Proposed changes to Australia’s skilled migration program

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted migration to Australia due to the international travel restrictions and border closures with over 500,000 temporary visa holders leaving Australia. As the next phase of Australia’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic begins we need to ensure we have efficient processes to make it easier to get skilled workers Australian businesses are in need of.

This is a unique opportunity that needs to be completed correctly and as such the Joint Standing Committee on Migration has compiled a report detailing 12 recommendations to the Skilled Migration Program to support Australia’s economic recovery and aid businesses to preserve and entice staff.

Australia is and always has been an attractive designation for migrants. The committee submitted that with these recommendations, Australia has the opportunity to attract highly talented individuals and businesses, create more jobs for Australians and fill crucial gaps.

Recommendation 1: Streamlining Labour Market Testing

For employer nominated visas, you must show you cannot find a suitable Australian worker. For such visas, if you nominate an overseas worker, the local labour market needs to be tested. The local labour market matches potential employers with those available for work.

The Department of Home Affairs should streamline labour market testing to be:

  • Less prescriptive as to what constitutes labour market testing.
  • Adjust the requirements to only compel Medium and Large businesses to conduct labour market testing,
  • Require labour market testing for businesses headquartered outside Australia or businesses owned by someone who is not an Australian citizen,
  • Eliminate the requirement for employers to advertise any occupations which are on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List or critical skills lists and
  • Eliminate occupations classified as Skill Level 1 and 2 on the jobactive website 

Recommendation 2: Review/remove the Skilling Australia Fund (SAF)

The committee proposes that the requirement for employers to pay the SAF as part of the visa sponsorship process is removed, at least until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

Alternatively, reviewing the SAF will ensure the payment of the SAF levy is aligned with the commencement of employment of skilled migrants or guarantee a refund to the sponsor if the application is unsuccessful.

  • If the employer can demonstrate they have spent the same amount or more than the levy in the previous 12 months on training their Australian employees in skills relevant to their work for the employer, they should not be required to pay the SAF levy. 
  • The Federal Government should establish greater transparency over the States Governments use of funds from the Skilling Australia Fund to skill Australians.

Recommendation 3: Greater transparency on queue status

The Department of Affairs should provide greater transparency on where employer sponsored visa applications are in the queue.

Recommendation 4: Adjustment of visa conditions for sponsored skilled visa holders

Sponsored skilled visa holders working in industries that require migrants to work for different employers or to undertake multiple roles with the same employer to meet practices of the industry are to be adjusted to allow them to work for multiple employers with making applications for new visas.

Recommendation 5: Urgent inclusion of more occupations on PMSOL

Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List needs to be expanded urgently to include chefs, veterinarians, café and Restaurant Managers and Seafarers.

Recommendation 6: Urgent review of PMSOL to reflect skill shortages due to Covid

Urgent review to be conducted on PMSOL to expand the number of occupations to better reflect the urgent skills shortages in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic recovery. Particular consideration is to be given to:

  • Civil engineers
  • Electrical engineers
  • Motor mechanics
  • Cooks
  • Carpenters
  • Electricians
  • Other roles in the hospitality, health, trades, agriculture, and manufacturing sectors

Recommendation 7: Reviewal of skilled occupation lists

The Short-term Skilled Occupation List, Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List and the Regional Occupation List be reviewed as soon as practicable to ensure that lists reflect Australia’s employment challenges post COVID-19 pandemic.

Recommendation 8: Reserve placement on flight in quarantine for skilled migrants

Government to reserve places on flights and in quarantine for skilled migrants.

Recommendation 9: Improve visa processing times

Visa processing times for employer-sponsored visas to be improved and expedite processing times for skilled visa holders who have remained onshore in relevant employment seeking a subsequent skilled visa or permanent residency visa.

Recommendation 10: All employer sponsored visa holders to be given a clearer pathway to permanency

All employer sponsored visa holders to be given a clearer pathway to permanency.

  • Since the temporary skilled migrants are already in country, there is no need to navigate international travel, quarantine caps and requirements
  • Since many of these migrants already hold sponsored jobs, it will provide employers the option to permanently sponsor these migrants without causing any business disruptions
  • Fill the permanent migration gap created by the COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions

Recommendation 11: Establishment of global marketing campaign

Generate a global marketing campaign to attract global talent and investment targeting talented individuals and investors in key competitor countries.

Recommendation 12: Inclusion of temporary and permanent visas for BIIP and GTI

Business Innovation and Investment and Global Talent programs to provide options for both automatic permanent residence and temporary visas with a clearly articulated path to permanent residence.

Further information?

Ethos Migration Lawyers will continue to provide updates as they become available however if you require assistance with your Australian migration matter please contact our office.

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