WorldAustralia / Oceania


The US And Australia Are Approaching Foreign Workers In Similar Ways

Leaders in both countries have said visas for foreign workers take jobs away from locals.
Posted at 12:41 PM, Apr 20, 2017

When it comes to foreign workers, Australia and the U.S. are calling for similar action.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced Tuesday his government is abolishing the "457" skilled-worker visa program and replacing it with two visas that are more temporary

Turnbull criticized 457 visas as "passports" for foreigners through jobs that could have gone to Australians instead. 

That might sound familiar. As a part of his "Hire American" agenda, U.S. President Donald Trump has criticized his country's equivalent — the H-1B visa program. 

H-1B visa holders are highly skilled workers who are allowed to live in the U.S. for up to three years. Many H-1B visa holders eventually get green cards.

Companies in both countries are trying to push back, arguing the visa systems are doing what they were intended to –– let companies hire skilled foreign workers when there aren't enough in the domestic ranks. 

Some of the biggest critics of visa reform are from both countries' tech industries. The majority of H-1B visas go to Indians working in tech fields.  

And Australia's tech sector has argued there's no way it will be able to compete with America's if it's not allowed to fill its ranks with foreign workers. 

But for all the heat from the tech industries, they actually aren't being targeted too much — at least for now.

Trump's recently signed executive order on the H-1B program just calls for reviews, not revisions.

And Turnbull's immediate action cuts over 200 occupations from being eligible for visas, but many are in non-tech fields –– like artistic directors, detectives and antiques dealers.

Those only account for roughly 9 percent of 457 visas given out in the last half of 2016.  

Some have argued Turnbull's immigration rhetoric is partly to gain support for his political party, which is losing in opinion polls to Australia's Labor party. 

Turnbull also announced several changes to the country's citizenship requirements, including longer residency times, tougher English language tests, and a citizen test focused on "Australian values."