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© Neena Bhandari, Business Standard, India 

Australia is looking at attracting overseas skilled workers to fill the looming skill shortages, especially in the mining and technology sectors. Beginning Monday (November 7), applications for 457 work visas will be fast-tracked and the employer sponsorship approval period will be increased from the current three to six years.

The 457 work visa programme, which till now allows foreign workers to stay and work in Australia for up to four years, has been crucial in meeting skill gaps.

“These changes to the work visa programme will particularly benefit large Indian corporations operating in Australia in the areas of IT, mining and ports. It will help them bring niche skill sets to Australia for their current and new projects. This will accelerate filling of skill gap that currently exists”, AIBC President (Canberra Chapter), Deepak Raj Gupta, told Business Standard.

Under the changes, businesses will need to meet benchmarks to qualify for the accredited status, including ensuring at least three quarters of their domestic workforce is Australian; and they have been an active 457 visa sponsor for the past three years, with at least 30 overseas workers on 457 visas over the past 12 months.

“This will continue to ensure that the 457 programme is responsive to the economic cycle and provides a flexible avenue for employers to fill immediate and short-term skill vacancies, while maintaining opportunities and conditions for Australian workers,” Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, said last week in a key note address to the Australia India Business Council, Canberra Chapter.

The number of applications from companies for 457 visas has spiked in recent years. Australia awarded 113,725 skilled migration visas in 2010-11, up from 107,868 in 2009-10. Indian skilled workers are now Australia’s second-largest cohort under the 457 work visa programme.

“Over 60 per cent of our employees are on 457 work visa. It is difficult to get skilled IT workers in Australia. If priority processing can be brought down to two weeks, it will be very helpful. The mandatory figure of 75 per cent of the workforce being Australian should also be reduced,” Raj Kurup, Director Business Development (Australia South), Zensar Technologies Ltd, told Business Standard.

India is now consistently one of the top three source countries for permanent and temporary migration of skilled workers. Over the last two decades, 223,000 Indian nationals have arrived as permanent migrants to Australia, with over three-quarters of those in the skilled stream of the programme.“It is a very positive indicator of our growing economic relationship that India has become such a substantial part of our skilled migration programme”, said Bowen, who added the aim was to see the 457 visas processed within 10 days. At present, it takes an average of 22 days to process a 457 visa.

© Copyright Neena Bhandari. All rights reserved. Republication, copying or using information from any www.india-voice.comcontent is expressly prohibited without the permission of the writer and the news agency through which the article is syndicated.

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