12/11/2008 - 22:00

Red tape rankles 457 employers

12/11/2008 - 22:00

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BARELY known in Western Australia five years ago, the '457 temporary long-stay business visa' became part of the everyday language for WA businesses, as sourcing overseas workers became crucial for local operators' growth and survival.

Red tape rankles 457 employers

BARELY known in Western Australia five years ago, the '457 temporary long-stay business visa' became part of the everyday language for WA businesses, as sourcing overseas workers became crucial for local operators' growth and survival.

But the compliance attached to its use, and amendments that have imposed greater restrictions on employers, have made the 457 visa scheme a complex and onerous process for many employers to go through.

It may have helped to ease skills shortages in Australia, but extensive processing times and increasing compliance requirements on employers have limited its effectiveness, a recent WA Business News forum was told.

"It's like you're swimming to Rottnest Island with about five or six kilos attached to your waist. You do move forward, but if you didn't have five or six kilos weight how [much further ahead] could you be," TR7 director Shane Anderson said.

According to UltimateSkills Global chief executive officer George Gelavis, business is still a long way from where it could be regarding the 457 visa system.

"Had we had a flexible program in place that could have brought these people in...that's affected us, we'd be in a more robust position to ride out this turmoil," Mr Gelavis told the forum.

It is expected the current Deegan Review will introduce further changes to the 457 visa program, in addition to the range of amendments and additional compliance requirements made during the past two years.

Last month, the Migration Legislation Amendment (Worker Protection) Bill 2008 was introduced.

The bill, if adopted, will include an expansion of the powers held by immigration compliance officers to: conduct workplace site visits, similar to those of the Howard government's workplace inspectors; impose fines of up to $33,000 for employers found in breach of their obligations; and provide for greater information exchange between government departments to disclose tax information about employer sponsors.

In addition, the bill allows for an expansion of employer sponsorship obligations, through regulations to be introduced after consultation with stakeholders over the next few months.

The Migration Amendment (Sponsorship Obligations) Bill 2007, which came into effect last year, outlined a range of civil penalties for businesses and individuals in breach of sponsorship requirements.

These include paying the minimum salary and keeping accurate records, as well as covering the costs of employees' travel and recruitment, medical care, employment registration and migration agent fees.

The Minimum Salary Levels for temporary skilled overseas workers was increased by 3.8 per cent from August 1 2008.

The change increased the standard MSL from $41,850 to $43,440 per annum.

As of July 1 2007, workers on a 457 visa must undertake the International English Language Testing System test, and attain a score of 4.5 before their visa application is approved. The legislation is retrospective and applies to all 457 visa holders currently in Australia

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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