In a statement, the government said the Subclass 457 Visa for foreign workers would be scrapped, and replaced with a new temporary visa that will be restricted to critical skills shortages.
The aim, according to the government, is to give Australian workers first priority for local jobs, while still allowing businesses to temporarily take on skilled workers from abroad if local skills shortages would otherwise mean going without.
The new Temporary Skill Shortage Visa will include mandatory criminal checks and tighter English language requirements. It will comprise two streams – short-term and medium-term – and will be underpinned by more focused occupation lists that are responsive to genuine skill needs and regional variations across Australia.
Short-term visas will be issued for two years, while medium-term visas will be issued only for more critical skills shortages and for up to four years.
Both streams will include mandatory labour market testing with limited exemptions, a new non-discriminatory workforce test, mandatory criminal history checks, a market salary rate assessment and a new two-year work experience requirement.
The new visa will also include a strengthened training obligation for employers sponsoring foreign skilled workers to provide enhanced training outcomes for Australians in high-need industries and occupations.
Implementation of the new visa will begin immediately, with full implementation to be completed by March 2018.
Full details on the new visa and an explanation of transitionary arrangements for current 457 visa holders and applicants are available at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection's website.