Australia: Experts to advise government on 457 visas

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A panel of experts will advise the Australian government on how to improve its temporary 457 visa scheme, according to Immigration Minister Chris Evans.

The panel will include various Australian state government officials as well as industry groups and union representatives.

Australia's temporary 457 visa -- similar to the United States H-1B visa -- allows Australian employers to hire workers from abroad. Controversy has surrounded the program related to allegations of employer-exploitation of workers.

In addition to providing advice pertaining to possible skilled migration policy changes, the panel will advise the government on an ongoing "integrity" review of the 457 visa program and provide feedback on reform proposals.

The panel will also examine how the temporary 457 visa program "can best integrate with the employer and state-sponsored permanent skilled migration program," according to a press release by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

Employer and state-sponsored permanent migration makes up a small part of Australia's immigration program, something Minister Evans would like to see changed. Currently, more than 50 percent of skilled immigrants come to Australia under its independent visa categories, which do not require sponsorship or a previous job offer.