1. Migration Strategy
The long-awaited Migration Strategy was released on 11 December 2023. Here’s an overview of the new strategy, which is designed to make our skilled migration system more focused on skills required to build productivity and use permanent migration to build an innovative and effective workforce for Australia's future.
The strategy is based on 8 key actions:
- Targeting temporary skilled migration to address skills needs and promote worker mobility;
- Reshaping permanent skilled migration to drive long-term prosperity;
- Strengthening the integrity and quality of international education;
- Tackling worker exploitation and the misuse of the visa system;
- Planning migration to get the right skills in the right places;
- Tailoring regional visas and the Working Holiday Maker program to support regional Australia and its workers;
- Deepening our people-to-people ties in the Indo-Pacific;
- Most crucially, simplifying the migration system to improve the experience for migrants and employers.
Certain parts of the strategy are still to be finalised after further consultation as recommended by the Parkinson review.
The key announcements include:
Skilled Temporary Visas
A new three-tiered system of visa pathways to replace the TSS SC 482. The 'essential skills' visa for those earning under $70,000, the 'core skills' visa for the $70-135,000 cohort and the 'specialist skills' visa for those earning over $135,000 per year.
The specialist skills visa pathway will not have an occupational list and a processing turnaround of 7 days. There will be 3,000 places allocated per year.
The core skills visas pathway is expected to provide the majority of visas for the program.
The details of the essential skills visa pathway are yet to be finally determined. This visa will involve union oversight, be capped and be restricted to specific sectors. To date, the aged care and disability sectors have been mentioned.
The visas will be granted for up to 4 years and visa holders will be able to change employers more easily and provide clear pathways to permanent residency. Greater flexibility when changing positions will be introduced and a greater grace period of 120 days will be permitted before the primary 482 visa holder is deemed to be in violation of visa condition 8607, as opposed to the current 60 days.
The Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) will be indexed annually and a public register of employer sponsors to allow more ease with moving between employers.
Skilling Australians Fund
Consideration will be given to collecting the SAF in smaller increments over time in recognition of the greater freedom of visa holders to change employers. A monthly or quarterly payment model will be explored.
Labour Market Testing
LMT is to be streamlined. The requirement to advertise on the Workforce Australia site was abolished on 8 December 2023 (refer to paragraph 2 for full details of current LMT criteria).
The validity of the advertising period is set to increase from 4 to 6 months.
LMT will be gradually phased out as Jobs and Skills Australia data on skills shortages improves and a Core Skilled Occupation List created as an alternative to LMT.
The points test will be reviewed. Further consultation will occur on a new points test, with the development of a new analysis-based points test to identify more effectively the independent migrants who will make the greatest contribution to the country. This pathway will have a faster pathway to permanent residence for graduates working in skilled jobs.
Temporary Graduate Visas
There will be considerable change to these visas as they become more targeted towards international graduates with skills required by Australian employers, including:
- reducing the length of stay for these international graduates
- preventing holders of the new graduate visas from moving back onto student visas
- preventing the stay of International graduates without skills in demand from remaining in Australia.
- reducing the age eligibility from 50 to 35 years of age
- increased English language levels for temporary graduate visas
There will be significant changes to the student visa program, although the number of places will not be capped. Instead, other migration levers will be used to control numbers, including;
- higher English language levels for student visa applicants
- reducing the types of courses eligible for student visas with the focus on retaining tertiary university courses
- preventing course swapping
- increased funding for visa integrity and to identify the 'genuine student test'.
2. Streamlining of the Labour Market Testing Criteria
An amendment to the existing legislative instrument came out on 8 December 2023, further streamlining labour market testing criteria. In particular, the amendment removes the requirement to advertise the nominated position on the Workforce Australia website.
The amendment also clarifies matters concerning the four weeks’ duration of any advertising (paid or unpaid) of a nominated position. Namely, it expressly clarifies that the principal instrument allows for advertisement over two or more overlapping periods totalling a minimum duration of four weeks.
The nominated position must now be advertised for 28 days in at least two advertisements on or in any of the following:
(a) a recruitment website with national reach in Australia;
(b) print media with national reach in Australia;
(c) radio with national reach in Australia;
(d) if the approved sponsor is accredited - the approved sponsor’s website.
Two or more overlapping advertisements are acceptable, allowing for applications or expressions of interest to be received for a continuous (unbroken) duration of at least four weeks.
The LMT criteria are not applicable in cases where the nominee holds a United Kingdom passport, is a permanent resident of the United Kingdom, or is a passport holder of a member country of the ITO (International Trade Organisation).
3. Priority Processing for Regional Australia Applications
A new Ministerial Direction for prioritising skilled visa applications came into effect on 15 December 2023. Ministerial Direction No.105 formalises the Australian Government’s support for regional Australia through priority processing. It builds on ongoing work to improve skilled visa processing times.
The new Ministerial Direction recognises the need to streamline visa processing for businesses in regional Australia that are sponsoring skilled workers. It puts applications for employer-sponsored visas in occupations in regional Australia to the highest priority.
This applies to the Temporary Skill Shortage visa (subclass 482), Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) and Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 494) visas as they fill an identified shortage and are guaranteed to be in regional Australia.
The new Ministerial Direction will continue prioritising applications for occupations in the healthcare and education sectors. This change will have a minor impact on processing times for these occupations which are already highly efficient.
As a medical practitioner working in regional Australia, your visa application is offered absolute priority in processing, and you are likely to receive a positive outcome within record time, subject to meeting the visa criteria and submitting a complete application.
We take this opportunity to remind you that the eligibility period for TRT (Temporary Residence Transition) stream approval has been shortened. Prospective Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) nominees/applicants, while holding a relevant visa (Subclass 482, Subclass 457, or a related bridging visa), now need to have worked in the nominated position, or occupation (for select listed occupations), for two out of the three years immediately before the nomination application is lodged.
Navigating the intricate migration landscape can be challenging. That's why our registered migration agents are prepared to provide customised advice and expert guidance to ensure your journey is smooth and successful during this period of change. Don't hesitate to contact Alexandra Graham or Leiara Ferrett at firstname.lastname@example.org for personalised assistance.