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SOUTHERN MAN IMMIGRATION BLOG

Migration Strategy Australia

December 18, 2023
Myer Lipschitz

Australia announced its long-awaited Migration Strategy earlier this week, it’s a kind of roadmap as to what the government intends to do to fix our “broken” skilled migration program but also to score political points at a time where high net migration levels are putting increased stress on an already stressed housing market. The government seems to have identified a few areas of low hanging fruit where they can curb migration numbers and has delayed the more substantive aspects of reform that need to take place to change the skilled migration program.

Part of the problem is that the yardstick to measure population increases i.e. net overseas migration, includes those on visas expected to spend 12 months or more in Australia. It includes international students, those on temporary work visas, working holiday visas et cetera. The vast majority of these temporary migrants won’t be applying for permanent residence but are nonetheless included in net overseas migration. All will need housing for the duration of their stay, adding to the current issue of accommodation shortages in Australia. 

The government has given us a few indications as to where skilled migration policy might be headed in the 99 page report on the Department of Home Affairs website.

Migration Strategy and International Students 

It seems as if curbing student numbers in Australia is one of the easiest ways to rein in net migration levels. The government will be relying upon tougher criteria to satisfy the genuine student test and types of qualifications that one can be enrolled in on an international student visa.

Universities are not going to be affected to the same degree as the vocational education and training sector of Australia and it’s going to be harder to swap courses and to obtain post study work rights for certain students.

Minimum English language requirements and restrictions on subsequent student visas will all help to substantially limit the number of international students in Australia which are in the region of 650,000, almost double what they were 10 years ago.

How Work Visas will be Affected by the Migration Strategy

There are different forms of visas with work rights but the temporary skill shortage visa is the most popular. It’s a visa that aims to satisfy temporary skills shortages that exist and the number of these visa holders in the next year is expected to fall by approximately 25,000. This is due largely to the fact that the minimum salary required has been increased from AU$53,900 to $70,000 and this will be indexed annually. Be prepared to pay more for a haircut in Australia in future.

The government is also considering creating a three-tiered system of applying for a temporary skill shortage visa namely:

  1. Essential skills -for lower skilled workers who would not meet the $70,000 threshold but are nonetheless essential. A typical example might be nurse aides or carers who would receive a four year work visa with a pathway to securing permanent residence after working in Australia for a period of time.
  2. Core skilled pathways. These would be your average applicant who needs to be paid a salary of $70,000 or more but less than AU$135,000 per annum. These applicants would need to satisfy labour market testing in other words be able to prove that the position has been advertised and that no suitably qualified Australians are available.
  3. Specialist visa pathway for those who earn over AU$135,000 per annum in growth industries such as cyber security or green technology. Tradespeople would be excluded from this type of category and applicants will be fast tracked with visa processing time in the region of seven days and approximately 3000 applicants per year would be applying for this type of visa. They would be exempt from any labour market testing.

The government also intends to provide more time to those who lose their employment to find a new position of employment in Australia and will increase the time from 60 days to 180 days.

They also intend to make it easier for employees to change positions of employment and are talking about employers not having to make a lump sum payment to the Skilling Australia Fund Levy but instead making incremental payments over a period of years. This would reduce the disincentive to employ foreign workers.

In November the government already implemented a reform that aims to reduce the permanent number of temporary visa holders in Australia i.e. those that have not been able to proceed to a residence visa application by allowing those on temporary skill shortage visas to apply for an employer nomination scheme residence visa without any regard to an occupational list if they work for their employer for a period of two years.

Changes to General skilled Migration

This is the visa category that tends to apply to most applicants overseas who don’t have offers of employment in Australia. The government has announced that it intends to publish a paper on prospective changes later this year and then invite consultation and input before finalising the policy in late 2024.

You will probably find changes occurring such as:

  • No more points for regional study and community language
  • More points for a skilled partner/spouse
  • increase of the age limit of 45 for those earning AU$160,000 plus super and working in Australia
  • Easier pathway for those working in Australia on 482 visas to apply for 189 independent visas
  • Revised occupation lists and updated more frequently
  • Easier pathways for students working in certain skilled occupations to apply for GSM visas.

I must emphasise that this is just speculation on my part based on the language used in the migration strategy document.

Migration Strategy and Business visas

These are still under review but with 80% of business visa applicants ending up in hospitality and retail expect substantial reform to this particular visa category.

I’ve been receiving a number of emails from clients and those interested in migration to Australia asking me what all of this means and until such time as we receive legislation and policy from the government it’s just a signal of intent, a roadmap with different signposts as to how the government intends to curb net migration to pre-pandemic levels but at the same time facilitate pathways for skilled migration to Australia.

As per usual the devil is in the detail and until such time as we see the devil’s red skin, forked trident and tail we are all speculating is what the new skilled migration policy will look like.

I think we are many months off seeing the final blueprint in late 2024.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Myer Lipschitz

Myer Lipschitz was born in Johannesburg and is a graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand. In 1985 he was conferred the degree Bachelor of Laws. Myer completed his Articles of Clerkship with Ivor Trackman, Attorneys and was admitted as an Attorney to the Supreme Court of South Africa in 1988. Myer immigrated to New Zealand in 1989 and was admitted to practice law in New Zealand as a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand...

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