A Migration Strategy with an aim of revamping Australia’s Immigration System

The most recent Migration Strategy was released earlier this week with the Government’s aim of fixing the country’s “flawed migration system”.  While the 99-page document covers a range of overhauls affecting major visa categories, the recent policy developments hold significant implications, particularly for our international student community.

Whilst the announcements are preliminary at this stage, the intention is to undertake a phased approach with implementations occurring early 2024.

Here are the 8-key objectives outlined:

  1. Temporary skilled migration targeting skill shortages and promoting worker mobility. 
  2. Reshaping permanent skilled migration to drive long-term prosperity.
  3. Strengthening the integrity and quality of international education.
  4. Tackling worker exploitation and the misuse of the visa system.
  5. Establishing a long-term migration plan to better manage migration intake. 
  6. Tailoring regional visas and the Working Holiday Maker program to support skill shortages in regional Australia. 
  7. Strengthening Australia’s ties in the Indo-Pacific region. 
  8. Simplifying the migration system to improve the experience for migrants and employers.

An overhaul of the current international education system

There will be significant changes to both the Student Visa & Temporary Graduate program aimed at lifting the standards for: 

    • International students 
    • Australian education providers

While the government has not mandated a cap on student numbers, new policies will inadvertently affect the overall student population by introducing a more stringent and tougher genuine temporary entrant (GTE) test and applying greater measures devoted towards strengthening the integrity and quality of education.  

These measures are: 

    • Imposing higher English language levels for student visa applicants.
    • Reducing the types of courses eligible for student visas with the focus on retaining tertiary university courses.
    • Restricting onshore visa-hopping to prevent “permanent temporariness”. 
    • Cracking down on unethical and unscrupulous education providers. 
    • Increased funding towards the Student Visa integrity unit within DOHA to reduce misuse of the Student Visa system. 

Strengthening the Temporary Graduate Visa stream

There will be considerable changes to the Temporary Graduate stream as it becomes more targeted towards international graduates with skills required by Australian employers.  

Changes include:

    • reducing the length of stay for international graduates. 
    • preventing holders of new graduate visas from moving back onto student visas.
    • preventing the stay of International graduates without skills in demand from remaining in Australia.
    • reducing the age eligibility from 50 to 35 years.
    • increased English language levels for temporary graduate visas

Other areas of change

Addressing skill needs and promoting worker mobility

A new three-tiered system of visa pathways is set to replace the TSS SC 482.  The ‘essential skills’ visa for those earning under $70,000, the ‘core skills’ visa for the $70-135,000 cohort and the ‘specialist skills‘ visa for those earning over $135,000 per year.

    • Specialist skills pathway – Aimed at targeting highly-skilled migrants with a GAE of A$135,000 and will not have an occupational list. All occupations will be included except for trade occupations, machinery operators, drivers and labourers. Processing time is aimed at a turnaround of 7 days and there will be 3,000 places allocated per year.
    • Core skills pathwayCovers the majority of occupations and trades identified by Jobs and Skills Australia as being in shortage. Applicants must be paid at TSMIT. 
    • Essential skills pathway Covers workers earning below TSMIT but who possess essential skills that are required across the country. 

The details of the essential skills visa pathway are yet to be finally determined. This visa will involve union oversight, be capped and be restricted to specific sectors.  To date the aged care and disability sectors have been mentioned.

Promoting greater flexibility on worker mobility: 

The visas will be granted for up to 4 years and visa holders will be able to change employers more easily and provide clear pathways to permanent residency.  

The ‘TSMIT’ will be indexed annually and a public register of employer sponsors to allow more ease with moving between employers. Additionally, if an employment relationship with an existing sponsor ceases, under the new rules, visa holders will have up to 180 days to find a new sponsor while having full work rights during this period. 

Skilling Australians Fund

Consideration will be given to collecting the SAF in smaller increments over time in recognition of the greater freedom of visa holders to change employers.  A monthly or quarterly payment model will be explored.

Labour Market Testing

LMT is to be streamlined, although the only announcement so far is that the requirement to advertise on the Workforce Australia site will be abolished. The validity of the advertising period will increase from 4 to 6 months.

LMT will be gradually phased out as Jobs and Skills Australia data on skills shortages improves and a Core Skilled Occupation List created as an alternative to LMT.

Points tests

The points test will be reviewed. Further consultation will occur on a new points test, with the development of a new analysis-based points test to identify more effectively the independent migrants who will make the greatest contribution to the country.   This pathway will have a faster pathway to permanent residence for graduates working in skilled jobs. 

Regional migration

The government has acknowledged the lack of success of current regional migration strategies in attracting migrants to those locations.  The government will work closely with the state and territories to provide better targeting of regional population needs.  Regional visa applications will also be fast tracked. 

Regional migration settings and the Working Holiday Maker program will be reviewed to ensure migration supports development objectives in regional Australia and does not contribute to the exploitation of migrant workers.

Global Talent and Business Skills

The Global Talent program will be more sharply focused on a relatively small number of migrants who can make outsized contributions to Australia.  There will be consideration of a new ‘talent and innovation’ visa.

The Business Innovation and Investment Program has seen over 80% of company directors invest in small retail or hospitality businesses, rather than in sectors that will drive Australia’s future innovation and productivity. The Significant Investor Visa program looks set to continue with some further adjustment.

Foreign Investment Fees for property

It has also been announced that foreign investors who buy established homes and and higher penalties if they leave them vacant.

The foreign investment fees will be tripled and vacancy fees will be doubled for all foreign owned dwellings purchased since 9 May 2017.

Registered Migration Agents

The Government will consult on the feasibility of limiting the involvement of unregistered overseas providers in the migration system, and severely curtail and monitor the provision of unqualified advice from influencing the visa lodgement process.

Strengthening the regulation of registered migration agents (not detailed in the strategy) and combat providers of unscrupulous immigration assistance, including increasing financial penalties. 

Education Agents

Regulation of education agents through an expansion of the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority will be investigated.

Get In Touch

If you have any enquiries, don't hesitate to contact one of our seasoned Registered Migration Agents or Qualified Education Agent Counsellors.