Australian Immigration looks for skilled US workers to fill labour shortages

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Australian Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Bowen announced on 2 April measures that will assist in matching Australian employers with skilled workers in the US to fill skill shortages in key sectors. The new measures will allow for much faster processing of skills assessments. Their hope is to lure more American plumbers, electricians and construction workers to immigrate to Australia.

"With the demand for skilled construction workers likely to peak over the next three to five years as a number of resource projects are due to commence, both governments recognise the potential to match that demand with the potential supply of workers in the US," an Australian Immigration department statement said.

The new measures would also allow workers from the US in licensed occupations, such as electricians and plumbers, to be allowed immediate access to provisional Australian licences on arrival. The faster skills assessment process will enable Australian employers to quickly make sure that US workers meet their requirements.

Currently, skilled workers from the US need to be assessed in Australia which can mean waiting months between entry and starting work. Under the new skills assessment process, expected to be implemented this month, US workers will be assessed against Australian regulatory requirements prior to entering Australia, giving applicants certainty that they can work in their trade when they arrive.

"Such assessments are available in other countries and it is only logical that we extend them to the US given their potential supply of workers and the interest of Australian employers," said the department statement.

Minister Bowen also added that the Australian Government would also be hosting its overseas program of Skills Australia Needs in the US for the first time in order to attract skilled workers in the resources and energy sectors. The expo will be held on 19 and 20 May 2012 in Houston, Texas.

"This initiative will provide information on skilled visa options to Americans with suitable qualifications, skills and experience and help them to work in Australia under a temporary employer-sponsored visa," Bowen said. "They will be able to meet with Australian employers and state and territory governments to discuss possible sponsorship and employment opportunities in Australia."

Bowen expects that by 2015 the civil engineering work force, which includes occupations such as electricians, will need to increase to 75,000 compared with the current work force of 35,000.

Individuals interested in immigrating to work in Australia may be eligible to apply under the popular Subclass 457 visa. In order to apply for Australia's 457 work visa individuals must:
be sponsored by an eligible employer.
  • have skills, qualifications, and experience which match the requirements of the position.
  • demonstrate English language proficiency.
  • If relevant meet the licensing requirements for the particular occupation.
Government figures show that the number of 457 visa holders in Australia increased by 11 percent last year to 128,600. The US provided the fifth largest number of these temporary workers, with 6.2 percent of the total during 2011, after the UK, India, the Philippines and Ireland.

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