australia, it is still early. But it is best to look for opportunities in my own country. That’s better than being left hanging.Tanvi Iyer
Those like Tanvi, who already hold the 457 visa, will not be affected by the scrapping till the expiry of their visa. They will then be put under a 'restricted occupation list' category.
Rahul Shah, another Indian national working in an international consultancy firm in Australia, told The Quint, "There’s no doubt that the situation has become tougher. Students cannot be wooed with the promise of employment opportunities in the country, and those whose expiry is nearing should start looking for other options. But that said, we have to wait for the final guidelines to be released by the government. It’s a little unclear now."
Senior Australian officials, who contacted the Ministry of External Affairs in India, assured them that the impact of the changes will be negligible on Indian workers as most of them fall in high skill category. However, the government will get in touch with the Australian government to do a complete assessment of the impact.
Why Australia Doesn't Want Indian Employees: All You Need to Know
What exactly were the terms of the 457 visa?
In simple words, 457 visa allows businesses to employ foreign workers for a period of up to four years in skilled sectors where there is a shortage of Australian workers.
Why has this visa been scrapped?
The government says it is done to lower the rate of unemployment in the skilled labour sector and not because it is easier for the employer to hire a foreigner than an Australian.
However, the abolishment follows an ‘Australian First’ approach which argues that foreign workers were given visas to get jobs that “should go to Australians”.
According to an ABC report, a survey showed that over 70 percent of those who hold the 457 visa were likely to apply for permanent citizenship.
How does it affect Indians students and temporary workers in Australia?
An ABC report states that over 25 percent of 457 visas issued, were issued to Indians. This visa is not just issued to employees, but can also be applied for by students who usually convert their higher studies to employment.
The move, both directly and indirectly, affects the Indian students currently in Australia, and also prospective students.
According to UNECSO’s 2017 rankings, Australia has emerged as the second-most preferred destination for Indian students, beaten only by the US. Currently, an estimated 60,000 Indians are studying in Australia, which is roughly 11% of the country’s total student population.
While those who are on the visa will not be affected, this move will disrupt employment opportunities for Indian students. Not just this, the companies will now think twice before renewing the contract of Indian employees, once their 457 visa expires.
This is bound to affect management and research professionals as opposed to techies.
What are the terms of the new visa?
There will be a provision for a short-term visa, which will last for only two years. There is also a provision for a medium-term visa, which will be provided only in case of “irreparable skills” dearth and would last four years.
The new visa will most likely require applicants to provide previous work experience certificates and also demonstrate higher English language proficiency.
The numbers of jobs eligible for the two- and four-year visa streams will be slashed, with 216 occupations ranging from antique dealer to fisheries officer to shoemaker axed from a list of 651 professions on the list.