Increase in Australian 457 visas to employ overseas IT workers

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In the past year there has been a 50 percent increase in demand by employers to sponsor and hire more skilled overseas IT workers on temporary 457 visas, according to the recent annual report released by Australia's Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

Subclass 457 visas are temporary visas that allow foreign workers to stay and work in the country for up to four years.

The report stated the number of Australian 457 visas granted for skilled workers in the IT sector had increased, with 5,430 visas issued in the past year. In total, the last financial year has seen Australia issue 90,120 temporary 457 visas, including those issued to dependants. This compares to the 113,725 visas issued under the government's priority program for permanent skilled migration.

"Emerging skills shortages, posing a risk to business growth in some parts of the Australian economy, have increased demand, resulting in the strongest year on record for the subclass 457 visa program," the report said.

Many IT businesses experienced a major increase in the number of employees on 457 visas last year; There was a 117.6 percent increase in the number of visas granted to IT business analysts and a 38.6 percent increase in software engineers. Also, industries such as construction, saw an increase of 78 percent since last financial year.

Demand for employer-sponsored permanent jobs dropped in the same period, with applications down more than 10 percent. It is interesting to note that permanent employer-sponsored jobs pay much less, offering about $20,000 less than the average base salary of $86,800 for a temporary 457 visa holder. The report also noted Australia's difficulties with the permanent skilled migration scheme, which is constrained by visa caps, longer lead times and greater red tape.

In addition to this rise, Australian immigration officials released a statement today presenting their campaign in South Australia's Barossa Valley to explain the benefits of hiring and sponsoring foreign skilled workers to make up for shortages in the wine-growing region.

"Some businesses in regional communities can find it difficult to source local skilled workers and may want to consider sponsoring suitably qualified workers from overseas," a DIAC spokesperson said in the statement.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has scheduled a meeting in Barossa Valley on November 3 to provide businesses and overseas workers with information on employer-sponsored visa options.