With the imminent abolition of the 457 visa and the introduction of the Temporary Skilled Shortage (TSS) visa, it seems that the Australian immigration program is moving closer to something that resembles a guest worker program, where foreign workers come to Australia for many years and yet never reach a position where they may be eligible for a permanent visa.
Let’s look at an example. Emma is from London and at 18 years old, leaves school and works for a few years as a waitress, saving money to fund a working holiday to Australia. At 20 years old, she arrives in Australia and works for three months picking strawberries on a farm. This secures her a second year on her working holiday visa.
Emma spends the remainder of her time on the working holiday visa, cleaning rooms at hotels or in offices. The cleaning industry in particular is one that relies heavily on people like Emma. Realising that she does not want to clean rooms for the rest of her life, at 22 years old, Emma enrols in a Bachelor of Fashion Design at a University in Australia and is granted a 3 year student visa. She can work for 40 hours a fortnight while holding this visa so she continues her work cleaning offices after hours.
On completion of the degree, Emma applies for and is granted a 2 year graduate visa that allows full time work and she is lucky to secure work with a fashioner designer. Now 27 years old and with 2 years work experience, Emma can apply for a 2 year TSS visa and then another 2 year TSS visa after that.
In the end Emma is 31 years old and has lived as a temporary resident in Australia for 11 years. However she has no prospects of staying in Australia any longer unless she returns to being a student (or maybe meets a nice Australian partner). The alternative is returning to the UK and trying to start a career in a country that probably now feels very alien and where her industry knowledge and experience are unknown quantities. Australia will also lose a hard worker who has paid for their own education and contributed to the Australian economy.
I know some people will be fine with this and will say that we don’t want Emma to be allowed to stay – that is until Emma is your relative or best friend, and then it will be unfair. I have found that Australians tend to be fine with immigration policies until it affects them directly.
I think that a guest worker program that allows someone to stay for many years with no prospect of ever remaining permanently is damaging to us as a nation. It makes a whole group of people transitory and Australia will be the loser when we are happy to let young talented hard working people leave simply because their occupation is not the very small list of occupations that allow permanent residence.