Australia and New Zealand are the latest countries to ramp up their nationalistic rhetoric, after the US with its ‘America First’ policy decided to reform its visa system. Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull had said that it is a nation of immigrants but the Australians must be given priority when it comes to jobs. Notably, a major portion of immigrant workers in Australia is from India. According to a new rule, Australian visa will be provided in two variants: a short-term two-year entry allowance and a medium term 4-year entry allowance. Many have viewed this new change in visa rules as an embarrassment for the Indian government as it was announced almost right after Turnbull’s India visit. During his visit in the country, he met PM Modi where they committed to work closely with an aim to create stronger ties. The opposition has reasoned that it is a failure on part of the Indian government, that it could not protect the interests of Indians who seek jobs in countries like Australia and the US.
Apart from Austraila, even New Zealand has tightened its visa conditions for skilled migrants. After the US’ policy of ‘America First, both these countries are trying to woo voters with a nationalist agenda. In New Zealand, the changes in policy will likely have a limited impact on net arrivals. Meanwhile, in Australia, the 457 visa has been axed with immediate effect. It has been replaced by two new visas along with minimum skills shortage list and a more difficult English language proficiency requirement.
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The decision by Australia is not good news for India, as it is the fifth-largest export market and the single biggest beneficiary of the 457 visa, according to a Reuters report. The visa accounts for one in four applicants. Reports have said that, since there could be an issue with India-Australia ties, the government will examine the consequences of the new visa policy, keeping all the stakeholders in mind.
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Gopal Bagley has said, “The government is examining consequences of the new policy in consultation with all stakeholders. This is also a matter we will be looking at in the context of Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) negotiations.” This could mean a further delay in the already stalled Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and Australia.
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Meanwhile, Industry body NASSCOM is expecting a limited fallout from the decision by New Zealand. It said that New Zealand’s tightening of work permits will not have ‘tangible’ impact on the IT industry. Nasscom President R Chandrashekhar told PTI,”The Indian IT industry does not have a significant presence in New Zealand… The region accounts for less than one percent of the overall export basket.”
However, a single decision by New Zealand may not appear to be too much of a damage, but since countries like the US, Australia and Singapore are following the same path, Indian industries might face increased operational costs and higher scrutiny going forward. Reports suggest that companies might also have to spend more money and time to hire immigrants due to increased paperwork. Meanwhile, all the details about the decisions by the countries are not out yet, which has made it tougher for Indian companies to fully understand the move. However, most of them have welcomed the decision but said that IT early-stage startups will be hit badly.
Australia has witnessed a population growth recently which has been driven by student visa since it offered education, work and permanent resident permits, Reuters reported. Such opportunities lure in a lot of people from densely populated countries like India and China. India has been Australia’s one of the biggest beneficiaries, but it remains to be seen how a disinterest towards globalisation of labour will affect globalisation of capital.
Meanwhile many have reportedly termed this move as merely political posturing and the rules have not changed much. Opposition parties in both the countries have claimed that the rules are the same but have been re-introduced with different names. This ideally means, that there is not much to worry for Indians yet.