​Turnbull gives Singaporeans separate visa to boost business


The federal government has announced the creation of a new long-term, multiple-entry visa, available only to Singaporeans.

The Visitor (Subclass 600) visa will allow travellers to visit Australia for up to three months at a time, over a six-year period, with a single application. The new visa is touted by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as making it easier for those from Singapore to travel to Australia for business and pleasure.

Those applying for the new visa, which is expected to be available by January 1, 2018, must satisfy all “usual” visa criteria. In a statement, Turnbull said these include health and character requirements, as well as having “adequate” funds to support themselves for the period of the visit.

Last financial year, more than 230,000 visitor visas were granted to travellers from Singapore, which was a 16 percent increase over the year prior.

The new visa option was announced during Turnbull’s visit to Singapore, which also saw the Australian PM and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announce a new reciprocal Work and Holiday Maker program.

Slated to commence on August 1, 2017 with up to 500 places available per year, Turnbull said the program will allow young people from Australia and Singapore to undertake short term work or study.

“It will make it easier for people to come to Australia to visit friends and family while also enabling business operators to conduct regular meetings or attend conferences in Australia,” Friday’s statement also said.

The new visa follows an announcement Turnbull made in April to scrap the existing Temporary Work (Skilled) 457 visa, replacing it with a new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa in March 2018.

Currently, about 95,000 foreign workers use the 457 visa to gain employment in Australia.

The TSS visa program will comprise of two visa classes, Short-Term and Medium-Term, which will cover a foreign worker for two and four years respectively, with the latter reserved for more “critical” skills shortages. Additionally, applicants will be subjected to tightened English language and work experience tests, and must possess a clean criminal history. Applicants must also be under the age of 45.

Under the new visa scheme, 200 job categories have been reduced, impacting a handful of technology-related employment opportunities, including electronic engineering technicians, ICT support and test engineers, ICT support technicians, web developers, telecommunications cable jointers, and telecommunications technicians.

Appearing a few days after the announcement was made, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Arthur Sinodinos told ABC radio he does not want see any unintended consequences trickle into Australia’s tech sector as a result of the abolition of the current 457 visa program.

Meanwhile in America, foreigners applying for a visa to enter the United States will now be asked to turn over their social media handles for the past five years, as well as biographical information — including email addresses and phone numbers — for the past 15 years, under new rules announced on Thursday, local time.

A new questionnaire, to be filled out by visa applicants, is part of an effort by the Trump administration to make good on its vow to implement “extreme vetting”.

The US Office of Management and Budget estimates that 65,000 people will be affected by the social media screening process each year.