Government revises English language testing
The federal government has vowed to reduce regulation while strengthening the integrity of Australia’s 457 skilled visa program, after it released its response to a review into allegations of rorts and abuse in the system. The Government has adopted most of the 51 recommendations from the review.
One recommendation – to change the English language testing requirements for the 457 visa – will see the rules change for applicants who now have to average a score of five across the four components, instead of successfully passing each one.
The move has been criticised by trades unions who say the new system raises safety issues.
Australian Council of Trade Union (ACTU) secretary Dave Oliver told reporters there were concerns about the potential risks posed in some industries.
“Particularly in those hazardous industries of building and construction where it is important that you can have effective communication skills, we are deeply concerned that any watering down of that test could put these workers at risk,” Mr Oliver said.
Meanwhile, the government insists the changes are minor. Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash said that the new rules provided a base line for English language competency.
“We have also put in a floor, they will not be able to achieve anything less than 4.5 in any of the components, so it does not represent a consequential lowering of the English language requirement, it merely represents some flexibility,” Senator Cash said.
Registered migration agent Penny Dimopoulos told Neos Kosmos that while the rules have been relaxed, “applicants still need to show knowledge of English, in listening, reading, writing and speaking, in order to obtain a 457 visa”.
“English language testing remains part of the process,” she added. “Applicants need to be aware of this and realise that, unless they meet the criteria, they are not in a position to be granted a 457 visa.”
Recommendations from the review process will enable the government to crack down on 457 visa sponsors being paid for migration outcomes.
“We’re also looking at …greater transparency around the department’s sanction processes, increased information sharing among key government agencies, in particular the Australian Taxation Office,” said Assistant Minister Cash.
The review of the 457 visa program did not reveal widespread rorting as claimed by the previous government, but the minister said there would be increased scrutiny on businesses suspected of operating inappropriately.
The government did not adopt all the review’s recommendations. While it called for the abolition of labour market testing – which requires employers to test the market for suitable local employees before sponsoring an individual on a 457 visa – the government noted the recommendation but is not acting on it.
source: Neos Kosmos