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The Australian government has simplified its visa application process while introducing a new scheme for highly skilled workers.
The announcement will be welcome news for the millions of tourists, business visitors and foreign workers who often complain about the large number of different visa sub-classes they need to navigate.
A new short-stay visa has been introduced for workers heading to Australia to perform highly specialised work. It will also cover athletes, entertainers and other highly skilled individuals who have been invited Down Under to take part in events.
However, the new visa doesn’t affect the existing 457 programme for temporary skilled workers, which has been the bedrock of expanding Australia’s workforce in recent years.
The 457 visas have recently come under fire from labour unions worried that too many skilled workers are flooding into the country at the expense of long-term training programmes for Australian citizens.
A new streamlined medical treatment visa that provides for a stay of up to 12 months has also been launched. Along with the new visas, the government has rationalised the existing visa application process to help attract global talent.
Australia’s immigration department has vowed to cut its large number of visa sub-classes in half by 2015.
Brendan O’Connor, minister for immigration and citizenship, said: “The Gillard government is determined to cut red tape and make it easier for visitors to understand which visa they need for a short stay visit or work visa.”
He added that there will be no change to current visa eligibility for tourism, business visitor activities, sponsored family visits and medical treatment.
Australia is determined to put itself on an equal footing with rival G7 economies in the fight to attract highly skilled labour.
Economic powerhouses including Germany and the US have also been tweaking immigration policies to help replenish their ageing workforces.
Technology workers are currently in demand across the globe. Next month, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services will open applications for its H-1B visa, popular among technology companies to attract IT workers.
And Germany has recently streamlined its visa application process to help recruit foreign workers. Its “Make it in Germany” campaign was commended by an OECD report along with its immigrant-friendly policies.
The report said: “Processing times are fast in international comparison; the procedure is inexpensive; and refusal rates are low.”