The 457 visa scheme for temporary overseas workers will be overhauled to stop rorting of the system, with the federal government accusing some employers of discriminating against Australians.

Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor says the 457 visas will be tightened to ensure they are only used to address genuine skills shortages, and local workers are getting a "fair go".

Under the crackdown, employers will be required to demonstrate they are nominating a position where there is a genuine shortage of workers.

Mr O'Connor said compliance and enforcement powers would also be boosted to stop employers rorting the program, which he said had witnessed an increase in applications.

"We have seen too many examples of abuse across the nation," he told reporters in Melbourne.

"There are situations where Australian workers are being discriminated against because of the abuse of the program.

"We have seen situations where people's jobs have been `dressed up' to be so-called skilled jobs but in fact when they come here they are working in unskilled or semi-skilled areas."

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said there had been a explosion in using temporary foreign workers, despite the local job market being in decline.

He said the construction sector had declined by 68,000 jobs in the past 12 months while there had been a 38 per cent increase in 457 visas.

"It doesn't make sense. Local jobs are disappearing and yet there is a significant increase nationwide of the amount of 457 visas that are being granted," he told reporters in Melbourne.

"We've seen this for too long as a lazy option for employers.

"It's just a matter of a tick-and-flick form where they can bring workers from overseas, as opposed to investing in their own workforce by employing apprentices and providing training for their workers."

The 457 visa changes also have the support of the Migration Council Australia, which says they "strike the right balance".

 

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