Government relaxes visa rules to help farmers and football clubs

Visa rule changes will allow skilled foreign workers hired for seasonal work on farms to stay in Australia for up to four years.

Sponsored sportsmen and artists will also be able to get new eight-year visas, under the changes announced by the Immigration Minister David Coleman on Monday.

The changes to the Regional Occupation List, which build on the Working Holiday Maker visa program and the Seasonal Worker Program, are designed to target workforce shortages.

“We want Australians filling Australian jobs but when this isn’t possible action is needed to ensure farmers can continue to operate,” Mr Coleman said in a statement.
John Fairley, who runs a dairy farm in Picton, south-west of Sydney, told SBS News there was an issue but said it’s most acute in regional areas.

“We can find good enough labour around here because we’re close to a big city but if you’re (far) out west it would be a challenge finding skilled labour.”
Gracia Kusuma, from New South Wales Farmers, said changes will entice more skilled overseas workers to come and work in Australia.

“Previously these roles were only in the short-term shortage list, which means that the visa was only available for two years. Yes, it’s renewable, but for somebody who needs to uproot their entire family to a foreign country, it doesn’t provide the certainty, to give them the motivation to want to move.”

But some in the industry said limitations remain, particularly in areas such as horticulture, where there is a demand for less-skilled workers.
Dr Joanna Howe, from the University of Adelaide, co-authored a three-year-study into labour shortages in the horticultural sector.

“Today’s announcement doesn’t actually do anything to help those farmers because they need pickers, packers and graders.”

The study’s findings revealed that 40 per cent of farmers have not been able to recruit enough workers at some point over the past five years.
In January, the Morrison government loosened restrictions on two schemes that bring temporary farm workers into Australia, lifting the cap on the 462 visa for working backpackers from particular countries.

Under the latest changes, migrants hired for agriculture work will get four-year working visas but must remain in a specified region and work in some type of farming.

Sponsored artists and sportspeople, including footballers and tennis coaches, are also among eight professions added to the long-term skills list.

Mr Coleman said the changes are aimed at helping Australian football clubs attract elite international talent and develop Australia’s competitiveness on the international stage.

“These changes recognise Australia’s passion for sports and the arts,” Mr Coleman said.

“Having access to highly skilled professionals helps to develop local talent and facilitate skills and knowledge transfer.”

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/government-relaxes-visa-rules-to-help-farmers-and-football-clubs?fbclid=IwAR31oxXSseNZYI_PVqJw4xmYeJnF1T7W3n27nmcEoLkpnV71KX3fg2kCf3Q

Corrupt migration agents swindling ‘desperate’ customers face crackdown

A widespread problem of corrupt migration agents  poses a “high risk” threat, and may require greater investigative powers to combat, according to the Department of Home Affairs.

Disciplinary investigations by Home Affairs found some migration agents have swindled hundreds of thousands of dollars from desperate clients, while others regularly falsify documents to obtain visas which should never have been issued.

Newly released findings from the probes show eight migration agents were suspended or barred from the profession in the final two months of last year alone, and 34 faced penalties in 2018 for inappropriate conduct.

Assistant Home Affairs Minister Linda Reynolds said she would “not tolerate this kind of behaviour by migration agents who think it is acceptable to defraud clients”.

In one of the worst of the findings, Destiny Visa migration agent Maryam Shahi was found to have required a $50,000 “bond” to obtain a visitor visa for an Iranian citizen in November 2017 despite no bond being required nor requested by Home Affairs for the application

Ms Shahi later said she had sought the bond because another migration agent in Tehran had previously helped a client obtained a visitor visa, but that family had refused to return to Iran after the trip and applied for protection, harming his “livelihood”.

In another complaint against Ms Shahi, lodged in October last year, a client known as Ms EGS was also asked for a $30,000 deposit to “guarantee the grant of the visitor visa”.

No application was ever lodged with Home Affairs, and at the time of the complaint, Ms Shahi – who has since had her license cancelled – still owed Ms EGS $9000 of the bond deposit paid.

There were at least five other occasions, according to the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority, that Ms Shahi was paid for visa services – once more than $9000 – where no application was every received by Home Affairs and despite the “desperate circumstances” of her client

https://amp.smh.com.au/politics/federal/corrupt-migration-agents-swindling-desperate-customers-face-crackdown-20190110-p50qj3.html

The coalition is putting the early squeeze on foreign workers

The 457 visa for temporary workers won’t be officially abolished until March 1, but the number granted has already fallen by more than a third – heralding a squeeze on foreign workers by the coalition.

Australian National University researcher Henry Sherrell has found the number of primary 457 visas granted in the 2017 September quarter was down by 35.7 per cent on the same period of 2016.

And the dive was not because some jobs – most famously, “goat farmer” – have been ruled ineligible. In a paper published by the Parliamentary Library, the ANU Development Policy Centre research officer reports only a fifth of the decline in 457s came from the scrapped occupations.

Eight of the top 10 occupations for primary 457 visas had significant double-digit declines. Developer programmers were down by 42 per cent to 350 in the quarter, ICT business analysts plunged 49 per cent to 238, resident medical officers dropped 18 per cent to 436 and the top 457 job, cook, was off 29 per cent to 452.

