Visa changes a 'disaster' for life sciences

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Concern over the impact of recently announced changes to working visas is yet to be resolved as many companies and organisations deal with the costly and immediate implications.

The Turnbull government announced major changes to section 457 visas for temporary skilled migrants in April.

The immediate changes included a significant reduction in the number of occupations that qualify for the 457 visa. 

The occupations included many important to the life sciences sector: Biochemist; Biotechnologist, Life Scientist (General), Life Scientist (Not elsewhere classified); Nurse researcher; and Research and Development Manager.

Overall, the number of occupations included on the list was cut from 651 to 435.

That immediate change will be followed with abolition of the 457 visa from March next year. It will be replaced with the TSS visa. The TSS visa will be comprised of a Short-Term stream of up to two years, and a Medium-Term stream of up to four years.

Yet the life sciences sector has felt an immediate impact. One industry source described the changes as a 'disaster'.

While existing 457 visa holders will not be impacted, it is understood the immediate disqualification of key life science occupations has impacted a number of organisations, including start-ups, which have or are close to finalising recruitment processes.

It is also understood many of these occupations involve highly specialised skills simply not available in Australia, including in relation to advanced manufacturing, which long-term implications for capability and even investment.

The sector raised these concerns at a recent roundtable with policy-makers. While no resolution has been achieved, industry sources told BiotechDispatch they remain hopeful a solution can be found.