Primary visa holders increase 21.5% in 12 months

IMMIGRATION Minister Brendan O'Connor says new figures showing a spike in the use of 457 visas justifies the Federal Government's crackdown on the use of overseas workers.

The figures, released on Thursday, showed a 21.5% increase in the number of primary visa holders in Australia in the 12 months to February.

Applications for temporary skilled work visas also rose by 9.5% in February compared with the month before.

In the three-month period to February 28, the number of applications for visas for the accommodation and food services sector jumped 110.8% compared to the same period a year earlier.

Mr O'Connor honed in on the fact the biggest jumps occurred in Tasmania (34%), South Australia (12.4%) and New South Wales (7.6%).

He said it was proof there was something "amiss" with the application of 457 visas, adding it flew in the face of those who claimed they were mainly used to plug skill shortages in mining states like Queensland and Western Australia.

"I say to those naysayers and critics of the reforms, that there is clear evidence that the increase in 457 visas is running much faster than the employment rate," Mr O'Connor said.

"I think the other thing that we have to totally and utterly demolish is that this is about the mining states.

"It's happening in the three states where their unemployment rate is ... higher than the national average."

The Federal Government is pursuing a number of reforms under the guise of "putting locals first", including giving the Fair Work Ombudsman increased powers to target employers not complying with 457 visa conditions

Topics:  457 visas immigration

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