Australia to fast-track the immigration process for US workers


Chris Bowen, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, announced Monday that Australia was adjusting its immigration policy to make it easier for US skilled workers to immigrate Down Under temporarily.


Torsten Blackwood

Australia is changing its immigration process to attract skilled workers from the United States, BBC News reported

Australia's Skills Minister Chris Evans, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, and US ambassador Jeffrey Bleich announced a new strategy to increase the number of skilled American workers relocating to Australia on Monday, The Australian reported

The old policy required foreign trade workers to have their skills assessed upon their arrival to Australia, according to the BBC. The new plan allows Americans to complete a skills assessment in the US before coming to Australia, ABC News Australia reported

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"There are economies and countries around the world which are facing very difficult and different circumstances to ours," Bowen said, according to ABC News. "What's appropriate is that we work together with those countries to ensure that skilled workers who are looking for work have the capacity to fill some of those gaps we are facing in Australia."

According to Australia's Department of Immigration, Americans accounted for just 7 per cent of the total applications for 457 (or temporary overseas worker) visas from July 2011 to the end of February 2012, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. There are currently around 800,000 workers in Australia on 457 visas, according to the Herald. 

Bowens said that the country will host a skills expo in Houston, Texas in May, where they will attempt to sell American workers on the benefits of temporary migration to Australia, the Australian reported. 

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The need for extra workers in the engineering trades is temporary, according to Skills Minister Evans, who told the Herald that the demand for employees for mining and infrastructure projects was likely to peak over the next three to five years. The Australian government is wary of training large numbers of Australians who they say would then be left unemployed when the peak subsided. 

"This is a real win-win for both of our nations," US Ambassador Bleich said, citing the US's high unemployment rates. "No job will be taken away from Australians."

However, not all Australians are on board with the plan, BBC reported. 

"While resource states such as Western Australia have very low unemployment, workers across the rest of the country are facing increasing rates of insecure work," Ged Kearney, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). "Australian workers across the nation deserve the opportunity to benefit from the resources boom, which will provide a massive jobs boon in coming years."

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