Australia will largely end granting visas to foreign workers to fill jobs in the fast food industry, the nation’s immigration minister has said.
Peter Dutton said the decision was designed to protect Australian jobs.
Since 2012, more than 500 foreign staff have been granted a visa – known as 457 – to work at businesses including McDonald’s, KFC and Hungry Jack’s.
The skilled worker visa, designed to fill Australian shortages, also extends to family members.
“Australian workers, particularly young Australians, must be given priority,” Mr Dutton said in explaining the change.
He said visas would still be granted under exceptional circumstances.
According to government statistics, 95,758 people were living in Australia on 457 visas in September last year, compared with 103,862 in 2015.
The highest proportion came from India (24.6%), the UK (19.5%) and China (5.8%).
What is the 457 visa?
- A four-year business visa which allows people to live in Australia with their immediate family
- It is designed to staff industries where there are gaps in skilled labour
- Employers must sponsor 457 holders, and only if they “cannot find an Australian or permanent resident”
- Successful applicants can freely travel in and out of Australia
- In 2016, the most 457s were granted to cooks, developers, programmers and medical workers
Foreign workers had been able to apply for fast-food industry jobs since an agreement in 2012, when the opposition Labor Party was in power.
But Labor’s employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor queried the new decision, saying the visa did not apply to unskilled workers.
“The notion that 457s can take jobs of flipping burgers means either Peter Dutton is lying or they are misapplying the 457 visa,” he said.
Mr Dutton conceded the change mostly affected managerial staff, but said the current arrangement did not put Australian workers first.
“Genuine business needs for overseas workers which contribute to economic growth will still be considered,” he said.
More than half of the 500 workers granted visas since 2012 were employed at McDonald’s, while almost 100 found work at both KFC and Hungry Jack’s.
Mr Dutton in December ordered a review of Australia’s Consolidated Sponsored Occupational List, which lists more than 650 professions, to ensure that overseas workers “supplement rather than provide a substitute” for Australians.