Given the near-record employment growth last year, the sharp reduction in 457s appears to have nothing to do with demand for labour, but a response by employers and would-be employees to hiring and gaining permanent residency being made more difficult and expensive.

The size of the fall and the breadth of occupations to experience it during a period of very fast employment growth should raise some interesting questions about the nature of the Australian workforce and how 457s have been used.

From March 1, the 651 occupations eligible for 457 visas will be formally replaced by 435 occupations eligible for Temporary Skilled Shortage (TSS) visa, which comes in two flavours: a two-year visa that can be extended only once and offers no pathway to permanent residency; and a four-year visa that can lead to permanent residency. There are only 183 occupations eligible for the four-year visa.

The possibility of permanent residency seems to make an immediate difference to applications. Sherrell notes that while cook 457s plunged, visas granted to chefs rose slightly. Chefs are in the pot for four-year visas, cooks are left in the two-year pan.

“The increase in chefs could reflect genuine growth in employer demand for chefs,” Sherrell writes. “However, it may also reflect employers who previously nominated cooks now nominating chefs as this is a more advantageous occupation for migrants and employers given visa conditions. If the job being performed in the business has not changed, this might be called ‘occupational inflation’, as employers upgrade their occupations to take advantage of more beneficial immigration policy settings.”

Visa requirements tighten further from March. For the shorter TSS, applicants will need at least two year’s work experience – wiping out many of the foreign students and backpackers that have been transitioning. Employers will be subject to greater scrutiny, higher visa costs and a new training levy. There are stricter English language requirements and a lower maximum age for the four-year visas.

Sherrill notes a lack of other useful data on 457s, such as salary figures and the number of applications that are rejected, and warns that isolating the effects of specific policy change is difficult amidst multiple factors, but he suggests the eligibility changes could further reduce demand for TSS visas.

Before anyone gets too excited thinking fewer overseas workers will mean higher wages, Sherrell’s isn’t the only interesting paper to consider. Slate.com reports an American study that has relevance here on why workers aren’t getting decent wage rises despite jobs growth and falling unemployment.

The study suggests it’s not so much a matter of an excess of workers holding down wages, but a shortage of employers.  The idea is that in various geographical areas and fields, hiring is concentrated among a relatively small number of businesses resulting in a monopsony problem – a lack of competition among employers.

“Monopsony is essentially monopoly’s quieter, less appreciated twin sibling,” Slate explains. “A monopolist can fix prices because it’s the only seller in the market. A monopsonist, on the other hand, can pay whatever it likes for labour or suppliers, because it’s the only company buying or hiring.”

Given the limited number of players in key Australian industries, it’s not impossible to think monopsony develops whereby it’s not in those players’ interests to compete too hard for workers, or to at least not compete on price.

Meanwhile, back at the 457s, Sherrell says there’s a lack of analysis of the changes but cites an August report by the Australian Population Research Institute’s Bob Birrell – a campaigner against present migration levels.

Birrell called the 457 changes “the first serious sign that either major political party is prepared to tackle the immigration issue”.

“Make no mistake about the significance of the rest,” he wrote. “When fully in place from March 2018, the flagship ENS (employer nomination scheme for permanent residency) program will fall to less than a third of its recent size of 48,250. The number of TSS visas will also fall sharply relative to the current number of 457 visas being granted.”

Birrell expects further reforms by the government to make their immigration policy change more obvious to the public.

The apparent contradiction here is that while fewer 457/TSS visas would mean a relatively small reduction in the number of people in the country, there’s been no sign of a change in the permanent visa quota of 190,000, plus humanitarian admissions. Family reunions – mainly spouses – get 60,000 places and skilled migrants and their families the rest.

Whether the 130,000 should come as “newbies” based on their qualifications or those given a trial run through temporary work is a matter of further debate.  The Productivity Commission has argued that temporary workers here should not be given an advantage in the selection process, but the Lowy Institute’s Peter Mares makes a casefor the two-step temporary-to-permanent pathway having significant benefits for productivity because it facilitates better matching of skills to positions.

“Before the introduction of 457 visas, skilled migrants would often be granted a permanent visa before arrival in Australia,” Mares wrote. “Visas would be issued under the points system, which was the government’s attempt to match the annual skilled migration intake to its expectation of the number and types of professionals the economy would need in the year ahead. Migrants would often land in Australia and then search for a job to match their qualifications.

“Frequently, however, they might end up taking a position in which their skills were not well utilised. (We are all familiar with the scenario of engineers driving cabs, for example.) This might have been because government assumptions about the labour market were incorrect, or because those assumptions had been overtaken by a change in business conditions.”

p.s. despite the crackdown on goat farmers and kennel handlers,  the list or eligible skilled occupations for foreigners remains somewhat curious. It includes “journalists and other writers”. Anecdotal evidence would point to no shortage.  At least “federal politicians” doesn’t feature.

Significant Investor Visa

The Australian Government has announced a new visa pathway for migrant investors coming to Australia. This visa is scheduled to commence on 24 November 2012 as a new stream within the Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) (Subclass 188) visa and the Business Innovation and Investment (Permanent) (Subclass 888) visa.