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Update: Inquiry into Australia’s Skilled Migration Program

By 19 March 2021March 22nd, 2021No Comments

With job vacancies reaching an all-time high and significant skill shortages in Australia, the Joint Standing Committee on the Inquiry into Australia’s Skilled Migration Program has released its interim report making several recommendations to improve Australia’s skilled migration program in a post-pandemic environment and so far it’s all great news!

Some of the key findings of the report include:

  • 500,000 temporary visa holders left Australia during the pandemic creating a significant skills shortage – temporary visa holders in Australia as of 20 March 2020 was just short of 2.3 million, and the figure was 1.8 million as at 14 February 2021.
  • Job vacancies in November 2020 reached 254,000 higher than any point in the last 10 years.
  • Australia needs to replace the skilled migrants that left our shores as a result of the pandemic. Without the return of skilled migration, Australia’s economic recovery will be severely hampered and it will be harder to create more jobs for Australians.

The report clearly concludes skilled migrants have the ability to fill gaps in the Australian workforce and aid in the recovery of the economy and makes the following recommendations:

  • Pathway to permanent residency clarified for employer sponsored visa holders
  • That the Business Innovation and Investment Program and Global Talent Independent visas provide options for both automatic permanent residence and temporary visas with a clearly articulated path to permanent residence
  • Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List to be expanded to include Chefs, Veterinarians, Café/Restaurant Managers and Seafarers. This would facilitate border exemptions during the border closures. It is also recommended that other occupations be reviewed closely for this Priority List including civil engineers, electrical engineers, motor mechanics, cooks, carpenters, electricians and other roles in the hospitality, health, trades, agriculture and manufacturing sectors
  • A review of Occupation Lists to ensure the lists address urgent skill shortages and employment challenges
  • Streamlining of Labour Market Testing and an easing of the requirements so they are less prescriptive
  • Removal of the Skilling Australia Fund payment until the end of the pandemic. Thereafter if the levy is retained, aligning the levy with the commencement of employment of the skilled worker or guarantee of refunds if not successful. If the employer has spent the same amount or more in the previous 12 months on their Australian workers – they should not be required to pay the levy
  • Greater transparency provided by the Department of Home Affairs in regards to the progress of employer sponsored visa applications
  • Adjustment of visa conditions in certain industries to allow for sponsored skilled visa holders to work for several employers without having to make new applications for visas
  • Reservation of seats on flights and quarantine spots for skilled migrants
  • Visa processing times to be improved and expedited for those still onshore

What does this mean for visa applicants and employers?

The Committee’s recommendations address the complexities of navigating the skilled migration pathway, ensuring there is easier access to skilled migrants. This will allow for immediate shortages in the Australian workforce to be filled.

Adjustment of the Labour Market testing Requirements will aid in reducing the regulatory burden placed on businesses. This will allow for businesses to employ skilled migrants in a more timely manner and adequately address workforce shortages. This will relieve the financial and time constraints many Australian businesses are currently facing whilst navigating the migration process.

The combined review of skills lists and the amendment of visa requirements will allow skilled visa holders the opportunity to be employed in alternative roles with alternative employers. This will not only increase the appeal of migration to Australia but will also reduce delays in processing and allow visa holders to effectively contribute to rebuilding the Australian economy and workforce.

TSS holders should also be provided with greater clarity and direction regarding their options for permanent residency. The above recommendations will establish a clearer pathway for permanent residence once their TSS visa expires, acting as an incentive and encouraging greater commitment to the work being undertaken in Australia.

What is next?

The inquiry will continue with a wider focus on long term reform of the skilled migration program. Submissions responding to the terms of reference will be accepted until 31 March 2021. A copy of the interim report and more details about the inquiry are available on the Committee website  with the final report from the Committee will being produced in July 2021.

If you would like making a submission please contact us.

DISCLAIMER This information is current as of date of publication and subject to change. The information contained in this publication is of a general nature only. It should not be used as legal advice. To the extent permissible by law, Ajuria Lawyers and its associated entities shall not be liable for any errors, omissions, defects or misrepresentations in the information or for any loss or damage suffered by persons who use or rely on such information. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

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Author Lillian Ajuria

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