Program for reforms of the immigration system published, here are the key points
Almost 12 months have passed since the elections which saw the Labor government take office led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. For the first time in Australia’s history, the Department of Immigration has been split into two offices. One is that of the honourable Claire O’Neil, head of the entire Ministry of Home Affairs (Department of Home Affairs) which manages the operations of the migration system in Australia. Andrew Giles, on the other hand, has been assigned the more specific role of Minister of Immigration. After dedicating the first part of their mandate to reducing the high volume of pending visas, these two offices recently announced their first practical measures: the raising of the minimum threshold for those who will be sponsored starting from 1 July 2023 and the introduction, before the end of 2023, of a ‘pathway’ that allows all TSS 482 visa holders (regardless of whether they are on the Short or Medium Long list) to obtain permanent residency.
However, in a report of about 200 pages published on 26 April 2023, the government details the program for the rest of the mandate.
Let’s analyse the salient points, bearing in mind that it is a ‘programme’ or rather an intention of the executive power (the Government) which will have to be confirmed by the parliament:
Reform of the points system for Skilled Visas
No particular details are added but it is specified that the intention is not to reward only those who can contribute immediately, but also migrants with high ‘human capital’ who can contribute in the long term
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Simplification of the Global Talent Visa
This program has long been the subject of criticism as two similar applications may not have the same result, and the criteria are not very objective. The idea is to make the requirements clearer for those wishing to apply and reduce the number of people who are ‘deluded’.
Removal of Labor Market Testing for Sponsors
Simplifying as much as possible, today, in addition to a ‘minimum salary’ for those who are sponsored (TSMIT), it is also necessary to demonstrate that the salary offered is not locally having a downward impact on the salaries offered to the local population (through a research defined Labor Market Testing). The combination of these two requirements makes the process complex and longer (imposing a minimum of 28 days for the application of a sponsor) and therefore the government seems to be betting on TSMIT and will let go of the Labor Market Testing requirement
Raising the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold Raised (TSMIT)
As explained in the previous point, TSMIT means a minimum salary for anyone who is sponsored.
Despite strong pressure to raise this threshold to AUD $90,000, the government has for now raised the threshold to AUD $70,000.
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Extension of the period in which a new sponsor can be found if the employment relationship ends
Currently TSS 482 visa holders have 60 days to find a new sponsor once their relationship ends (due to closure of the business, dismissal or resignation). The Department intends to extend this period to six months, and also not to link it to the specific position but rather to a ‘job family’.
Establishment of a register to ‘ban’ businesses that break the conditions to be able to sponsor
There are no big details but the idea is to prevent businesses that do not comply with the laws from being able to sponsor in the future
Sponsor fees (Skill Australia Fund) become monthly and not paid upfront
When a sponsor wants to apply for a TSS 482 visa, he is required to prepay $1200 for each year of sponsorship. Let’s take the example of a Chef: when sponsored for a 4-year period, the restaurant is required to immediately pay $4,800 + nomination and Standard Business sponsorship fees. This not only represents a heavy burden, but also exposes the risk of losing this money in case the applicant decides to change plans. Therefore, the government intends to divide this payment into monthly installments.
Limitation of the Working Holiday Visa Program to one year only
Yeah, this is a bit scary. According to an Australian parliamentary commission aimed at identifying the causes of growing youth unemployment, the preference of employers for cheaper labor from abroad is indicated. The government will therefore ask the parliament to consider the idea of limiting the maximum period of the Working Holiday Visa to just one year so that the sole purpose is to promote cultural exchange but not to provide unregulated work options (literally ‘does not operate to tie migration outcomes to the performance of work’).
You may be interested in: how the Working Holiday Visa works
Introduction of a US-style lottery for parents of Australian citizens
The studies reported have considered not only the USA, but also Canada and New Zealand as contexts in which the lottery was found to be a better solution in handling high volumes of applications. In general, the limitations of the current parent visas have been reaffirmed.
Student Visa: Reform the limited working hours system
The report clarifies that the decision to bring the limit back to 48 hours every two weeks was a measure chosen to impose a focus on education.
However, the report points out that this also has the effect of ‘creating vulnerabilities in students who are likely to work longer hours’ and discouraging employers. The Panel admits that the Student Visa program represents not only an important but also a constantly growing value for the Australian economy. Therefore, the report admits that this aspect will need to be discussed as, on the one hand, the limit of hours represents a limit for the Australian economy and to unlock the potential of international students, on the other, without the limit, there is the risk of creating visas jobs without minimum wage impositions (and this may lead to exploitation).
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Economic factor considered as a criterion of authenticity in Student Visas
While on the one hand the government admits that the hour limit rule will have to be re-discussed, on the other it specifies that the intention is to avoid people who use the program only to ‘acquire work rights’ without real intentions of study. A particular (negative) focus will therefore be adopted for those people who want to enter Australia by spending as little as possible (as it will be considered a calculation to enter the world of work with the least possible expense).
Remember, this is a program. Without a doubt this is the direction that the government will take.
However, it is not certain that further parliamentary discussions or interventions by economists will then give effect to different measures.
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