On 11 December 2023, the Minister for Home Affairs released the federal Government’s new Migration Strategy, aimed at overhauling Australia’s migration program.
The new strategy addresses reforms across Australia’s migration program, with a particular focus on temporary skilled migration and the international education sector.
While the scope of the Strategy is very broad, in this Insights update, we focus on the key updates of relevance to employers and primary visa holders.
TEMPORARY SKILLED MIGRATION:
The government has announced a new Skills in Demand visa, which, once implemented, will replace the current TSS visa. The key aspects of the new Skills in Demand visa are:
- Three pathways– the visa will be split into three different pathways, namely:
- Specialist Skills Pathway: this visa will be for highly skilled individuals earning above $135,000. There will be no occupation lists (excluding trades workers, machinery operators, drivers and labourers), with processing times estimated at 7 days.
- Core Skills Pathway: this will be the largest pathway for temporary skilled migrants. There will be a simpler and regularly updated Core Skills Occupation List, for occupations identified by Jobs and Skills Australia as being in shortage or occupations agreed through international trade agreements. Applicants will need to earn a minimum of $70,000 (to be indexed annually), with processing times estimated at 21 days.
- Essential Skills Pathway: the Government is further evaluating how best to develop this pathway for lower paid workers under TSMIT but with essential skills. Workers under this pathway are currently sponsored through labour agreements. Further consultation on this pathway will take place in early to mid-2024, with Jobs and Skills Australia playing a critical role in advising.
- Time period– the visa will provide for a 4-year stay for all streams;
- Streamlined labour market testing– the Government has already removed the requirement to advertise positions through Workforce Australia, and will subsequently increase the validity period of advertisements from 4 to 6 months;
- Increased employee mobility– visa holders will have 180 days to find a new sponsor if they cease employment with their sponsor (up from the current 60-day period). They can also work during this period.
- Increased pathways to permanent residency– all visa holders will have a pathway to permanent residency, and time spent with any approved employer will count towards permanent residency eligibility.
- Potential for reduced upfront employer costs– the Government will explore moving employer training levy fees to a monthly or quarterly model, to reduce upfront employer costs.
- Public sponsor register – the Government will develop a public register of approved sponsors, which will publish the numbers of sponsored workers and their occupations, to assist migrants seeking a new sponsor.
PERMANENT SKILLED MIGRATION:
The Strategy also addresses future reform to the permanent skilled migration program. Although the details have not been articulated in full, the key future reforms outlined include:
- Time spent with any approved employer will count towards permanent residence requirements for employer sponsored visa streams.
- Skills in Demand visa holders will have access to self-nominated independent permanent pathways, in addition to employer sponsored pathways.
- Reforming the points test to better identify migrants who will make the greatest contribution to Australia.
- Consideration of a new Talent and Innovation visa, aimed at driving innovative investments and entrepreneurship.
The Government will conduct further consultation on permanent skilled migration program in 2024.
INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION SYSTEM:
The Migration Strategy also details a number of proposed reforms to the international education sector and student visa program, including:
- Introduction of a new Genuine Student test for all international students – this will replace the current ‘Genuine Temporary Entrant’ requirement. To complement this new Test, the government will work to reduce the misuse of Australia’s student visa system and strengthen requirements for international education providers.
- Restrictions of onshore visa hopping for students and student providers – the Government will restrict “onshore visa hopping” that undermines system integrity and drives ‘permanent temporariness’. Course swapping will be prevented and there will be more scrutiny of high risk student visa applications.
- Increase English language requirements for international students. The English language requirements will be increased in early 2024 across all student visa streams.
- New age limit for Temporary Graduate visa applicants – temporary graduate visa applicants will need to be under the age of 35 (down from the current age limit of 50).
- Reducing the length of Temporary Graduate visas – In 2024, visa holders with a completed Bachelor degree or Masters by coursework will be eligible for 2-year visas and Masters by Research visa holders will be eligible for 3 year visas.
- Work experience requirement for future Skills in Demand visa will be changed for Temporary Graduate visa holders, to enable better transition to a temporary skilled migration visa.
Significant changes are also on the horizon to the integrity framework of the international education system as well as the integrity framework of the employer sponsored visa program. We are also expecting to see a comprehensive suite of legislation, powers, penalties, and policies to combat worker exploitation. More information on this to follow.
We’re here to help navigate the changes to Australia’s Migration Strategy and provide detailed guidance into the changes. If you have any questions, please contact us to discuss.
Tanja Djokic is a Principal Solicitor of TD Migration Consulting, law practice specialising in immigration law. Tanja is a passionate and results driven lawyer with extensive experience working with both corporate and individual clients and focuses her business practice on providing high quality immigration advice, and a smooth, efficient, and stress-free visa application process for her clients.
Tanja is admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of NSW, High Court of Australia and is also admitted as a Solicitor and Barrister of High Court of New Zealand. She is a Member of the Law Society of Australia and Migration Institute of Australia.
Tanja also acts as Mentor for law students and graduates entering the legal profession sharing her experiences and guiding the students as they develop their professional selves whilst transitioning from the University to the legal profession. Connect with Tanja via LinkedIn