Western Australia reduces school fees for 457 visa holders' children

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The Western Australian government has delayed the introduction of school fees for the children of international workers in the country on temporary work visas who are being educated in state schools.

In August, state treasurer Troy Buswell announced that the state would require any worker in Western Australian with a Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) visa to pay AUS$4,000 for every child that is being educated in a state funded school.

Mr Buswell said that the charge was necessary because the number of such children had risen dramatically. There were 290 such children in Western Australian schools in 2005. By 2013, this figure had risen to 8,600; a 29-fold increase. He added that the state government had a budget shortfall and that this measure would raise AUS$120m. He said that the fees would be introduced in 2014.

Fee introduction delayed until 2015

But state premier Colin Barnett has since announced on 17th September 2013 that the fees will not now be introduced until 2015. He also said that the $4,000 fee will only be paid for the first child of any one 457 worker. Each subsequent child would attract a fee of only $2,000. This will mean that the fees will now raise only half the $120m originally expected to be raised.

Mr Barnett said that this was fair because 'this means that anyone who is already living here on a 457 visa or who has already lodged a visa application to come here soon will not have to pay unexpected fees for schooling next year. We are giving plenty of notice that the fees will apply from the year after next giving people time to make the necessary arrangements to pay the fees'.

But A Western Australian chamber of commerce has warned that the fees will still discourage much needed international workers from staying in the state. Australian broadcaster ABC reports Russ Clark, The Chief Executive Officer of the Albany Chambers of Commerce and Industry as saying 'The feedback the chamber has received is that people are looking at shifting out of WA and/or returning back overseas because it [staying and paying the fees] becomes unviable for them'.

MP wants to ensure 457 workers are not priced out of the state

A National Party MP in the Western Australian parliament has called for a further reduction in the fees to make sure that workers with 457 visas are not priced out of the state. Martin Aldridge said 'I would like to go a bit further and have a look at the financial ability of a family to be able to pay the fees to make sure we don't have some families having to leave a community or having to withdraw their children from formal education'.

However, other commentators have expressed concerns that the delay in the introduction of fees and the reduction a $60m hole in the state's finances.

The 457 visa is Australia's main temporary work visa. There are over 100,000 international workers currently living and working in Australia with 457 visas.

Must be sponsored and nominated by Australian employer

To qualify for a 457 visa you have to be sponsored by an approved Australian employer. You must be nominated to fill a position which is listed on Australia's Skilled Occupation Lists.

457 visas last for up to four years. Visa holders can enter and leave Australia as often as they like while the visa is valid and are allowed to bring dependent children and partners with them.

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