There’s a lot of stigma surrounding the 457 visa recipients. Having been one, the truth is very different to what the media purports.
Who are these 457 visa recipients? Well, me for one. Are they a threat to good, hard working Australians? Let me explain. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not someone who pays much attention to media but even I, in my six years in Sydney, am aware that the 457 visa scheme has come under fire at least twice. From my own experience as an 457 visa recipient, scratch that – junkie (you’ll see why) – I have mixed feelings about the scheme.
Like all good stories, it starts with a girl falling in love with a boy.
Backpackers and Australians hooking up is nothing new. But I wasn’t your regular backpacker. I was leaving a seven year career with the US Drug Enforcement Administration Office in Istanbul to visit my brother, an IT professional who’d become a permanent resident in Australia.
In case you’re getting the wrong picture, my experience with the DEA wasn’t like Narcos. I was the back office person processing expense claims, making travel bookings, organising supplies for events and doing the rest of the legwork. Working in the DEA’s Istanbul office, I had a great income (compared with local wages), and the privilege that came with working for the US Government. It was all great until I turned dangerously close to 30, and decided to get out and see more of the world.
Many backpackers you see on Australian streets trying are to peddle charities are on Work and Holiday visas. I too was on the same visa, but I worked temp office assignments, which were reasonable. I was happy to leave after my visa was up, but things turned more serious than I expected with my Australian boyfriend.
Even after I earned my full-rights, my CV was left so tarnished by the involuntary job hopping, that the traditional job market looks at me as a high-risk candidate.
As my Work and Holiday visa came to an end (they are issued in 1-year blocks, with an option to extend to another year by going off and picking fruit in regional Australia), I had not co-habitated with my partner for 12 months to be eligible for a Bridging de-facto partner visa. Picking fruit wasn’t an option because I was over the age limit. My only realistic option was finding a work-sponsored 457 visa.
My experience sat in Government work, but unfortunately that work was only available to Permanent Residents and Citizens. (There was a rumour that a Gillard spokesperson was on a 457 visa; my explanation is that this person must have been with an agency contracted by the Australian Government.)
I read through the list of occupations eligible to receive 457 visas and saw that marketing was close enough, so with MBA in tow, I started marketing myself as a marketer to find a 457.
My first job was as an SEO Specialist, churning out website content for a small home loan office in Burwood. At the time, web content was not as sophisticated as it is now, and it was sufficient to write fluff articles using keywords one wanted to rank for Google. The mortgage brokers in the office thought I was a waste of time, which I was.
It was meaningless work and I wasn’t particularly productive, wasting too much time on social media and not getting enough qualified leads. What helped me was that the boss thought I was cute. The straw that broke the camel’s back was him finding out that I had a boyfriend.
Also on The Big Smoke
- Immigration: One-size-fits-all laws tear relationships apart
- Backpacker tax will see me pack my bags
- Big city life squeezing international students into humbling circumstances
He mercilessly fired me, leaving me 28 days (not business days!) to find a new job. This came one day before Easter break, taking away a significant chunk of my remaining days to find another visa.
Fortunately, I was a lean mean 457 hunting machine. I’d learnt the characteristics of businesses who’d sponsor people and targeted them directly. I had a gig with a construction company that went bust, a sweatshop marketing agency and a failing print advertising business. Which was all well and good.
However, even after I earned my full-rights, my CV was left so tarnished by the involuntary job hopping, that the traditional job market looks at me as a high-risk candidate.
So what is the problem with the 457 visa? Well, are three problems as far as I see it:
- It gives all the power to the employers. The 457 sponsored employees must take whatever abuse dished out by their employers lest they risk getting deported. It’s almost like indentured servitude. There’s no social netting available. If you’re on a 457, you either work or get out of town. It’s that simple.
- Companies who have sponsored people on a 457 visa are not regulated, and nobody checks up on how the employee is doing. Though Fair Trade states that those on 457 visas have rights, once a 457 visa employee is fired, there’s very little anyone can do for that person.
- The media makes out recipients of 457 visas into the bogey man on a regular basis. If employers would rather hire people they can abuse, short change and control with fear tactics, don’t blame us immigrants for that.
So, is the 457 visa good or bad? Like all good intentions, it can lead to hell, but then again those who persevere, pay their dues, and taxes, to the Australian Government, reap the benefits. It’s not a perfect system, but people continue to endure the challenges, as the location is a grand one. Australia is not a shabby country to live in by any stretch of the imagination.
Is there any reason for you to fear 457 visa collective? No. For the most part, they take shit that you’re not willing to take and pay taxes to support the benefits of the rest of the country.
So, chill, Australia.