Australian immigration minister exempts highly skilled workers from LMT

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Australia's Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator Michaelia Cash, has announced that employers recruiting for 'highly skilled occupations' will be exempted from the Labour Market Testing requirement and so will not need to advertise jobs in Australia before offering them to temporary foreign workers. This appears to be a policy U-turn on a commitment to scrap the Labour Market Testing (LMT) requirement altogether.

In June 2013, Australia's previous Labor government passed legislation which required Australian employers to advertise jobs in Australia under LMT before employing foreign workers under the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457). The new law requiring LMT is due to come into force on 23rd November 2013.

In June, when the Australian parliament debated the legislation, the opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, opposed the introduction of LMT saying that it would be costly and unnecessary. Mr Morrison is now the Immigration minister for the new Coalition government. He has faced repeated calls from Australian business organisations to repeal the LMT legislation.

Warning for employers not to abuse the system

Mr Morrison gave his first speech on the subject since the election in October. In it, he told employers that he would not tolerate any abuse of the system. In a speech he said 'If you abuse [the system] then you can expect me in my first responsibility for law enforcement in immigration to be as tough on that as people-smugglers find that I will be tough on our borders'. In an interview with ABC Television he refused to say that he would repeal the provision requiring Labour Market Testing.

Employers organisations such as AMMA, the Australian Mines and Minerals Association and Master Builders Australia have called for the Labour Market Testing requirement to be scrapped.

But research by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union shows that applications for 457 visas have dropped by 13% since the news that LMT was to be introduced was announced. Between May and August 2013, there were 23,450 requests for 457 visas, down 3,500 on the same period in 2012.

Government intends to 'appease big business backers'

The Union's national construction division secretary Dave Noonan said that this showed that unwarranted applications had been made before the LMT requirement had been introduced. He accused the Coalition of intending to 'appease its big business backers' by removing the LT tests.

Now Ms Cash's statement suggests that the LMT requirement will stay for most 457 visas. Ms Cash issued a statement on 15th November 2013 confirming the exemption. It said that the government was adopting 'a sensible approach by exempting highly skilled occupations from the requirement.

Ms Cash said 'the government fully supports the principle that Australian workers have priority, but to bind employers up in needless red tape will only stymie Australian business and cost Australian jobs over the long run. That is why in implementing Labor's labour market testing policy the government has adopted a sensible approach by exempting highly skilled occupations from the requirement.'

457 visa lasts for up to four years

The 457 visa allows skilled workers to work in Australia for up to four years. In order to qualify, an applicant must be sponsored by an Australian employer which has been approved by the government. The employer must then nominate the candidate for the position. The candidate then applies to Australian immigration for a 457 visa.

Applicants can bring their partners and dependent children with them while in Australia and can enter and leave the country as often as they wish.

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