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Calls for changes to visa programs

Aged care providers using temporary skilled migration to recruit overseas nurses have called for changes to the program so as to enhance its effectiveness in filling workforce shortages. By Natasha Egan

The number of nurses coming to work in the aged care sector in Australia on 457 visas is on the rise, figures from the Department of Immigration show. In the first eight months of this financial year, 418 aged care nurses have been granted visas, up from 382 in the entire 2010-11 year.

Providers in Western Australia report that the 457 scheme is useful in attracting nurses to rural and remote areas, however they have told INsite that retaining the nurses in these areas after they arrive can be problematic.

Under the current scheme, when in Australia, a 457 visa holder is free to work elsewhere once the new employer agrees to take on their sponsorship.

Julie Christensen, CEO of Narrogin Cottage Homes in WA and coordinator of a network of rural providers in the southwest of the state, said nurses being recruited on 457 visas should be required to make a commitment in time to the area they are going to. She suggested a minimum of 12 months.

Meanwhile, Stephen Kobelke, CEO Aged & Community Services WA, said the 457 visa, and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) should be adjusted so that qualified carers would be eligible to be sponsored by Australian providers.

Currently the minimum salary requirement ($50,000) of the 457 visa and the minimum education requirement of the RSMS (diploma level or higher) effectively rule out overseas qualified carers, many of whom have Certificate III qualifications.

“This is about getting these programs right so our members have access to temporary migration schemes to bring people out while they need them,” Kobelke said.

Read INsite’s full report here: (IN, 16.04.12)

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