Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced that he will be abolish the country’s popular temporary work visa system and increase the standards of its citizenship test with immediate effect, in an effort to promote “Australia first” values.
“We’re defined by commitment to common values, political values, the rule of law, democracy, freedom, mutual respect, equality for men and women,” Turnbull said in a televised press conference on Thursday.
“These fundamental values are what make us Australian. Our citizenship process should reflect that.”
The new requirements to gain citizenship into the country will now require candidates to be permanent residents for at least four years (as opposed to the previous one-year requirement). In addition applicants must be competent English speakers, must show a job record and prove they have integrated into the local community.
The increase in standards of citizenship follow an announcement by Turnbull on Tuesday that he would also be abolishing the country’s popular temporary 457 work visa programme in an effort to focus on creating jobs for Australians first.
The 457 visa, now used by about 95,000 foreign workers, will be replaced by a new temporary visa and the list of occupations that qualify for a visa will be reduced from more than 200, according to Reuters.
Island neighbours, New Zealand, announced that it would be following Australia’s suit by drastically tightening access to its skilled work visas.
These changes which would now require a minimum income requirement and limitations on seasonal workers would be implemented at a yet undecided date later in 2017, said Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse.
“These changes are designed to strike the right balance… and encourage employers to take on more Kiwis and invest in the training to upskill them,” said Woodhouse.
Effect on South Africa
According to StatsSA’s Community Survey 2016, over a quarter (26%) of all South Africans emigrating from the country left to Australia. In comparison 25% left for the UK, 13.4% left for the United States and 9.5% left for New Zealand.
In addition because of the drastic time-frame in which the changes were implemented, a number of South African citizens currently in the process of applying for a visa or citizenship have reportedly been left in the lurch, having already spent thousands of rands on applications and the emigration process.