Australia Migration Strategy
In a landmark move, the Department of Home Affairs unveiled its much-awaited migration strategy on December 11, 2023. The proposed reforms aim to address challenges in the immigration system and introduce significant changes across multiple visa categories.
Our blog will explore the reforms’ critical impacts on student visas, graduate visas, permanent residency pathways, and employer-sponsored visas, particularly the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa.
Building on previous reforms, the government has introduced additional measures to strengthen the integrity and quality of International education. This includes:
- Increasing English language requirements to improve the quality of students by increasing the required test scores:
- for a Student visa from IELTS (or equivalent) 5.5 to 6.0
- for ELICOS from IELTS (or equivalent) 4.5 to 5.0
- for University foundation or pathway programs to IELTS (or equivalent) 5.5.
- Implementing heightened scrutiny for unscrupulous providers.
- Introducing a new Genuine Student test for all international students, replacing the Genuine Temporary Entrant requirement. This test promotes genuine applications while discouraging non-genuine students (whose primary intent is to work rather than study) from accessing the Student visa pathway. The government is allocating $19 million to strengthen the student visa integrity unit in Home Affairs significantly.
- Introducing additional scrutiny for international students applying for another student visa. Eligible students applying within Australia must provide evidence in their application demonstrating that any subsequent course aligns with their career or academic aspirations. Prospective international students who cannot show this logical course progression from their initial course will not meet the Genuine Student test.
- Preventing “visa hopping” by restricting Temporary Graduate visa holders from transferring back to student visas while onshore. This measure is expected to assist graduates working in skilled jobs in securing permanent residency while reducing the number of graduates “in limbo” who stay in Australia despite having fewer prospects of permanent residence.
The government is making significant changes to the graduate visa to prevent graduates from being stuck in a “permanently temporary” state. The reforms will ensure that graduates work at their skill level and address skills needs. The changes include:
- Reducing the duration of the Temporary Graduate Visa (TGV) as follows:
- 2 years for Bachelor’s Degree & Master by coursework
- 3 years for Master by research & PhD
- Only applicants who studied in a regional area will be eligible for an extension (for 1-2 years, depending on their location)
- Lowering the maximum eligible age for a TGV to 35, down from the current cutoff age of 50.
- Renaming TGV streams as ‘Post-Higher Education Work’ and ‘Post-Vocational Education Work’ to avoid confusion between the streams.
- TGV processing times for the ‘Post-Higher Education Work Stream’ will be backed by a 21-day service standard.
- Modifying the work experience requirement for a Temporary Skills Shortage visa (and future Skills in Demand visa) to provide TGV holders with more opportunities to transition to a skilled visa. Further details on this are pending clarification.
SKILLS IN DEMAND VISA
SKILLS IN DEMAND VISA
The government is set to introduce a new 4-year temporary skilled worker visa called the Skills in Demand visa. This visa is set to replace the Temporary Skill Shortage visa and aims to offer greater flexibility for workers to change employers and establish clear pathways to permanent residence.
The key features of this visa include a:
- Guaranteed Pathways to Permanent Residence: The Skills in Demand visa holders will have a direct path to permanent residence. Periods of employment with any approved employer will contribute towards permanent residence requirements.
- Extended Job Search Period: If the employment relationship with a sponsor ends, visa holders will have 180 days to secure another sponsor. During this period, they are allowed to work.
- Trailing Employer Fees: The government will explore a model for employers to pay trailing fees (e.g., monthly or quarterly), reducing the burden of hiring new migrants.
- Streamlined Visa Applications: Visa applications will be supported by a service standard for processing, facilitating quick filling of vacancies by employers.
- Streamlined labour market testing – The obligation to advertise on Workforce Australia as part of Labour Market Testing (LMT) has also been eliminated. The Department is introducing a more efficient approach to streamline LMT, which includes extending the LMT advertising period from 4 to 6 months, allowing for a more extended validity of job advertisements.
- Public Register of Sponsors: A public register of approved sponsors, including the number of migrants sponsored and their occupations, will be established to assist migrants seeking new sponsors.
The Skills in Demand visa will also introduce a three-tiered system for applicants based on their annual earnings and occupation.
Tier 1 – Specialist Skills Pathway
This pathway is designed for applicants meeting general eligibility criteria and is open to individuals in any occupation, excluding trades workers, machinery operators, drivers, and labourers. To qualify, applicants must earn a minimum of $135,000 (Specialist Skills Threshold) and at least the average salary of Australian workers in the same occupation.
Tier 2 – Core Skills Pathway
Intended for most temporary skilled migrants, the Core Skills Pathway aims to address immediate and future skill needs. Eligible applicants must meet general criteria, work in occupations listed on the Core Skills Occupation List, and earn a salary equal to or above the TSMIT (to be retitled the Core Skills Threshold).
Tier 3 – Essential Skills Pathway
This pathway is currently under development and will cater to lower-paid workers with essential skills, particularly in sectors crucial for Australians’ living standards. The Essential Skills Pathway will be sector-specific, capped, and subject to more robust regulation and minimum standards, informed by advice from Jobs and Skills Australia. Consultations with state and territory governments, unions, businesses, and migrant workers will shape its final structure.
We are available to assist you with navigating the changes to Australia’s migration strategy. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or +61 430 534 697.