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Reforms proposed for Australia’s migration system

28 April 2023

Australia’s systems of managing visas, permanent residency, skilled migration and international students are set for an overhaul after a report deemed it was “not fit for purpose”.

The Review of the Migration System Final Report, released by Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil, warns the system is overly complex and suggests 32 possible reform areas for the Federal Government to explore.

In response to the report, in a National Press Club address on 27 April 2023, Minister O’Neil described Australia’s migration system as “broken”, leaving the country at risk of falling behind in the global race for skilled migrants.

Our migration system is failing our businesses; it is failing migrants themselves. And most importantly, it is failing Australians,

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil

While we must wait until the legislation is drafted to see full details of these changes, the Victorian Chamber’s Global team has compiled five key takeaways from the report and the Minister’s response.

#1: New pathways

Three new pathways are earmarked for temporary skilled migrants to come to Australia.

The first pathway is a “fast, simple route” for specialised, highly skilled workers Australia needs to drive innovation in the economy, and to help build the jobs of the future. The second is a mainstream temporary skilled pathway to bring in the core skills based on proper, evidence-based assessments.

The third stream relates to our essential industries.

Instead of pretending that some students are here to study when they are actually here to work, we need to look to create proper, capped, safe, tripartite pathways for workers in key sectors, such as care,

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil

#2: Income increase

On 1 July 2023, the temporary skilled migration income threshold, or the ‘TSMIT’, is set to increase from $53,900 to $70,000. This is the first increase in a decade.

The Government believes it is essential to ensuring this program is what it says it is: a skilled worker program, not a ‘guest worker’ program.

#3: Permanent residency

Under a new system all temporary workers will be given the opportunity to apply for permanent residency. The Government also wants to increase competition for permanent resident places and ensure workers are not in limbo and bouncing from visa to visa.

We need to avoid policies and conditions that create ‘permanent temporariness’. This means clearer pathways for the skilled workers we need and clarity for the migrants that have less of a prospect of becoming a permanent resident,

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil

Another change would include the points test to select migrants for Australia.

The current test is not working properly. The bar is set too low. And, that test rewards persistence, not the skills we need for Australia’s future,

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil

#4: International students

International students are the largest component of Australia’s temporary migration program, and the single biggest feeder into the country’s permanent program.

International students currently can’t apply for a graduate visa until after they’ve graduated. With waiting times of up to eight months and no guarantee of an employer or a long-term visa, they’re often forced to work low-skilled jobs in the interim. Temporary visas they can get are often shorter than the time needed to have their qualifications transferred and recognised.

A big focus of our efforts will be how we manage international students in our migration system. We want to ensure that high-performing students, with the skills we need, are given the chance to stay. We propose creating simpler, faster pathways for the international students who will have special skills and capabilities we need,

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil

#5: Visa system

A simplified visa system will reduce the number of visa categories.

Our system is slow and crazily complex. This has real consequences for the quality of our migration program. We have hundreds of visa categories and subcategories.
Part of our work will be simplifying our visa system, with the aim to strongly reduce the number of visa categories. There is just no need for things to be this complicated.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil

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This article was originally published by The Victorian Chamber of Commerce

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