Three new Australian 'Centres of Excellence' have been set up in Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne to speed up the processing of temporary 457 visa applications for employers wishing to hire overseas workers.
The centers were set up in response to increasing demand by Australian employers for skilled workers from overseas to help ease labor shortages.
The 457 visa allows Austrlalian employers to employ skilled workers from abroad to fill occupations in Australia on a temporary basis for between three months and four years.
The centers come in response to recommendations by a panel of experts commissioned by the government to help improve the efficiency of the 457 visa program.
According to Immigration Minister Chris Evans, 457 visa processing times were already showing improvement.
"In June 2007, an average of 400 cases was processed within seven days whereas in June 2008, more than 1200 applicants were granted visas within a week," Evans said.
"The 457 program is critical to meeting the current labour market demands and the new Centres of Excellence will continue to improve the effectiveness of the processing of visas," he added.
Australian immigration authorities were dealing with a backlog of about 13,000 subclass 457 visa applications since March. That backlog has since been cleared.
The 457 visa is only one of many visas designed to bring skilled overseas workers to Australia. The General Skilled Migration (GSM) program allows skilled individuals in a long list of occupations to immigrate to Australia permanently, with or without an existing job offer with an Australian employer.