As we outlined in our Budget update, immigration did not figure prominently in the Treasurer’s Budget announcements last week. However, there have been quite a surprising number of announcements in the lead up to the next Federal election.
The Government has announced a reduction in immigration numbers for the next financial year, from 190,000 to 160,000. Although this announcement may be seen as part of other “congestion-busting” measures, in fact, in actual terms, there may only be a very slight reduction in the number of permanent visas granted in the previous and current years. It is very important to note that this number of 160,000 does not include temporary residents, working holiday makers and students.
The Government has also announced a number of measures to encourage more migrants and students to settle in regional Australia. These measures include an increased allocation of 23,000 places for regional visas in 2019/20 and two new visa categories providing pathways to permanent residence after 3 years of provisional residence. This is a significant increase, given that only 6,000 visas were granted under the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) in 2017/18. There are, however, a substantial number of RSMS applications in the pipeline (22,500 applications at 30 June 2018).
Another measure focused particularly on addressing the regional skills shortage in the agricultural sector, allows working holiday makers to apply to remain in Australia for a third year, subject to completing six months of regional work during their second year.
The Government is also promoting Designated Area Migration Agreements (refer to our separate article on DAMA) as an important measure for attracting more overseas workers to fill particular skill shortages in particular regions. The Government has recently concluded negotiations for DAMA with Northern Territory and South Australian Governments, as well as with particular regional bodies in Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.
The Government has not proposed any major changes to the Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa. Perhaps there will be an increase in the number of employer-specific Labour Agreements and region-specific DAMA to meet needs that are not met by standard TSS requirements.
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