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Home Affairs Reveals Australia’s New Migration Strategy

Home Affairs Reveals Australia’s New Migration Strategy

Key points:

  • The Australian Federal Government has announced its 10-year migration strategy
  • A new ‘Skills in Demand’ visa is being introduced to replace the subclass 482 Temporary Skills Shortage visa
  • Student and Graduate visa requirements are being strengthened 
  • Greater emphasis will be placed on preventing visa holder worker exploitation

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia’s migration program has experienced drastic change. This has not only been the case in terms of migration numbers but also migration law and policy changes. 

During 2023, we have seen an increasing desire from the Australian Federal Government to make what it sees as necessary changes to our migration system. Most notably, we have seen the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold increase from $53,900 to $70,000, and the opening up of pathways to permanent residency for Temporary Skills Shortage (subclass 482) visa holders. The Federal Government has wound back COVID-19 concessions in place in response to the pandemic.

On 11 December 2023, the Federal Government announced its Migration Strategy for the next 10 years. This Migration Strategy is an ambitious effort to resolve some of Australia’s greatest migration challenges. Some of these include the prevalence of people stuck in ‘permanent visa temporariness’, misuse of the student visa program, and worker exploitation.

Skills in Demand Visa

The Federal Government intends to introduce a ‘Skills in Demand’ visa to replace the current Temporary Skill Shortage Visa. The new visa is intended to have three streams, being for ‘Specialist Skills’, ‘Core Skills’, and ‘Essential Skills’. The three streams are intended to respond to changing needs of the economy, whether this be technical high-earning roles, roles core to the economy, such as nurses and teachers, or roles that are lower paying but cannot be filled through the local labour market. 

Skills in Demand visa holders are expected to be able to count any period of employment acquired on the visa towards permanent residency eligibility. This is a different approach to the current Temporary Skills Shortage visa, which requires 2 years with one employer before being eligible for permanent residency. This change aims to prevent the visa holder feeling stuck or tied to one employer, which in some cases leads to abuse of the worker and the visa system.

If changing jobs, visa holders will be allowed up to 180 days to find a new employer without being put at risk of visa cancellation. Currently, the maximum number of days allowed to be without an employer is 60 days.

The Federal Government intends to explore the possibility of employers paying costs associated with hiring a Skills in Demand visa holder on an incremental basis after employment commences. For example, monthly or quarterly. This would decrease the upfront financial investment risk for employers when hiring a sponsored temporary visa holder, which currently requires all fees to be paid upfront.

International Education 

The Federal Government is of the view that Australia’s student visa program is currently being exploited by some education providers. The Federal Government has noted many education providers exist to bring students to Australia to work, rather than entering Australia for the genuine purpose of further academic studies.

The English language proficiency requirement for student and graduate visas is expected to increase to IELTS 6.5 (or equivalent) and 6.0 respectively. 

The current ‘Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE)’ requirement on student visas will be replaced with a ‘Genuine Student’ requirement. Student visa applicants will need to demonstrate how the course they intend on completing in Australia,  will benefit their career prospects. The Federal Government confirmed student visa applicants enrolled with low-risk education providers will experience shorter visa processing times.

A greater emphasis will be placed on preventing the student visa program from being used for ‘visa hopping’. Further, graduate visa holders will be prevented from applying for further student visas to complete additional courses of study, while onshore. This will ensure that graduate visa holders are gaining relevant post-qualification work experience.

Graduate visas will be limited to applicants no older than 35. This change is intended to attract early career professionals, who are likely to make significant economic contributions to Australia over the long term.

Tackling Worker Exploitation

The Federal Government intends to place a greater emphasis on reducing migrant exploitation in the workplace. This is intended to involve greater penalties for employers, greater public transparency, and increasing post-arrival compliance checks for sponsored workers. 

It is expected that employers wishing to become sponsors will need to meet higher standards than are currently in place. Once an employer becomes an approved sponsor with the Department of Home Affairs, they will be added to a public register of approved sponsors. This will assist employees in determining whether a prospective employer is a legitimate and approved sponsor. 

The Federal Government is exploring the possibility of monitoring payments of migrants through the ATO.

You can read the full Government’s Strategy and Action Plan.

If you would like advice on how the proposed migration system changes may affect you, please contact us.

Need Assistance?

We provide immigration advice and assistance to both corporates and individuals looking to migrate to Australia.

Content in this publication is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. Australian immigration law is complex and its policies and visa eligibility criteria are changing regularly. For additional and current information on the issues discussed, please book a consultation with one of our immigration lawyers.

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