After two decades and tens of thousands of visas, the 457 visa category has been abolished. But what was it and why does this matter?
The program was introduced by the Howard government in 1996.
The four-year visa allowed foreign workers to fill jobs here in more than 650 occupations, including sectors that have experienced oversupply of labour.
Visa holders could also bring family members to Australia on a 457 secondary visa.
What is changing?
The Government is axing the 457 visa class and replacing it with two new visas.
This includes a two-year visa — which can be renewed for another two years — and a four-year visa targeted at specific high-level skills.
Both visas demand at least two years of relevant work experience, something not required under the 457 scheme, while the longer visa calls for higher standards of English proficiency.
Applicants must also complete a criminal history check instead of the self-declaration under the now-abolished scheme.
There are also changes to the permanent residency arrangements under the new scheme — previously, 457 visa holders could be eligible for permanent residency after two years.
There is no residency pathway under the new two-year visa, while four-year visa holders will see the permanent residence eligibility period extended from two to three years.
The Government will also reduce the age limit for temporary work visas from 50 to 45.
Who will be affected?
More than 200 jobs have been cut from the list of occupations that foreign workers can apply for under the new scheme.
The list, which previously included more than 650 types of work, will no longer include roles such as call centre managers, shearers or actors.
The changes are not expected to affect current visa holders.
Australian companies will also be affected — the Government wants to train more local workers, a move set to be funded from an increased fee charged when employers bring in temporary skilled foreign workers.
The application fee for the two-year visa would be $1,150 and $2,400 for the four-year visa, although details of extra payments by businesses remain unclear.
Why is all this happening?
The Government has been talking about reviewing the 457 visa scheme for several months, indicating a crackdown back in September, while the Opposition had also been calling for restrictions on the scheme.
But we hadn’t seen much real action — at least not publicly — until Tuesday.
Labor says Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has rushed the decision to “save his job”, while the Greens have accused the Coalition of trying to win over One Nation voters
Both One Nation leader Senator Pauline Hanson and Liberal-turned-crossbencher Senator Cory Bernardi have claimed credit for the changes, but Mr Turnbull said it was a “decision of the Government”.
That Government includes rebel backbencher George Christensen, who last year argued for action on the 457 visa scheme.
Mr Christensen has repeatedly threatened the Coalition with leaving the party, a move that would see the Coalition lose its majority in the Lower House.
But Mr Turnbull denied the policy was a result of pressure from conservatives within the party, telling Sydney radio station 2GB that “it’s not about politics, it’s about policy”.
The decision by the Turnbull Government also coincides with moves by US President Donald Trump to crack down on foreign workers, having previously called for the American scheme to be abolished.