Is abolishing the 457 visa putting Australian jobs first now, but putting Australia’s tech future last?

By Nyomi Gunasekera

As the dust clears after the Australian Government’s shock announcement to abolish the Temporary Work (Skilled) 457 visa scheme and replace it with a new Temporary Skill Shortage visa scheme – a move touted by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to be “in the national interest to put Australians and Australian jobs first” – there has been much talk about what effect this might have across the industries which rely on overseas talent the most.

With Australia looking to position itself as a FinTech hub, the changes could impact our ability to attract top talent and may make it less viable for startups to base their operations here.

While the 457 scheme itself is set to be scrapped in March 2018, changes are already at play – most notably as of 19 April 2017, 216 occupations were removed from the eligible skilled occupations list for temporary skilled migration – many within the IT field including Web Developer, ICT Support and Test Engineers NEC (‘Not Elsewhere Classified’) and ICT Support Technicians NEC.

Pending applications in these categories will be rejected.  However, existing 457 visa holders will not be impacted by the changes.

Most 457s are granted for jobs requiring advanced skill and extensive experience, set by a national standard. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection statistics show that a large chunk of the 457s granted since 2014 have been in the Information Media and Telecommunications sector, and predominately in skill level 1 positions.

The question remains – will Australia have the local talent to plug this gap, or will roadblocks in the tech industry’s ability to bring in foreign skill and expertise before more Australians are adequately trained in IT harm the industry and the future of tech jobs in Australia?

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