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January 2013, Volume 20, Number 1

Australia, New Zealand

Australia admitted 185,000 immigrants in 2011-12, plus an additional 254,000 foreign students, 223,000 working holiday makers, and 125,000 temporary foreign workers(457). About 126,000 of the immigrants were selected via the point system. For 2012-13, Australia anticipates 190,000 immigrants, including 130,000 selected via the point system.

In 2010-11, China (29,500) overtook Britain as the major source of immigrants to Australia.

Monash University demographer Bob Birrell estimated there were almost a million temporary migrants in Australia in July 2012, including 254,000 foreign students, 223,000 working holiday makers, and 125,000 long-stay guest workers with 457 skilled-worker visas. Birrell believes that many of the temporary foreign visitors hope to receive immigrant visas, explaining why many receive multiple temporary visas. Birrell reported that almost 26,000 foreign students received tourist visas in 2011-12, and attributes the near doubling of the unemployment rate among Australian youth aged 20 to 24 to over eight percent in summer 2012 to competition from foreigners.

Unions objected when the Australian government in 2012 fast-tracked the admission of up to 1,700 foreign workers for Gina Rinehart's $10 billion Roy Hill iron ore project. Unions and employers were arguing in January 2013 over which workers should be laid off first in downturns, 457-visa holders or Australians. Employers said that they should be able to determine the order of lay offs with reference to worker skills, not their citizenship.

AUSFTA and E-3. The Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA), which came into effect January 1, 2005, aims to free up trade and promote investment between the two countries. In May 2005, the US created the E-3 visa, which makes 10,500 two-year renewable visas available to Australian professionals with US job offers. The visas are indefinitely renewable and, unlike H-1B and NAFTA TN visas, allow the spouses of E-3 visa holders to work.

US employers seeking E-3 visas for Australians file the same Labor Condition Application with the US Department of Labor that they would file for H-1B visas, that is, they certify that the US job normally requires a Bachelor's degree, that the employer is paying the prevailing wage, and that there is no strike in progress. Almost all LCAs are filed over the internet and approved within seconds. Some 2,000 to 3,000 Australians a year take approved LCAs to a US consulate in Australia with proof of their Bachelor's degree to receive E-3 visas, and a growing number of Australians seek E-3R visas, which are two-year renewals, or E-3D visas for their dependents.

Americans have the right to work in Australia under the 457-long-stay business visa. There is no limit on the number of 457 visas that can be issued. Employers offering jobs that require recognized qualifications can receive permission to hire foreigners with 457 visas after demonstrating that Australians are not available.

Australia launched a Significant Investor Visa program on November 24, 2012. It allows foreigners who invest at least A$5 million in government debt and certain mutual funds to obtain residency. The Chinese accounted for three-fourths of the investor immigrant visas in the US in FY11, and are expected to dominate applicants for the Significant Investor Visa. The US requires a much smaller investment, only $500,000 in rural or high-unemployment areas and the creation or preservation of 10 full-time jobs.

Australia is a leader in determining whether degrees and qualifications earned abroad are recognized in Australia, where licenses and certificates are sometimes valid only in particular states.

Australia issues 417 visas to working holidaymakers, youth 18 to 30 who can remain in Australia for up to 12 months and can work half of their time in the country. The National Farmers Federation wants the government to recognize some farm work as skilled so that foreign farm workers can receive 457 visas that allow them to remain longer. Australian business groups in November 2012 proposed that low-skilled Indonesians should be admitted to fill seasonal jobs if they are accompanied by a skilled Indonesian supervisor.

New Zealand. As New Zealand prepares to rebuild Christchurch, which was damaged in a June 13, 2011 earthquake, half of the estimated 30,000 additional workers are expected to be foreigners. The opposition Labor Party said that the "Christchurch rebuild" was an opportunity to put both Kiwis and migrants to work in a city with 20 percent foreign-born residents, compared with 40 percent of Auckland residents.

Australia has a Seasonal Worker program http://deewr.gov.au/seasonal-worker-program) and New Zealand a Recognized Seasonal Employer scheme (www.dol.govt.nz/initiatives/strategy/rse/index.asp) to allow farmers to hire Pacific Island residents to fill seasonal farm jobs.