Australia, US plan work visa tightening, as France’s Le Pen vows to shut down immigration

The ease with which companies have, until now, been able to hire foreign workers in recent decades appears to be coming to an end, as both the US and Australia are signaling their intentions to tighten up on skilled worker visas.

In France, meanwhile, where voters go to the polls on Sunday for a first round of voting in a tight, four-candidate presidential campaign, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen told supporters on Sunday that she would suspend all immigration to the country if elected, ahead of making major changes to France’s immigration laws, and that she would otherwise adopt policies that would protect her country from “savage globalisation”.

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull made his announcement of plans to abolish that country’s so-called “457 skilled visa programme”, and to replace it with a temporary visa with new requirements for temporary foreign workers, today, in an announcement on his Facebook page, (pictured above). 

At the same time he also announced a new “training fund” that would help give Australians the skills that employers are currently relying on foreign workers to provide. Details of this fund weren’t immediately revealed.

Although Australia has historically been an “immigration nation”,  Turnbull says in his Facebook address, “the fact remains: Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs”.

Turnbull’s plan to scrap the 457 visas was met with some criticism, according to a number of publications, including the Daily Mail, which reported that “more than 2,300 comments, many of them negative, flooded the Prime Minister’s Facebook page on Tuesday” in response to his announcement.

On the other side of the planet, US president Donald Trump is expected, also today, to sign an executive order that would crack down on the use of America’s H-1B skilled worker visa programme, which is said to be extensively used by the US tech industry in a way that the White House has said is pricing skilled US workers out of their own market.

The executive order will also force US government agencies to close loopholes and reduce waivers that allow certain industrial products into government procurement markets, as the president looks to make good on campaign promises to promote a more “Buy American/Hire American” philosophy than his predecessors have done.

The signing is expected to take place during a presidential visit to the Kenosha, Wisconsin, headquarters of a tool company.

‘I will protect you’

In her speech on Sunday, Marine Le Pen – who election observers say has a reasonably good chance of being chosen for the 7 May run-off election, although the race is generally thought too close to call, as conservative Francois Fillon and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon have been closing in on Le Pen and centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron – told a rally of around 5,000 supporters, “I will protect you”, referring to her plan to halt immigration if elected.

“My first measure as president will be to reinstate France’s borders,” Le Pen was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying.

The talk in the US, Australia and France on tightening up on foreign workers is the latest sign that the freer movement of people across borders that has enabled today’s global economic system to develop is beginning to come into conflict with the politics in countries in which immigration levels have been high.

As reported in January, for example, Saudi Arabia is planning to impose new fees on expats and their dependents in Saudi Arabia from July, in a move that some say is likely to reduce the attractiveness for foreigners of working there.

A number of jurisdictions, including Dubai, have called on employers to purchase health insurance for their expatriate staff, while others have begun making it more difficult and expensive for foreigners to purchase property, particularly in certain markets that have become over-heated, such as New York, Hong Kong, and Vancouver, Canada, in response to difficulties that locals are having in being able to afford a home.

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