It seems the Federal Government has heard the local IT industry loud and clear over its plans to scrap the 457 visa program, amending the list of approved occupations for its new visa jobs list to include a greater showing for the tech sector.
The government revealed on 30 June that it had updated the occupations list for a range of temporary and permanent skilled visas, with the new lists effective from 1 July.
The move came just over two months after Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull flagged plans to abolish the country’s subclass 457 visa program, the provisions of which are leaned on heavily by the local IT industry to recruit skilled workers from overseas.
“We are an immigration nation, but the fact remains, Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs, so we’re abolishing the 457 visas, the visas that bring temporary foreign workers into our country,” Turnbull said in a Facebook video message on 18 April.
The new visa program replacing the 457 visa was aimed, in part, at removing or reducing the pathways to permanent residency offered by the current program.
Of the two new temporary visa categories brought in to replace the 457 category, the first is a short-term visa, allowing for a period of up to two years, and covering a smaller number of occupations than the previous 457 regime.
The second, medium-term replacement visa option is set to last for a period of up to four years, and will require tightened English language requirements, and will be issued only for more critical skills shortages.
From 19 April, the occupation lists that underpin the 457 visa provisions were set to be condensed from 651 to 435 occupations, with 216 occupations removed, and access to 59 other occupations restricted. At the same time, existing 457 visas that had already been issued would be grandfathered.
Unsurprisingly, the move met with some resistance from the local tech sector, along with a number of other sectors that have historically relied on the 457 visa class to fill roles that would otherwise be difficult to source locally.
Australia’s Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Arthur Sinodinos, later conceded that there had been debate in the local tech community around some of the measures, and that he intended to engage in a dialogue with industry representatives on the matter.
Now, the feedback is in, and the Government has made a number of last-minute adjustments to the list of jobs set to be associated with the two new visa categories replacing the 457 visa provisions.
"The Government recognises the importance of enabling Australian businesses to tap into global talent to remain internationally competitive and support a strong national science and innovation agenda," Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, said in a statement released on 30 June.
"The occupation lists are designed to be dynamic. Revisions to the occupation lists are just one element of the Government's reforms strengthening the integrity of Australia's employer sponsored skilled migration programmes and raising the productivity of skilled migrants,” he said.
Under the new, updated lists, the four-year maximum period visa category (Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List) now includes jobs such as chief information officer, computer network and systems engineer, ICT business analyst, ICT security specialist, software and applications programmers and software engineer.
It also includes radio communications technician, telecommunications engineer, telecommunications field engineer, telecommunications network engineer, telecommunications technical officer or technologist
Meanwhile, the two-year Short-term Skilled Occupation List includes ICT account manager, ICT business development manager, ICT customer support officer, ICT managers, ICT project manager, ICT quality assurance engineer and ICT sales representative.
It also includes ICT support engineer, ICT support and test engineers, ICT support technicians, ICT systems test engineer, ICT trainer, network administrator, network analyst, software tester and telecommunications linesworker, among others,
The Government said that changes are largely a result of advice from governmental departments and extensive consultation with industry.
“The amended occupation lists ensure that the entry of skilled foreign workers to Australia remains carefully calibrated to Australia’s needs,” the Government said.