A consensus emerged at the Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra last week on the vital need for reform in Australia’s migration program. Employer and community groups, unions, and government each shared their perspective and it is clear that the skills crisis as a result of the pandemic has sharpened everyone’s focus.
Four immediate changes and six areas for an urgent review and further action were confirmed at the Summit.
Higher Skilled Migration Numbers
The permanent skilled migration threshold was increased to 195,000 for the current program year (to June 2023) with places for state and territory migration increased to 31,000, up from 11,000.
Addressing Visa Processing Times
A $36m investment was confirmed to provide for a staffing surge of 500 visa processing officers to address the visa application backlog over the next 9 months. This should bring application processing times down and deliver the increased number of permanent places in the program.
International Tertiary Graduates to be Provided Post Graduate Work Rights for Longer Periods
International student visa graduates of Australia’s tertiary institutions will be provided longer-term post-graduate stays in Australia:
- Degree graduates: 4 years, up from 2 years
- Masters graduates: 5 years, up from 3 years
- PhD graduates: 6 years, up from 4 years
Temporary Work Rights Concessions to Continue until July 2023
The relaxation of student visa work rights will continue to July 2023 to enable the economy to benefit from the labour of temporary visa holders in Australia.
In most cases, student visa holders have a work limitation of 40 hours per fortnight while their course is in session. This condition was relaxed in early 2022 to allow student visa holders to work more hours and this will now continue until June 2023. Student visa holders must continue to meet other visa conditions, including satisfying course requirements.
Six Areas for Urgent Review and Action
The following further areas were confirmed as key areas of review with actions to emerge from further consultations:
- Development of pathways to permanent residence
- Assessing the suitability of skilled visa occupation lists
- Increasing the TSMIT (as noted below)
- Examining the concept of industry sponsorship
- Addressing worker exploitation (2023 priority)
- Regional labour shortages.
The new government, since being elected, has noted its preference for permanent migration and Minister Andrew Giles noted that there was work to be done in ‘carving out’ permanent pathways for skilled migrants. Minister Clare O’Neill noted permanency and citizenship were an important part of Australia’s nation-building and emphasised a shift away from reliance on temporary migration.
While there was broad agreement on the need for change, there were differences of opinion as to the nature and extent of change. This was highlighted in discussions on the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT). The TSMIT is the minimum salary permitted for a Subclass 482 visa and it has not been increased since 2013 – it is currently $53,900.
It was clear all parties recognised the TSMIT should be increased but there was disagreement as to the level of increase with some suggesting indexation to around $60,000 and others suggesting a figure closer to $90,000.
While the work of addressing these six areas of change will continue, the government also announced that Professor Brian Schmidt, Vice Chancellor of the Australian National University, will lead a review into Australia’s migration system which will report in February 2023.
It will be very interesting to see the changes that emerge and we look forward to the announcements in the coming weeks and months.
Interstaff | Over 30 Years of Visa and Migration Experience
Interstaff is an Australian-owned and operated business providing strategic migration advice to businesses and individuals Australia-wide and internationally since 1988.
Should you need professional advice on your Visa or Migration requirements, we encourage you to call Interstaff’s Migration Agents on 08 9221 3388 (Perth) or 02 7200 2567 (Sydney) or 03 8319 0902 (Melbourne) or +61 8 9221 3388 (International).