Modi speaks of visa concerns with Aussie PM over phone

Australian citizens to be preferred for jobs, India unlikely to get concessions

The Dollar Business Bureau 

In a telephonic conversation with Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday, PM Narendra Modi expressed concerns regarding the abolishment of Visa 457, a work visa program widely used by Indians working in Australia. 

As both leaders discussed the impact of a tighter visa regime on Indian applicants, it was agreed that they would 'remain in close touch over the issue'. Since no possibility of a rollback has surfaced in the negotiations yet, India will, in all probability, have to adapt to the new two-pronged visa program – one that will increase importance of fluency in English and raise the bar on skills required. 

The opposition party, in the Australian Parliament, is reported to have supported the move. Giving preference to native citizens in awarding jobs, the administration believes, is most natural for any state to do. Calling it a 'logical proposition', a member of the opposition stated that foreign workers who bring skills that Australia experiences a shortage in will still be welcomed under the new regime. 

"We are an immigration nation, but the fact remains: Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs, so we are abolishing the 457 visa," Turnbull had said about three weeks ago, when he first announced his decision to scrap the visa program that allowed Australian businesses to hire foreign workers for a period of four years. 

The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, an India-Australia FTA proposed in May 2011, is stuck in multiple rounds of negotiations, without much conclusive progress. Nine rounds of negotiation have been held so far, the last one having been conducted in September 2015. 

India's push for liberalised cross-country flow of skilled labour seems to have met another roadblock with this recent development, further delaying constructive headway in negotiations. 

The Dollar Business Bureau - May 03, 2017 12:00 IST