Australia's Bold New Migration Strategy (Dec 2023): A Comprehensive Overview
Today (Dec 11 2023), Australia's Minister for Home Affairs, The Hon Clare O’Neil MP unveiled the much-anticipated Migration Strategy. It's a substantial document, a full 100 pages, packed with insights and significant changes to the visa system in Australia. But, don't worry, we've got a brief overview to keep you in the loop! Over the next few days, we will go deeper into each aspect of the announcement to look at how it might impact various visa options in the coming years.
The Strategy at a Glance
Australia's new migration strategy is a game-changer, designed to refocus our skilled migration system. It's all about building productivity and fostering an innovative workforce for Australia's future. Here's a quick look at the eight key actions driving this change:
- Targeting Temporary Skilled Migration: This action aims at addressing specific skill needs and enhancing worker mobility.
- Reshaping Permanent Skilled Migration: The goal here is to fuel long-term prosperity through skilled migration.
- Upholding International Education Standards: This involves strengthening the integrity and quality of international education.
- Combating Exploitation and Visa Misuse: A crucial step towards fairer treatment of workers and proper use of the visa system.
- Strategic Migration Planning: Getting the right skills to the right places is a central focus.
- Regional Visa Customization: Tailoring regional visas and programs like the Working Holiday Maker to support regional Australia is key.
- Strengthening Indo-Pacific Ties: Deepening connections in the Indo-Pacific region is crucial for Australia's migration policy.
- Simplifying the Migration System: The plan is to make the migration process smoother for both migrants and employers.
Details That Matter
The government is extending migration planning beyond the usual 12-month cycle, aiming to fill critical skill gaps and ensure collaboration with states and territories. Interestingly, net overseas migration numbers are expected to drop significantly in the coming years.
Temporary Work Visas
The new Australian Migration Strategy introduces several major changes to employer-sponsored visa programs. These changes are designed to make the system more responsive to the needs of Australian businesses while ensuring integrity and fairness. Key changes include:
Three-Tiered System for Skilled Temporary Visas: A significant restructuring of the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa (subclass 482) is planned. It will be replaced by a three-tiered system categorized by salary levels:
- ‘Essential Skills' Visa: For those earning under AUD 70,000, focusing on specific sectors yet to be fully determined.
- ‘Core Skills' Visa: For the AUD 70,000–135,000 salary range, relying on a revised ‘skills in demand' list developed by Jobs and Skills Australia.
- ‘Specialist Skills' Visa: For individuals earning over AUD 135,000, with a processing turnaround of 7 days and no occupational list.
Employer-Nominated Stream: This stream, which requires applicants to be sponsored by an employer, will continue to play a vital role in the migration program. Specific changes to this stream were not detailed in the overview but are expected to align with the overall strategy's focus on targeting skills in high demand.
- Changes to Labour Market Testing (LMT): LMT requirements are to be streamlined. The requirement to advertise on the Workforce Australia site will be abolished, and the validity of the advertising period will increase from 4 to 6 months. Eventually, LMT might be phased out as the data on skills shortages from Jobs and Skills Australia improves and will be replaced by a Core Skilled Occupation List.
- Simplifying Application and Approval Processes: The strategy aims to simplify the system to improve the experience for both migrants and employers. This could involve reducing bureaucratic hurdles and speeding up processing times.
- Greater Flexibility for Visa Holders: The visas will be granted for up to 4 years, with provisions allowing visa holders to change employers more easily. The SAF levy is a payment required by Australian businesses that sponsor foreign workers on certain skilled visas. The strategy suggests considering the collection of the SAF levy from employers in smaller increments over time. This offers greater flexibility and mobility within the Australian job market.
- Clear Pathways to Permanent Residency: The strategy emphasizes providing clear pathways to permanent residency for those on skilled temporary visas, aligning with Australia’s long-term workforce needs.
These changes reflect a broader objective of making the employer-sponsored visa program more adaptive to labor market needs, ensuring that skilled migration is effectively contributing to the Australian economy and addressing skill shortages.
Graduate and Student Visas: A New Direction
The new Australian Migration Strategy includes significant changes to the Temporary Graduate Visa (subclass 485) focusing more on international graduates with skills that Australian employers need. This includes a reduction in the length of stay and tightening age and English language requirements.
Key changes to the 485 visa include:
1. Reducing Length of Stay: The duration of stay for international graduates will be shortened under the new strategy.
2. Restricting Visa Movement: New measures will be implemented to prevent holders of the 485 visa from moving back onto student visas.
3. Targeting Skills in Demand: There will be a focus on ensuring that only international graduates with skills in demand are allowed to stay in Australia. Those without in-demand skills may not be permitted to remain.
