Hawthorn, Victoria Australia (PressExposure) October 27, 2006 -- Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration Andrew Robb will foreshadow the changes which include an increase in the waiting period for people wanting to become Australian citizens from the current three years to four.
The proposals follow changes last year in response to the terror threat that lifted the waiting period from two to three years with claims that the longer the waiting period that there was less chance of migrants falling with "extreme groups".
There is also talk of lifting the waiting period further to five years which would be floated during a brief period of public consultation.
The skilled migration scheme, which attracts almost 60,000 permanent and 60,000 temporary workers to Australia each year, has been heavily criticised over the past month following claims it is being exploited by unscrupulous employers.
A joint parliamentary committee has concluded that the skilled migration program needed improvement with the committee's chairman, West Australian Liberal MP Don Randall, saying that Australia's skills shortage made skilled migration essential, but the existing system was confusing and frustrating.
"The current picture is complex and a number of witnesses liken the tasks of navigating Australia's skill recognition system to trying to find their way through a maze," Mr Randall told parliament. Skills assessments should be simplified, he said.
But the committee also said all applicants for skilled visas, including those seeking 457 visas, should be able to speak vocational English at a minimum and a clear proficiency test should be established by the immigration department.
Migrants should have access to English language training in combination with work experience opportunities, while Higher Education Contribution Scheme-style loans for trades training for humanitarian program entrants should also be created, the committee said.
According to the immigration department, Australia accepted 59,507 skilled migrants in 2005/06 and 58,140 workers on temporary 457 visas in the same year to the end of April.
Source: AAP September 18, 2006