Executive summary

After conducting the first review of Australia’s migration system in years, the Australian government has unveiled the Migration Strategy. The Strategy, which has been hinted at in previous government responses and announcements throughout 2023, aims to simplify temporary and permanent skilled migration. While these reforms are generally welcomed, certain details are still being finalised, and the implementation of significant changes is expected to take place in late 2024.

Overall, the proposed reforms would facilitate temporary and permanent skilled migration.  However, a significant amount of detail remains to be determined and the proposed timetable for the implementation of major reforms in late 2024 has been extended.

The Migration Strategy proposes to achieve the following 8 targets:

  • The continued support for the Targeted Temporary Skilled Migration and Regional Migration programs.
  • Reshaping the permanent migration of skilled workers.
  • Improve the experience of migrants and employers by simplifying the migration scheme.
  • Support for workers’ mobility.
  • Improve the integrity and compliance of employers, as well as to combat workers’ exploitation.
  • Strengthening the integrity of the student visa and graduate visa programs.
  • Enhancing the integrity of student and graduate visa programs.
  • Planning of a longer-term multiyear migration program.
  • Deepening ties with the Indo-Pacific.

To achieve this, some specific reforms are to be implemented and are welcomed such as, first, streamlining the testing of the labour market and second, expanding access to permanent residence for temporary skilled workers.

In the next 12 months, further reforms will be developed and carried out:

  • Three-tiered Skills in Demand visa to replace Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa with a new approach to occupation lists.
  • Functional role of skills and jobs Australia (JSA) to determine needs based on evidence, which includes advice from tripartite mechanisms.
    • From 1 July 2024, the annual indexation of the salary threshold shall take place.
    • To support regional Australia and to prioritise the processing of applications for regional migration, the regional visas and the Working Holiday Maker program will be tailored.
    • The tightening of the student and professional visa programs.
    • Reformed points test for independent skilled migrants.
    • Replace the Global Talent and Business Investment and Innovation Visa programs, a new Talent and Innovation Visa will be introduced.

Simplifying Labour Market Testing

  • The requirement to publish job advertisements via Workforce Australia has been removed.
  • The time limit for advertising will be increased from 4 to 6 months at the end of 2024.
  • Consideration will also be given to moving from employer advertising in late 2024 to independent verification of the needs of the labour market with a role in the Joint Supervisory Authority.

Permanent residence pathways for employer sponsored visa holders

In November 2023, the eligibility of most holders of temporary visas, regardless of their visa type and occupation, for employer sponsored permanent residence was extended.  Also, the period of eligibility for employment in Australia has been reduced from three years to two years.

Employer Compliance

The priority of the government remains to comply with employer obligations and eliminate the exploitation of foreign workers.  The measures to be taken in order to comply with this strategy, which will be put into effect by late 2024, include:

  • With the anticipated passage of the Migration Amendment Strengthening Employer Compliance Act 2023, increase penalties and introduce new offences for breaches of sponsorship obligations and unauthorised workers.
  • Protection against visa cancellation and improving opportunities to remain in Australia for migrants who have experienced exploitation.
  • Strengthening the integrity of the approval process for sponsor applications, taking into account sponsors’ employment practices and records based on all available evidence, including requiring sponsors to disclose any adverse findings by relevant workplace regulators as well as previous bankruptcies.
  • A new monitoring mechanism, including through the Specialist Skills pathway, which ensures that employees are not paid below their contracted salaries.
  • To detect and prevent exploitation, improve post arrival monitoring and compliance, including coordination with the taxation system.  The use of tax file numbers and single touch payroll may also be used for checking payments through Australia’s tax system.
  • To register authorised sponsors and to provide migrant workers with a way of checking the legitimacy of their sponsor companies, to promote mobility for migrants.  Details such as the following will be included in the register:
    • The name of approved sponsors
    • Number of temporary skilled workers they are employing
    • Occupations and/or pathway those workers are employed in
  • In order to support job creation and training of local workers, the Joint Supervisory Authority will also keep a close eye on the labour market impact of the specialised skills pathway.  Furthermore, the use and effects of this pathway will be regularly monitored and discussed with the trilateral mechanisms.

Consultation

The extended implementation period gives businesses the opportunity to express their views on government policy.

Skills in Demand Visa

Summary of preliminary information available in Migration Strategy December 2023.

Pathway
Specialist Skills
Core Skills
Essential Skills
Purpose
Fast track pathway for highly skilled specialists to quickly and easily recruit top talent to drive innovation and job creation.
Standard pathway for skilled employees to meet targeted workforce needs.
A more regulated pathway for lower paid workers with essential skills in critical sectors, primarily care and support.
Salary threshold, to be indexed annually, must also pay market salary rate
AUD 135,000
Specialist Skills Threshold
AUD 70,000
Core Skills Threshold
Below Core Skills Threshold
Occupation
Any occupation except trade workers, machine operators and drivers, and laborers
On Core Skills Occupation List (CSOL)
Sector specific
Quota
Capped (between 3,000 and 5,000)
Uncapped
Capped
Processing time
7 days
21 days
21 days
Visa validity period
Up to 4 years
Up to 4 years
Up to 4 years
Implementation timetable
Late 2024
Late 2024
Further consultation during 2024
Visa holder mobility
  • 180 days to find another sponsor with permission to work during that period
  • Explore model for employers to pay trailing charges to replace upfront SAF Levy
  • Public register of sponsors to support worker mobility
  • Guaranteed pathway to permanent residence and period of employment with any approved employer to count towards permanent residence requirement

 

Formal consultation in planned in relation to several reforms announced in the Strategy

  • In order to ensure that migration supports regional Australia’s development objectives and does not contribute to the exploitation of migrant workers, a discussion paper will be published in early 2024 asking for input into an evaluation of regional migration settings and Working Maker Holiday Scheme.
  • Consultations on the strengthening of the integrity of the application process for sponsorship approvals will be launched by mid 2024.
  • Consultation on the best way of regulating migration for low paid workers with basic skills under the Essential Skills pathway will be launched by mid-2024.

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