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Arts professions excluded from skilled visa list


Arts organisations will face limitations on the use of international talent under changes to visa laws.
Arts professions excluded from skilled visa list

The ability of the arts to use international talent in key positions has been curtailed by new visa laws designed to save jobs for Australians. 

The Federal Government today announced a list of skilled occupations which would no longer qualify for skilled foreign worker visas. 

Among the professions on the list are 29 arts or cultural professions from artistic director, actor, composer or painter  to multimedia designer, museum technician and community arts worker. 

Performers and production staff who are brought to Australia on contract to work on a single production will not be affected as they will continue to have access to 408 temporary activity visas. Although it will make little difference to independent screen production, larger companies and broadcasters may have relied on 457 visas for their executive and specialist staff. 

Some arts organisations fear the changes will shut down Australia's ability to engage the world's best and damage the diversity of the arts in Australia by preventing international talent taking significant leadership roles in Australia. 

The Immigration Minister Peter Dutton released the list as part of a new policy which abolishes the 457 visa category for skilled foreign workers and replaces it with a more restricted skilled immigration program.  A total of 200 professions have been culled from a list formerly numbering more than 650.

457 visas are designed to fill job vacancies when there is no suitable Australian applicant. But the Government says they are too widely used when Australians should be given preference for jobs.

Artistic Director/CEO of Dancehouse Angela Conquet is one of the many artists who was able to take her job in Australia through a 457 visa. 

'I cannot help but wonder what the flavor of the arts in Australia will be in the coming years if they are solely created, crafted or devised by Australians. I have to say, in a workforce that already underrepresents certain minorities, I worry for the future of diversity in the Australian arts sector. There are certainly hugely skilled artists and arts workers here but arts and culture ‘traditionally’ rely on the circulation of ideas, expertise and talent, which is rarely defined or confined to geographical borders.

'Appointments of international artistic directors have always caused some controversy in Australia, particularly in key positions and rightfully so. However, it would be interesting to see what this landscape would start to look like if these positions were to be made available only to Australian citizens.

'If reciprocal schemes were to apply, it also means Australian artists would not be able to work overseas and bring new skills home. And it is always somewhat worrisome to see such measures implemented particularly in the field of arts where the circulation of ideas is inherently linked to the circulation of people. It is the petri dish of a lively, outward facing contemporary culture and society, one that embraces plurality, diversity and cultural understandings. I wonder how that may be restricted by not opening up these positions internationally.'

457 visas will be replaced by two new temporary skills visas — a two-year visa and a more specialised one for four years "targeted at higher skills".

The cost of visas will also increase.The application fee for the two-year visa would be $1,150 and $2,400 for the four-year visa.

Arts and cultural professions removed from the skilled occupations list: 

Actors, dancers and other entertainers


Art Director (film, television or stage)

Artistic Director


Cinema or Theatre Manager

Community Arts Worker


Director of Photography

Drama Teacher

Entertainer or Variety Artist

Film, Television, Radio and Stage Directors 

Gallery or Museum Technician


Media Producer (excluding Video)

Multimedia Designer

Music Director

Music Professionals

Musical Instrument Maker or Repairer

Painter (visual arts)

Potter or ceramic artist

Public relations manager

Radio journalist

Radio presenter

Screen printer



Television Equipment Operator

Television presenter

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