PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced he is scrapping the controversial 457 visa program for skilled migrants as part of a bid to tackle unemployment.
The Prime Minister says jobs must go to Australians first, before businesses consider hiring foreign workers.
"We will no longer allow 457 visas to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians," Mr Turnbull said in announcement via Facebook today.
The program will be replaced by another visa program, with new restrictions.
"It is important businesses still get access to the skills they need to grow and invest, so the 457 visa will be replaced by a new temporary visa, specifically designed to recruit the best and brightest in the national interest," Mr Turnbull said.
The new visa would better target skills shortages and set new standards for English language proficiency.
It would also introduce requirements for previous work experience and labour market testing before businesses could hire foreign workers.
The announcement comes after the Turnbull Government released new figures showing the number of 457 visas issued had dropped dramatically since Opposition leader Bill Shorten was responsible for the program's oversight as Employment Minister in the Gillard government.
Mr Turnbull also said a new training fund would be established, among other reforms.
The reforms would focus on "Australian jobs and Australian values", he said.
The Prime Minister will hold a press conference on the visa program at 2.15pm.
WHAT IS A 457 VISA?
* The 457 visa program allows business to employ foreign workers for a period up to four years in skilled jobs where there is a shortage of Australian workers.
* The numbers are uncapped and there is no limit on the number of times they can travel in and out of Australia.
* Foreign workers can bring their families to work or study.
* Employers must apply to sponsor a 457 worker or enter into a formal labour agreement with the government.
* They must show they are training locals.
* As at September 30 there were 95,757 workers in Australia on primary 457visas and 76,430 secondary visa holders (members of their family).
* But numbers are in decline - in March there was a 9.2 per cent drop in primary 457 visa holders compared to 2015.
* In July 2013 new laws came into effect, including giving Fair Work Australia the power to investigate breaches of the system.
* Labor wants jobs to be advertised locally for at least four weeks before a foreigner is sourced.
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