April 8, 2024

Significant changes to note for Australian migration

For a large country (approximately 7.7 million kms), a small population (26 million) and a strong tradition of migration from around the world, practicing Australian migration law is not for the faint hearted. Sometimes I think I am crazy to be involved in this wonderful, exciting, ever-changing profession. During the pandemic, the Australian Government closed borders even to its own citizens, it held the not so wanted moniker of being the only country in the world to do so.

Change is ever present in the Australian migration programme and so I have detailed some significant changes to note. 

Changes in the previous 12 months ?  

A raft of media announcements, legislation change, Parliamentary debate and journalistic input has seen some tweaks to the migration programme in the last 12 months:

    • the once highly prized Global Talent Visa is available to those who are globally renown in their profession with an annual income of at least $165,000 AUD.  The programme started as a slow burn but gathered momentum quite quickly.  The brakes have now been put on and numbers are declining.  Now only open to the highly talented few.
    • Student visas were once touted by the government as a door to Australian residency.  Universities became reliant on overseas students to bolster their balance sheet but now we see the tightening of the programme. The test of genuineness has been amended to include rejection rates which has made universities nervous to accept the vast numbers of students that they once did.
    • The much-lambasted labour market testing was amended towards the end of last year and advertising on the dreaded Workforce Australia is no longer required.  This should now stop the calls from clients trying to weave their way through the clunky system while wiping away their tears at the same time.
    • The door was open to permanent residence for those whose skills were previously classed of lesser importance (aka the short term list).  2 years in Australia on a 482 with the same employer will now give visa holders the right to apply for residency if they so wish.

What do we have to look forward to in the 12 months I hear you ask ?

The union involvement in the migration programme is being felt across all fronts.  Their strongly held belief that all migrants on temporary visas are being exploited has led to a tightening of the Employer Compliance Act.  From 1 July the Act will, amongst other amendments: 

    • make it a crime to coerce or unduly pressure a person into breaching their work-related visa conditions
    • prevent, for a specific period of time, employers that have been convicted of these offences from hiring further temporary visa holders
    • publish the names of these prohibited employers on the Home Affairs website
    • significantly increasing the pecuniary and civil penalties as a deterrent

Towards the end of the year, the government intends to replace the current Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) visa with the new ‘Skills in Demand’ visa.

A key feature of the Skills in Demand visa is the shift to more worker mobility across industries.  The Skills in Demand visa is intended to be structured into three streams. 

    1. The Specialist Skills pathway. For foreign nationals earning at least AUD 135,000 (excluding high salary trades, machinery operators and labourers). 
    2. The Core Skills pathway. Visa applicants whose earnings will be between $70,000 AUD and $135,000 AUD.
    3. The Essential Skills pathway. For foreign workers in critical industries earning less than $70,000 AUD.

Pathways to residence under the Employer Nomination Scheme will see amendments to the legislation that define:

    1. periods of employment with any approved employer will count towards permanent residence requirements; and
    2. expanded options to apply for permanent residence through self-nominated independent pathways visa the points test

These are significant amendments to current legislation and the creation of a whole new visa subclass will bring questions and public debate.  I strongly believe that Australia will always need skilled people, but it is the rate at which change occurs that leads to uncertainty and an inability to plan too far ahead.  We are yet to have a debate about a Population Policy and what do we want our migration programme to look like in 5,10, 20 years?.  I strongly believe that the lack of foresight by successive governments has led to constant change in the migration programme and I do not believe that this will change in any time in the foreseeable future.  

This month our article has been kindly authored by Amanda Tinner, Director of Visa Executive. Amanda’s wealth of experience as well as pragmatic approach shines through and gives a glimpse into the Australian immigration system.



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