Fair Work looking into alleged rorts of 457 visa system

FAIR Work Ombudsman inspectors could be sent in to investigate claims of rorts in the 457 visa system, under new laws introduced in parliament on Thursday.

Widespread changes to the Migration Act were introduced in an effort to crackdown on the potential abuse of the temporary visa system.

While the Federal Government has so far provided little evidence of rorts, Fairfax Media reported on Thursday there could be up to 200 individual cases of rorting.

Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor said the new measures would tighten up the visa system, which has seen 20% growth, or 21,000 more granted visas in the past year.

He said there were particular concerns around the low-skilled industries, including retail and hospitality.

Sponsor firms including migration agents may have to provide solid evidence they have exhausted domestic job searches before going overseas for workers.

Other changes included an extension of the time a 457 worker can remain in Australia after their visa expired, from 28 days to 90 days, allowing the workers to apply for more permanent visas or through new sponsor firms.

The new laws also strengthen the enforcement abilities of the government and empowering 300 FWO inspectors to investigate potential breaches of sponsorship obligations.

"It's important that all employees are given the opportunity to develop new skills where possible so that companies can rely on a locally trained workforce," Mr O'Connor said.

"Currently fines of more than $50,000 apply to employers breaching visa conditions, but under the existing program few official sanctions are given due to the limited power to enforce or monitor compliance."

Mr O'Connor said there would also be a 457 hotline set up for employees and concerned people to report potential breaches of the visa program.

However, the new bills attracted criticism from the Business Council of Australia, with chief executive Jennifer Westacott saying it was "mired in misinformation".

"The government is proposing a return to labour market testing, which was abandoned long ago as costly and ineffective, without any evidence to show why the current system is not working as intended to fill skills needs when local labour is not available," she said.

"The government is again treating good regulation process with disdain by exempting the labour market testing requirements from the regulation impact assessment processes it has committed to."

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