By: Valerie Johnston

Last week, Australia’s government unveiled an overhaul to the way the country will assess and accept foreign immigrants. Previously considered one of the most immigrant-friendly countries in the world, the new measures could mean that Australia is no longer a prospective home for many skilled workers around the world. The primary reason for this change according to the Turnbull government is a need to put Australian citizens first.

The way that Australia currently accepts immigrants is through a visa program called 457, which was intended to fill the labour market with skilled workers in over 650 different job sectors. Now, only 435 different jobs will be eligible for hiring immigrants, and the cost of applying for a visa will rise dramatically. In addition, the allotted time for an immigrant to work on this visa is being reduced, to either a two-year or a four-year stay.

There are other requirements being put into place as well. The government revealed a stricter interview process, wherein immigrants will now have to prove they have better fluency in English, many more years of experience in their area, and the ability to pass stricter market tests.

As for what will be done about the new gaps in the labour market? Turnbull also announced new training programs to allow Australian citizens to fill these gaps faster.

While the overhaul sounds alarming for a nation that has previously been so friendly towards immigration, experts are not predicting a dramatic change in visa applications or acceptances overall. Most of the changes, they say, do not affect the most commonly held visas. However, this does not address the new values-based testing that will be required for immigrants, to prove that they understand and accept “Australian values” before being allowed to enter the country. Whether this will single out and exclude certain refugee groups or immigrants remains to be seen.