The federal budget has delivered a double blow to the 457 visa program, with the government to nearly double application fees and compliance activity for the controversial system.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is also set to receive $3.4 million over the next four years in new funding to monitor and enforce employer activity among 457 visa holders.
The actions revealed in tonight’s budget come after Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor has reiterated over the past few weeks he believes the area is rife with non-compliance.
O’Connor was targeted for his accusations the 457 visa program had been abused thousands of times.
The government revealed in tonight’s budget it will increase the visa application charge for the 457 visa program from July 1, 2013, to $900, from the previous rate of $455.
The new charges are expected to add $46.8 million to the budget bottom line in the 2013-14 year, $52.8 million in 2014-15, $50.4 million in 2015-16 and $48 million in 2016-17.
In total, the increased charge will raise $198 million over four years.
Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor has been pledging to increase the monitoring of the 457 visa program – nearly doubling the application fee could prove a difficult burden for small businesses to overcome.
New funding has also been provided for the FWO to crack down on non-compliance in the 457 visa sector.
The government will provide $3.4 million over four years – $800,000 in the first two years and $900,000 in the subsequent two years – to police the 457 visa program.
In the budget papers, the government says this money will be used by the FWO to “monitor and enforce employer compliance”.
The 457 visa program has been a thorn for the Gillard government. Major businesses have supported the program due to the cheap cost of hiring overseas migrants – especially in the mining industry – but there has been significant pushback from groups who say Australians should be given first priority in major projects.