These changes to the Australian 457 visa programme have been welcomed and will ensure the integrity of the exam.
As has been the criteria, foreign applicants for a 457 visa has to show a certain level of English competency. The test, which is a prerequisite to qualifying for this visa has been popular with overseas workers moving to Australia and will allow a certain amount of flexibility.
According to Australia’s Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash the changes are set to benefit everyone and have rejected claims that the test had been ‘dumbed down’.
“We have also put in a floor, they will not be able to achieve anything less than 4.5 in any of the components, so it does not represent a consequential lowering of the English language requirement, it merely represents some flexibility,” she explained.
“The changed English language testing requirements allow greater flexibility while maintaining adequate standards and should be supported,” added Jennifer Westacott, chief executive of the Business Council of Australia.
The Educational Testing Service (ETS), creator of the TOEFL iBT test, said it will strengthen the integrity of the 457 visa programme and help attract the best and brightest skilled migrants, providing Australian businesses with access to a wider pool of well-qualified professionals.
Helen Cook, ETS Australasia Associate Director, said that accepting the TOEFL iBT test for 457 visas will help Australian businesses remain globally competitive, given the need to attract skills necessary for economic growth and improved productivity.
“This decision is a recognition of the successful transition to the multiple-provider approach in student migration and completes the government’s earlier decision to allow permanent skilled migrants to demonstrate their English-language competence with the TOEFL iBT test,” she explained.
ETS also supports the government’s decision to accept the average score recommendation, as a more practical and flexible approach to meeting the English language requirements.
However, not everyone has praised the change. “We are deeply concerned that any watering down of that test could put these workers at risk,” said Dave Oliver, secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Union (ACTU).
“Particularly in those hazardous industries of building and construction where it is important that you can have effective communication skills and we are deeply concerned that any watering down of that test could put these workers at risk,” he added.