12/03/2008 - 22:00

Changes sought to 457 visa program

12/03/2008 - 22:00

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Ongoing concerns with the temporary 457 visa program have prompted the Australian Mines and Metals Association to submit a report to the federal government requesting a number of changes.

Ongoing concerns with the temporary 457 visa program have prompted the Australian Mines and Metals Association to submit a report to the federal government requesting a number of changes.

The move coincides with a review into the visa scheme by an external reference group – including University of Western Australia director of energy and minerals initiative, Tim Shanahan – which is due to submit its interim report to Immigration Minister Chris Evans tomorrow.

The AMMA’s submission was based on a recent survey of its members, which found processing delays continued to be a major problem for employers.

AMMA legal consultant Geoff Bull said part of the issue was a lack of streamlining within the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, with several case officers working for a single client.

“Having one point of contact was the intention of the system, but for some reason it’s not happening,” Mr Bull said.

“Some people do have a better experience, but it may be due to a good relationship with a particular case officer.” The AMMA has previously called for a second processing stream, to provide a faster turnaround on applications by companies that consistently meet DIAC guidelines.

“Under the previous government, a fast-tracking system was intended to be established, but it never came to fruition,” Mr Bull said.

The AMMA has also suggested that a new short-term business visa be created, for projects of less than 12 months’ duration.

Last week, the government moved to increase the flexibility of the existing short-term 456 visa, announcing that working time for visa holders would be increased from 21 days to six weeks.

“That may help a little bit, but you still have to meet the criteria of specialist work,” Mr Bull said.

He said greater efficiency was also needed around labour agreement applications.

“The process is not as transparent as we’d like it to be, and because it’s such a slow process, the rules can change dramatically in between filing an application and having it approved,” he said.

Amendments to the ASCO occupation list, which contains occupations identified as being in high demand, are also needed.

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