Call for action after visa applications rejected
THE number of foreigners applying to work in the Far North has skyrocketed in the past five years - but business advocates say the number of those knocked back is still too high.
New figures released by the Department of Home Affairs show how reliant the region is upon international workers, with 17,003 people submitting applications for the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (visa sub class 187) during 2017-18, an increase of 140 per cent since 2013-14.
Cairns attracted the largest number of applications last year (585), followed by Port Douglas and Daintree (116), Tablelands (99), Cassowary Coast (47), and Weipa and Cape York (5).
Mark Bridge, the Cairns-based director of the Australian Immigration Group, however, said the number of applications knocked by the Federal Government was too much.
"In 2016-17, 10,396 applications were approved, out of the 20,236 lodged," he said.
"That's 50 per cent.
"This year we had 17,000 lodged, and only 6200 approved, so it's an even higher refusal rate there."
Mr Bridge said the government should not be penalising regional businesses struggling to attract staff.
"If there are severe cases of visa fraud, then the department needs to investigate that accordingly," he said.
Cairns Chamber of Commerce chief executive Debbie-Anne Bender said the data showed the government needed to change the way it handled visa applications for the Far North.
She said a business case being prepared by the organisation to allow for concessional treatment of temporary skilled visas in the region was due to be completed by the end of the year.
What jobs overseas workers want
Hospitality, retail and service manager positions attracted the largest number of applications (4010); followed by food trades workers (3892); and business, human resource and marketing professionals (1381).