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What is the 457 Visa Australia gave to Haneef?

The Australian government has cancelled Indian doctor Muhammad Haneef's visa - the 457 Visa under which skilled migrant workers are allowed temporary entry to Australia.
By Neena Bhandari | IANS, Sydney
UPDATED ON JUL 16, 2007 03:30 PM IST

The Australian government on Monday cancelled Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef's visa - the 457 Visa under which skilled migrant workers are allowed temporary entry to Australia.

The cancellation of his visa means he will now be held in an immigration detention in Sydney pending the hearing of his charges.

Since Haneef's arrest July 2 the 27-year-old has been charged with "reckless support" to the failed terror plot in Britain and has been in custody for two weeks in Brisbane - the spotlight has been on overseas doctors and the 457 work visa.

Prime Minister John Howard and Federal Attorney General Philip Ruddock have both defended Australia's 457 Visa scheme, under which workers are allowed temporary entry to take up specific jobs with sponsor employers who cannot fill the positions locally.

Before a visa is granted, a standard character and security check is carried out into prison records, convictions, political affiliations and military experience.

In recent years, the influx of foreign skilled migrants has eased checks on applicants as the department's resources are overwhelmed with increasing numbers. Last year, the number of 457 Visas approved jumped by more than 40 percent to just under 40,000.

Australia, which is undergoing skills shortages in various fields like health and engineering, desperately needs overseas workers to fill positions in the sectors.

Doctors have been able to apply for the Temporary Business Long Stay visa (subclass 457) since April 2005.

About 3,000 foreign medical graduates a year are allowed into Australia, many of them under the 457 Visa scheme.

The Department of Immigration website points doctors to the temporary business (long stay) visa (subclass 457), describing it as the "preferred temporary visa pathway for doctors entering Australia. It allows applicants to take advantage of streamlined visa processing arrangements, including the ability to lodge applications over the Internet using a special online application form".

From 3,700 in 1995-96, the number of Indian migrants jumped to 11,286 in 2005-2006, reflecting the growth in the skilled migration programme. In 2004-05, the skill stream of the migration programme had an outcome of 77,880 people. This increased to 97,340 in 2005-06 representing about 68 percent of the migration programme.

"The Haneef case will have a significant impact on the 457 Visa or permanent residency visa applicants. They will probably have to go through much more rigorous checks, which would delay the processing time and frustrate applicants from the subcontinent. Intake from these countries may also decrease," said Jyoti Bharati, a solicitor and migration agent.

Haneef, who was given bail by a Brisbane court on Monday morning, has been on special paid leave since his arrest two weeks ago.

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie has told the Australian Broadcasting Corp: "Queensland Health protocol is that an employee charged with criminal offences are suspended without pay. I'm advised that the department intends to follow that protocol in the case of Haneef. He is to be issued with a notice to show cause as to why he should be suspended without pay."

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