Australia and New Zealand announce working visa restrictions

  • Moving for work
Published last year

Australia and New Zealand have long been popular destinations for graduates looking to travel abroad, who may then decide to live in the respective country. Professionals are also increasingly looking to the two nations for employment opportunities, with a growing influx of workers from South Asia. However, recent announcements that came almost back-to-back seek to restrict access to the job market for both of the aforementioned groups, continuing the general nationalistic rhetoric that has emerged from a number of countries of late.

Nisha Sawon

Editorial staff

Australia's 457 visa

The Australian government is abolishing the 457 visa in favour of a new system of a four year and two year visa for Australia that will cover a smaller range of occupations and will not result in permanent residency. It will also have greater requirements that will need to be fulfilled before being granted, such as a higher level of English.

Australia's new announcement is a blow to skilled workers looking for employment in the country, especially to Indian and UK nationals, who are by far the biggest beneficiaries when it comes to the 457 visa. Most of the 457 visas in 2015 to 2016 went to those in culinary or hospitality sector, or engineers.

The government and the visa's critics argue that it has prevented Australians from getting jobs that were being effectively outsourced using the 457 visa. However, government statistics showed that individuals on the primary form of the visa formed less than 1% of Australia's workforce.

The changes are to be implemented immediately, sparking concern from those who are in the midst of applying or were due to hear back from jobs that are no longer eligible for a visa.

New Zealand's skilled worker visa

New Zealand's government has adopted a similar tone to the Australian government in its announcement, that came a day later, highlighting its commitment to jobs for 'Kiwis first' and foremost. This comes despite the fact that New Zealand's economy has undoubtedly been buoyed by its recent migration boom, though the increase in the country's population has placed the country's infrastructure under increased pressure, with critics also pointing to ever-rising house prices.

In a similar fashion to Australia, New Zealand has seen a steady increase in the number of foreign workers and students from Asia countries, who view the country as a viable alternative to popular European or North American destinations, as well as from other English-speaking countries such as the UK and South Africa.

The changes to the visa involved include an increase in the minimum income threshold required for skilled workers and highly-skilled workers. As a consequence, more people would be considered 'low-skilled workers', who have now had their visas cut to three years followed by an obligatory 'stand-down' period. There will also be a drive to ensure that visas issued for seasonal jobs would be adjusted in their length to correspond with labour demand, as opposed to the current 12 months.