Australia To Overhaul Temporary Migrant Visa Program

Australia To Overhaul Temporary Migrant Visa Program

By Rachel Pannett
Dow Jones Newswires, June 4, 2010

CANBERRA -(Dow Jones)- Australia's government unveiled plans Friday to overhaul its migrant visa program, starting by halving the range of temporary work visas it grants by 2012, in what it describes
as a bid to make the system simpler and more efficient.

Canberra also plans to halve the total number or visa subclasses from 149 currently by 2015.

'As a result, Australia's visa system will be less cumbersome and confusing for individuals and businesses to navigate,' Immigration Minister Chris Evans said in a statement.

Although primarily aimed at cutting red tape, Evans also noted the commitment of the ruling Labor government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to 'maintain strong border security and the integrity of the
visa system'.

It comes as the main conservative Liberal-National opposition continues to ramp up immigration as a potential election-year issue, threatening to revive a controversial 'Pacific solution' border control policy–where refugees attempting to enter Australia by boat without travel documents are sent to remote Pacific Island nations for processing–if elected to office in a poll likely within months.

That border control policy triggered an outcry from international human rights groups when it was introduced by the former administration of conservative Prime Minister John Howard, and was scrapped when center-left Labor was elected to office in 2007.

Under pressure in voter polls, Labor has been tightening its immigration policies in recent times, last month unveiling plans to narrow the range of professions able to apply for work visas under a skilled migrant program to 181 from 400 from July 1.

Evans last week predicted net immigration will drop by nearly 20% by the middle of next year, to around 250,000 people annually, as a result of the government reforms.

The government will take public comment on the latest proposal to trim the range of visas on offer, in a review that closes July 16.

'Australia's immigration system is an important source of skilled labor which contributes to productivity improvements and economic growth,' Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said Friday.

The review 'provides the opportunity to make Australia's visa system more client-focused, reduce administrative and compliance costs for business and improve the efficiency of the overall visa system,'
he added.


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