The Minister for Home Affairs, Clare O’Neil, made an announcement on 27 April 2023 of a major overhaul to Australia’s Skilled Migration Program, designed to make Australia more attractive to international talent and to fill the demand for skilled workers in critical areas.
Some highlights of the changes we can expect to commence on 1 July 2023:
- TSMIT (temporary skilled migration income threshold) to be increased from $53,900 to $70,000. This will apply to Subclass 482 and 494 visas and will see
- New Zealand citizens living in Australia will have a direct pathway to Australian citizenship. All Special Category (subclass 444) Visa holders will be able to apply directly for citizenship without becoming permanent residents first, as long as they meet a four-year residence and other eligibility requirements.
Other changes we can expect to see in the Migration space between 1 July 2023 and end of 2023:
- Permanent residency pathway for all temporary skilled visa holders from the end of 2023. This means visa holders with occupations on the Short Term List will now have access to Permanent Residency and businesses will be able to retain global talent by supporting their overseas employees to obtain Permanent Residence.
- Removal of mandatory Labour Market Testing (LMT) for Employer Sponsored visas.
- Simplification of the visa system to reduce the number of visa categories. For skilled visas there will be 3 tiers:
- ‘High salary/Specialised” tier – made up of specialised workers. Not limited to a government approved list of occupations and expected to be primarily intra-company transfers; No LMT will be required but a high salary will need to be paid (not set but anticipated to be around $98,000)
- “Mid level” tier – based on skills which are needed (core skills) and are paid a salary at or above the revised Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) of $70,000; No LMT will be required but the applicant will need to be listed in a relevant “data-driven-list”.
- “Lower wage” tier (earning less than $70,000) – designed to assist sectors experiencing critical and ongoing skills shortages such as health and care workers. This could attract a lower minimum salary threshold and concessions to English but will attract greater processing and compliance scrutiny to prevent worker exploitation.
- The occupation list approach will be reformed and skills recognition process to be reformed. We are likely to see the MLTSSL and STSOL and ROL lists removed and changed.
- Changes to the skilled points test for skilled permanent residency visas and a revamped Global Talent visa program.
- Allowing temporary migrant workers greater flexibility in finding work with another employer within the same sector – with up to 6 months to secure new employment.
- Requiring the Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) levy to be paid monthly, rather than up-front, to facilitate movement between employers and reduce up-front costs.
Other changes we can expect to see in general:
- The student visa program to be reviewed and strengthened, with a focus on integrity and focus on attracting high performing international students to study in Australia.
- Implementation of better regulation of Migration Agents and Education Agents to fix integrity issues and lift standards for students and education.
- The Business Innovation and Investment Visa program will also be radically restructured to better bring capital and entrepreneurship to Australia.
- Reviewing the approach to parent visas – a proposal of a “lottery” system to prevent further backlogs and a ‘cheaper, more attractive temporary visa’ for parents which might replace the permanent visas in the long term is being considered.
Former deputy secretary of Australia’s immigration department, Abul Rizvi said the foreseen changes are positive “I think what we can expect … is even further changes beyond that [the budget] as the government works out the details of how to implement some of the recommendations.”
The Federal budget to be announced on 9th May 2023 will likely reveal more information about the migration review and wider strategy envisioned for migration in Australia.