Employers have given the thumbs up to the Turnbull government's decision to scrap the 457 visa program for temporary foreign workers and replace it with a tighter regime.

People now on a 457 visa, which lasts for four years, will be exempt from the new regulations.

"We are an immigration nation but the fact remains - Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs", declared the prime minister in a video posted on Facebook. The MEA is also in talks with Australia regarding the changes in the country's work visa programme.

Current 457 visa holders will not be affected by the changes, Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Turnbull made it clear that his govt. intends to put "Australians First" ahead of foreign workers for potential local jobs.

"Australians must have priority for Australian jobs - so we're abolishing the 457 visas", he said.

"There is just a skill shortage in Australia, it's not that there is a lack of people to do the jobs, it's just they don't want to do these jobs", he said.

Reports state that the new visa for foreign workers will be available for two or four years, and will require all the visa holders to have at least two years' of work experience, a criminal record check and better English-language proficiency.

Under the government's plan, the 457 visa will be replaced initially by a new temporary two-year visa created to recruit the "best and the brightest". Both the H-1B program and the 457 visa have been dominated by Indians in recent years, and have often been used as a path towards permanent residency.

The scheme has become a political hot potato, as public criticism that foreign workers are being chosen over Australians mounts.

The Australian government, however, assured expats that the 95 000 people already in Australia on 457 visas will not now be affected by the change. "They will continue under the conditions of that visa", Dutton said.

Critics of 457 said Australian workers lost out to foreign counterparts.

The news has been met with a mixed response on social media, with many quickly pointing out that Turnbull previously criticised former Prime Minister Julia Gillard efforts to reform the system.