Australia unveils a new migration strategy to bring in more skilled workers

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Released by the Australian Government today, the Migration Strategy sets out significant reforms to Australia’s migration system.

The Migration Strategy outlines five core objectives for Australia’s migration system. To achieve these objectives, the Government will deliver eight key actions, supported by more than 25 new policy commitments and existing commitments already made by Government.

The reforms focus on:

  • targeted skilled migration and new streamlined pathways for top global talent
  • higher standards for international students and education providers to drive quality in international education
  • visa settings to tackle worker exploitation and protect wages and conditions
  • support for regional Australia to get fast access to skilled workers
  • a new approach to migration planning to help return migration back to pre-pandemic levels and to get the right skills in the right places.

View the Implementation Timeline

8 key actions

1. Targeting temporary skilled migration to address skills needs and promote worker mobility.

A new Skills in Demand visa with three targeted pathways, and visa settings that encourage migrant worker mobility in the labour market. New commitments include:

  • A new Specialist Skills Pathway to make it easier for Australia to attract highly skilled workers, for example in the technology or green energy industries.
  • A Core Skills Pathway to meet targeted workforce needs, with a simpler, regularly updated occupation list for the skills Australia needs.
  • New visa settings that give migrant workers more mobility in the labour market to help tackle worker exploitation and drive productivity.
  • Streamlined labour market testing and visa processing.

Skills In Demand Visa

The Government will introduce a new 4-year temporary skilled worker visa—the Skills in Demand visa. This new visa will give workers more opportunity to move employers and will provide clear pathways to permanent residence for those who want to pursue them.

The Skills in Demand visa will replace the complex single employer sponsored Temporary Skill Shortage visa, which business and unions agree is not fit for purpose.

A key feature of this visa is an alternative approach to mobility. Skills in Demand visa holders will have a
pathway to permanent residence. Periods of employment with any approved employer will count towards permanent residence requirements.

If the employment relationship with a sponsor ceases, visa holders will have 180 days to find another sponsor and can work during this period.

The Government will explore a model for employers to pay trailing charges and fees (e.g. monthly or quarterly) to make hiring a new migrant less onerous.

Visa applications will be backed by a service standard for visa processing, enabling employers to fill a vacancy quickly. A public register of approved sponsors, including the number of migrants sponsored and their occupations, will be developed to assist migrants wishing to find a new sponsor.

The Skills in Demand Visa – The Specialist Skills Pathway

This visa will be available to applicants who meet the general eligibility criteria (for example, be nominated by an approved employer, meet the health and character requirements) and who are:

  • in any occupation except trades workers, machinery operators and drivers, and labourers
  • earning at least $135,000 (the Specialist Skills Threshold) and no less than Australian workers in the same occupation.

The Government will commit to a service standard of 7 days median visa processing time for workers in the Specialist Skills Pathway.

The Skills in Demand Visa – The Core Skills Pathway

Most temporary skilled migrants will come through the Core Skills Pathway. The Core Skills Pathway would be available to applicants who meet the general eligibility criteria and:

  • whose occupation is on a new Core Skills Occupation List, which relates to occupations identified by Jobs and Skills Australia as being in shortage or where Australia has committed to providing access to our labour market in relation to that occupation through international trade agreements
  • who will be paid a salary at or above the TSMIT (to be retitled the Core Skills Threshold, when the new system is implemented), or the relevant average market salary where it is above the TSMIT.

2. Reshaping permanent skilled migration to drive long-term prosperity

A commitment to explore a reformed points test for permanent skilled migration, and a new Talent and Innovation visa for migrants who can drive growth in sectors of national importance.

3. Strengthening the integrity and quality of international education

A package of integrity measures to lift the standards for international students and education providers, while ensuring graduates help meet skills shortages and do not become ‘permanently temporary’.
New commitments include:

  • Higher English language requirements for international students and graduates

In early 2024, the Government will increase English language requirements for the Student and Temporary Graduate visas:

  • the test score required for a Temporary Graduate visa will increase from an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score (or equivalent) of 6.0 to 6.5
  • the test score required for a Student visa will increase from IELTS (or equivalent) 5.5 to 6.0
  • the test score required for students undertaking an English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) before their main course of study will increase from IELTS (or equivalent) 4.5 to 5.0
  • the test score required for students undertaking university foundation or pathway programs that deliver reputable English language training will be IELTS (or equivalent) 5.5.
  • More scrutiny of high-risk student visa applications and a $19m investment into the Home Affairs student visa integrity unit
  • Restrictions on onshore visa hopping that undermines system integrity and drives ‘permanent temporariness’
  • Strengthened and simplified Temporary Graduate visa settings
  • Measures to support international students and graduates to realise their potential.

The duration of an initial Temporary Graduate Visa will be shorter. The extension of post-study work rights will no longer be available. Only applicants who studied in a regional area will be eligible for an extension. TGV length under new settings:
Initial TGV

  • 2 years for Bachelor Degree
  • 2 years Masters by coursework
  • 3 years for Masters by research
  • 3 years for PhD
  • Eligibility for a second TGV
  • + 1–2 years for study in a regional area (dependent on location)

4. Tackling worker exploitation and the misuse of the visa system

A comprehensive suite of legislation, powers, penalties and policies to combat worker exploitation and restore integrity to the migration system. New commitments include:

  • A new public register of employer sponsors to improve integrity and support migrant worker mobility. This commitment complements other strong measures outlined in the Migration Strategy to design migrant worker exploitation out of the migration system.

5. Planning migration to get the right skills in the right places

A longer-term, evidence-based approach to planning migration that closely collaborates with states and territories and ensures population planning is based on the best available population data and forecasts.
New commitments include:

  • A new approach to planning permanent migration over the long-term and greater state and territory collaboration on net overseas migration forecasts.

6. Tailoring regional visas and the Working Holiday Maker Program to support regional Australia and its workers

A new direction to ensure visas for regional Australia are prioritised first, and a commitment to evaluating regional migration settings and the Working Holiday Maker program to ensure migration supports development objectives in regional Australia and does not contribute to worker exploitation.
New commitments include:

  • A new direction to ensure regional visas receive the highest priority visa processing.

7. Deepening our people-to-people ties in the Indo-Pacific

A new approach to developing people-to-people links with our region, including through a direct pathway to citizenship for New Zealanders and increased mobility with Pacific Island and
Southeast Asian countries.

8. Simplifying the migration system to improve the experience for migrants and employers

A system-wide simplification agenda that will streamline visa settings, reduce visa classes and
make the system easier to use.
New commitments include:

  • The removal of 20+ unnecessary and duplicative visas to simplify the visa system.

Source: Commonwealth of Australia, © Commonwealth of Australia, Migration Strategy 2023.

Disclaimer: Any posted material is not intended to be immigration advice and does not purport to represent all requirements for a successful application or applications. No person should act on the basis of the material contained in any post without obtaining advice relevant to their situation, and without considering and taking professional advice from a Registered Migration Agent where necessary.

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