Record number of visas issued to IT professionals in 2007

35 percent jump

The Department of Immigration has issued a record number of 457 visas for IT professionals in the nine months to March 31, 2007.

Immigration Minister, Kevin Andrews, said 4290 visas were granted to IT firms in the last nine months, which is more than the entire previous financial year.

During the previous 12 months a total of 4190 457 visas were issued.

"If the department continues to approve applications for 457 visas at current rates, the number of IT professionals using the scheme will jump 35 percent this year," Andrews said.

Earlier this month Andrews announced an additional 5000 places to the Skilled Migration Stream, bringing the total 2007/08 quota to 102,500 places.

"Like many developed countries, Australia is experiencing labor shortages in highly skilled job sectors," he said.

Australia's economy grew by 2.8 percent in the final three months of 2006, boosted by a mining boom, which has contributed to a surge in visa numbers.

Despite global competition for skilled immigrants and migrant workers to Australia, the number of engineers migrating here has doubled compared to the previous year.

The federal government's migration program is running at record levels bringing in 142,930 people for the 2005/06 year, the largest intake since the late 1980s.

A record 97,340 new places were included in the skill stream accounting for 68 percent of the total migration program, according to the department's annual publication 'Population Flows: Immigration Aspects 2007'.

Last year employer sponsored migration increassed by 17 percent compared to the 2004/05 statistic year.

The number of skilled engineers immigrating to Australia nearly doubled with computing professionals maintaining the top occupational group of new migrants to Australia. An estimated 3940 computing professionals migrated last year.

Just 10 years ago new skilled arrivals comprised less than one-third of new residents. Despite this, the state government of Western Australia says the increase of 5000 skilled migration placements is inadequate to fill the state's needs.

Western Australia needs another 60,000 in the next 10 years with the state's construction and mining sectors in desperate need for workers.

According to small business Minister, Margaret Quirk, Australia's intake increase to 102,000 isn't enough, accusing the federal government of being short-sighted.

Looking ahead, Immigration department deputy-secretary, Abul Rivzi, believes the growth of 457 visas will slow as higher salaries are making it "uneconomic" to hire foreigners.

Rivzi said the base salary for workers on 457 visas has risen to $71,800 in the first quarter of 2006/07, up from $66,000 for 2005/06.

He said the increase is a policy lever designed to encourage employers to use Australian workers.

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