Australia, like other major powers in the western world, has seen a rise in right-wing populism such as the vitriolic anti-immigrant rhetoric from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party. The nationalistic language used around the immigration issue has a very detrimental impact. There is a faction that castigates people on 457s; the visa has been held up by some as the epitome of the biggest evil: reducing local employment opportunities for Australian workers. It is a vastly simplistic argument, of course. An unemployed mine worker in northern Queensland is not going to get a job as an IT consultant in Brisbane just because the foreign guy on a 457 visa can no longer apply. But those views are loudly articulated by those who hold them.
Over the past decade, many people have relied on the 457 visa programme which allows employer-sponsored foreign workers and their dependents to live in Australia for up to four years as a route into Australia; a pathway to permanent residency and a long future here.
By March 2018, the 457 visa will be replaced by a two or four-year Temporary Skills Shortage visa. The number of eligible occupations will be reduced from 651 to 435, with caveats on a further 59, and the threshold to qualify will be raised.
There are two types of people who are now coming to Australia. Backpackers come for a year or two to travel and work a bit along the way and return to their home country after their working holiday visas expire. They will be unaffected by these changes (unless they seek to stay on by applying for a skilled temporary visa).
This has an impact on people’s perceptions of Australia, and how welcome they feel here as immigrants. It is easy to fall into the trap of feeling that you have done something wrong for being on a visa type that everyone thinks is terrible.