In our Spotlight on APAC series we roundup the latest developments from across Asia Pacific. In this post we explore the federal Government’s new Migration Strategy aimed at the overhaul of Australia’s immigration policy.
The Migration Strategy document released in November provides a roadmap of potential reforms across Australia’s immigration policy and establishes where changes will take effect in 2024 and where reforms have been identified for a consultation process in 2024. The scope of the strategy is broad and far reaching covering temporary migration, education sector and other areas of relevance to employers and businesses.
In this post we focus on key take-aways of interest to employers:
- Labour market testing requirements have been amended, removing the requirement to advertise on the Workforce Australia website.
- A new Skills in Demand visa will replace the current Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) visa in 2024, with three streams targeting different levels of skills in shortage.
- The Strategy includes a host of other upcoming reforms, particularly focusing on the integrity of the international education system, and the skilled migration program.
Labour Market Testing
The only new legislative change already implemented is the change to standard labour market testing requirements for the Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) visa (TSS visa). The need to advertise on the Workforce Australia website has been removed, now requiring employers to only conduct two advertisements.
Other intended changes
- Changes already announced that have been or will soon be implemented – such as the increase of the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) to $70,000
- New commitments that will be implemented by the end of 2024 – this includes the creation of a new temporary work visa, the strengthening of integrity in the international education sector, and steps to simplify the migration system; and
- Areas for future reform to be consulted on in 2024 – this includes reshaping the permanent skilled migration program and adjustments to regional visas and the working holiday maker program.
Temporary Skilled Migration
The current TSS visa will be replaced by a new Skills in Demand visa, which once implemented will offer the following:
- Three pathways – the visa will be split into three different pathways, set out in detail below;
- Time period – the visa will provide for a 4-year stay for all streams;
- Service standards – a commitment to median processing times of 21 days.
- 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 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
The Strategy for the new Skills in Demand visa is to structure the requirements across there separate pathways for temporary skilled workers, each with its own unique aspects:
Specialist Skills Pathway
The key features and requirements of this pathway will be:
- No occupation lists (but excluding trades workers, machinery operators and drivers, and labourers)
- Requires annual earnings of the new Specialist Skills Threshold (initially $135,000, to be indexed annually)
- Fast processing: the Government has committed to a 7-day median visa processing time
Core Skills Pathway
The key features and requirements of this pathway will be:
- This will be the largest pathway of temporary skilled migrants
- 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
- Earnings to be at least TSMIT, currently set at $70,000, but to be indexed annually
Essential Skills Pathway
This pathway is subject to further evaluation by the Government in terms of how to structure the pathway for lower paid workers with essential skills. Where these applications are usually sponsored through labour agreements, the Government will rewrite guidelines for labour agreements in order to ensure stronger worker protections.
This consultation will take place in early to mid 2024.
Permanent Residence considerations for Skilled Migrants
The Strategy also addresses future reform to the permanent skilled migration program. Currently the strategy document provides less certainty on what form these changes might take compared to the temporary skilled visa program.
Key future reforms outlined in the Strategy include:
- Time spent with any approved employer will count towards permanent residence requirements.
- 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 the permanent skilled migration program in 2024.
While the Government considers the design of the new Talent and Innovation visa, it will not provide any new places under the existing Business Innovation and Investment Visa Program.