4. Adjusting Age Eligibility: The age eligibility for the 485 visa will be reduced from 50 to 35 years.
5. Enhancing Language Requirements: The English language level requirements for temporary graduate visa applicants will be increased.
Student visas will also see changes, with higher English language requirements and a focus on tertiary education courses. Education agents are set for more stringent regulation to ensure the integrity of the system.
These changes reflect the strategy's emphasis on aligning migration with the specific workforce needs of Australia, prioritizing graduates who can contribute to sectors where there is a genuine demand for skills.
Points-Tested Skilled Migration
The points-tested visas include the Skilled Independent (189), Skilled Nominated (190), and most Regional visas (491), where applicants are selected based on a points test that assesses factors like age, work experience, education, and language proficiency. The key changes announced in the strategy for these visas are:
- Review of Points Test: The strategy includes a plan to review the points test system. The aim is to develop a new analysis-based points test that can more effectively identify independent migrants who are likely to make significant contributions to Australia.
- Emphasis on Skills in Demand: The new system is expected to place a greater emphasis on skills that are currently in high demand in Australia. This means that applicants with certain skills sets or qualifications that align with Australia's labor market needs could potentially receive more points.
- Faster Pathway to Permanent Residence: There's an indication that the revised points test may facilitate a faster pathway to permanent residence for skilled migrants, especially for graduates working in skilled jobs in Australia.
- Alignment with Labor Market Needs: The changes are expected to align more closely with Australia's current and future labor market demands, ensuring that the points-tested visa program contributes effectively to the country’s economic growth and addresses specific skill shortages.
These changes reflect a strategic approach to ensure that the skilled migration intake is closely aligned with the skill needs of the Australian economy, thereby maximizing the benefits of immigration for both the country and the migrants.
What About Regional Migration?
The Australian Government acknowledges the need for better-targeted regional migration strategies. The new Australian Migration Strategy introduces several changes to regional migration, aimed at enhancing its effectiveness and alignment with regional population needs. These changes include:
- Targeted Strategies: The government acknowledges the need for better-targeted strategies to attract migrants to regional areas. This involves working closely with state and territories to ensure that regional migration meets specific local needs.
- Fast-Tracking Applications: Applications for regional visas will be fast-tracked to encourage more migrants to settle in regional areas.
- Review of Regional Migration Settings: There will be a comprehensive review of the current regional migration settings. This review aims to ensure that the regional migration strategy supports the development objectives of regional Australia.
- Preventing Exploitation: The strategy includes measures to ensure that regional migration does not contribute to the exploitation of migrant workers. This is a crucial aspect, as it seeks to balance the developmental needs of regional areas with the rights and welfare of migrants.
These changes reflect a shift towards a more nuanced and region-specific approach to migration, recognizing the unique needs and opportunities of different areas across Australia. The focus is on making regional migration more effective and beneficial for both migrants and the regional communities they join.
Global Talent (GTI) & Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP)
The Global Talent program as well as the BIIP will be more sharply focused, aiming at migrants who can significantly contribute to Australia's growth. Key aspects of these changes include:
- Sharper Focus: The strategy aims to narrow the focus of the Global Talent program to a relatively smaller number of migrants. The intention is to attract individuals who can make significant, outsized contributions to Australia's growth and development.
- Prioritizing High-Impact Migrants: The strategy suggests a shift towards prioritizing exceptionally skilled migrants in sectors deemed crucial for the future innovation and productivity of Australia. This could include areas like technology, science, arts, academia, and other high-demand fields.
- ‘Talent and Innovation' Visa Consideration: There's contemplation of introducing a new ‘talent and innovation' visa. This visa type would likely be designed to further attract individuals with unique skills or capabilities that align with Australia’s strategic goals.
- Refinement of Investment Criteria: The Business Innovation and Investment Program, often linked with the Global Talent initiative, will undergo changes. The aim is to guide investment into areas that significantly contribute to Australia’s future innovation and productivity, rather than small retail or hospitality businesses.
These changes to the Global Talent Visa program are part of a broader effort to align immigration with Australia's economic and strategic interests, ensuring that the country attracts individuals who can contribute substantially to its long-term prosperity and global competitiveness.
Other Notable Changes
Foreign investment in property will see increased fees and penalties, particularly for vacant dwellings.
Lastly, there's a focus on strengthening the regulation of registered migration agents and curbing unqualified immigration advice.
Australia's new Migration Strategy is a robust plan, aiming to align migration with the nation’s economic and developmental goals. It’s an exciting time for those involved in the migration sector and for those planning to make Australia their home. As always, we'll keep you updated with further details as they unfold. Stay tuned for more insights, and let’s embrace these changes together for a brighter, more prosperous Australia!