Visa workers in for school fee shock

Education Minister Susan Close.

LAUREN NOVAKThe Advertiser

CHARGING parents working in South Australia on 457 visas to send their children to public schools is expected to net the State Government an extra $11 million to spend on early childhood education.

Education Minister Susan Close has announced that 457 visa workers earning a household income of more than $57,000 will have to start paying school fees of up to $6100 from next year. The move brings SA into line with WA, NSW and the ACT.

Currently, people employed in SA on 457 visas — granted to foreign workers employed in Australia to fill a skills shortage — do not pay public school fees.

Dr Close said the Government felt it was “fair to ask 457 visa holders who make a temporary home here to make a modest contribution to the cost of providing public education”.

“The money will help fund early childhood education, which is one of the most crucial areas of our education system,” she said.

Immigration Department data shows that about 1500 applications for 457 visas are granted each year for SA. Visa holders can remain for up to four years.

It is estimated the new fee requirement will generate more than $11 million in extra revenue for the state over the next four years.

Any family supported by a 457 visa worker, with a household income of $77,000 or more, will have to pay $5100 per year for primary school students and $6100 for secondary students.

In comparison, the average South Australian family pays a basic fee for primary school students of $229 and $303 per secondary student, but schools can set fees higher by a vote of parents.

Fees will only be charged on 457 visa families with a gross income of more than $57,000.

Sliding discounts will be applied to families earning up to $77,000, after which parents will pay the full fee.

Federal immigration data show Indian workers made up almost 20 per cent of people granted the visas in 2014-15, followed by those from the United Kingdom (15.3 per cent each), China (12.9 per cent), the United States (7.8 per cent) and the Philippines (6.1 per cent each).

The most common occupations filled by these workers at present include meat worker, medical officer or GP, cook, university lecturer, metal fabricator, graphic designer, accountant and massage therapist.

The average 457 visa worker earns a base salary of $90,700, compared to $70,100 for the average fulltime working South Australian.

For the first year, the new charge will only apply to people who arrive in SA from January 1, 2017.

From January 2018 it will apply to all 457 visa holders living the state, regardless of when they arrived.

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