After scrapping 457 visa program, Turnbull tightens citizenship norms
Even as Trump orders a review of the H1-B visa program to replace the lottery system with one that will award visas to highly skilled and most-paid workers, Malcolm Turnbull jumps onto the bandwagon by first abolishing the 457 visa program, and then tightening norms for the grant of an Australian citizenship.
On April 19, soon after the Australian PM visited India, he scrapped the popular workers' visa regime which grants a four-year work permit to around 95,000 foreign workers annually (mostly Indians).
The 457 visa program will be replaced by one that offers two kinds of visas: a short term 2-year work permit and a medium term 4-year work visa.
The Dollar Business spoke to Ms. Deepti Saxena, Director, Visas Avenue Pvt. Ltd, to gauge the impact of the changes in Australia's visa regime on Indian applicants.
Quoting current statistics, Deepti stated that around 22,000-28,000 Indians apply for the 457 visa annually. From among them, the number of approved applications range from 20,000 to 25,000. As of June 2014, the size of the Indian community living in Australia reached 397,180, including permanent citizens as well as temporary residents.
The new visa categories will bring two major changes, she said:
- Firstly, candidates with excellent English language proficiency will be preferred
- 2 year work experience will be mandatory for applicants in both categories.
"Looking at the volume of visas issued in last two years, occupations likely to suffer due to these changes are, HR Advisory, Web developers, production managers, training and development professionals, sales representatives, Market research analysts, ICT support technicians, Ship engineers, Retail buyers, Ship officers, Procurement managers, etc," she added.
In alternatives to the 457 visa program, Deepti mentioned that Indians also apply for other visa categories in Australia, i.e. Subclass 189 visa, Subclass 190 visa, Subclass 489 Visa. "Although there will be some initial impact, it will be mitigated by the new visa categories which will replace the 457 visa," she added.
"India has started taking few diplomatic steps in response to 457 visa changes. India's Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement, saying that it is "examining the consequences" of the new policy, adding that it would look at the matter "in the context" of trade negotiations," she said, shedding light on the reaction of the Indian government.
While the Indian Government scurried to allay fears and assure people of its ongoing negotiations with the Australian counterpart, the island nation came up with yet another master stroke the very next day, in raising the bar for acquiring Australian citizenship.
In its attempt to prioritise Australians and crack down on immigration, the conservative Australian administration has enforced stricter norms and conditions for Australian citizenship as well. Turnbull proposes that the one year stay currently required to apply for citizenship be extended to four years. Other conditions like English proficiency, and alignment with the country's culture and values is tested via a citizenship test, the failure in which is limited to three times.
Earlier, no such limit had existed and the test was simplistic, comprising of 20 multiple choice questions testing the applicant's knowledge of the country's parliament, political structure, and duties of citizens. Now, the test will include questions enquiring into education of their children, spouse's English-speaking ability and their work.
The test will be designed to understand the applicant's views on social issues like female genital mutilation, respect for women and children, child marriage and domestic violence.
These efforts are aimed at combating fringe elements by ensuring that immigrants conform to Australian values, respect the law, prove that they can integrate into the society and contribute to a 'better Australia'.
“Citizenship is at the heart of our national identity. It is the foundation of our democracy. We must ensure that our citizenship program is conducted in our national interest,” Turnbull said, as he unveiled the new rules.
Past affiliation to criminal gangs or record of criminal activity including family violence would also be considered in the process, negatively impacting the applicant’s prospects to clear the bar. The hint of any personal aspect being incompatible with Australian values may hamper the candidate’s chances at a permanent citizenship.