Hospitality Workers Should Be Eligible For Mobility Visa, Says Alliance

Cooks, chefs and waiters should be eligible for a new visa designed to allow companies to hire overseas employees for highly specialised work for up to a year, an alliance of tourism and hospitality groups says.

AFR, by Joanna Mather and Edmund Tadros, 9 February 2015

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection is proposing a temporary entry visa that would not carry the language, skills and labour market testing requirements of the 457 visa.

As revealed by The Australian Financial Review in January, the proposed short-term mobility visa would be available for “specialised work which may include intra-company transfers and foreign correspondents”.

While the Immigration Department seems to have top-flight executives and technical specialists in mind, the restaurant industry body says the visa should be available for workers with lower-level skills.

Restaurant and Catering chief executive John Hart said cooks, chefs, restaurant managers, front office managers and waiters should be eligible because of chronic labour shortages in these areas, and the mobility visa should be linked to a prospect of permanent residency.

“With the promotion of Australia being linked so closely to our restaurant sector, the supply of skilled staff is absolutely vital,” he said.

“The numbers of local students is nowhere near the level required so we are reliant on overseas workers.”

Review of visas

The Immigration Department is conducting a review of the skilled migration and temporary activity visa programs.

It proposes the introduction of a short-term mobility visa to replace the 400 visa. The 400 visa program primarily allows short-term work or activities in Australia for up to three months.

A rule change by the Coalition last year extended the maximum time frame to six months, but only in exceptional circumstances.

The mobility visa would allow entry for up to 12 months, a concession welcomed the Minerals Council of Australia and the nation’s two largest migration advisory firms.

Simon De Vere , the director of migration services for Stirling Henry in Australia, said the corporate market was hungry for a visa to sit between the 400 and 457 visas.

“The companies we deal with understand that a long stay requires a 457 visa. Where they come unstuck is they need a person for nine weeks or 12 weeks or 14 weeks,” he said.

One in four highly specialised workers was allowed to stay for more than two months in 2013-14 but the average stay was only 21 days, according to an analysis of immigration department figures by the Financial Review.

Candidates should be allowed to apply onshore, Mr De Vere said.

“We’ve got a guy now working for one of the massive private equity firms and he’s going to have to go to New Zealand for five days and cool his jets there while he’s waiting for his 400 visa to be processed,” he said.

“The board of the private equity firm are not totally enthusiastic about that because they’re paying him so much to be here.”

Mixed response

The Migration Institute of Australia agrees in principal with the mobility visa, so long as there are sufficient safeguards to prevent the process being rorted. Chief operating officer Kevin Lane said regional concessions on pay and skills should be brought back to lure migrants to non-urban areas.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has told the department it does not support the visa, arguing the review has paid too little attention to the growing size of the uncapped temporary visa workforce and its impacts on the Australian job market.

But the Minerals Council said it was “particularly appealing, given it would not carry the requirement for labour market testing”.

“Minerals companies have noted that they could also fill secondments with short-term mobility visa applicants that could not have been achieved under the subclass 400 visa, including, for example, 12-month maternity leave vacancies,” the council said.

“These highly specialised short-term secondments assist with corporate knowledge transfer, talent management, succession planning and workforce development.”

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