With so much happening in Australian immigration right now, we are pleased to provide you with an update and commentary on the expanded pathways to permanent residence and yesterday's Federal Budget 2023-24.
Expanded pathways to permanent residence
By the end of 2023, the Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream of the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) Sc 186 will be amended.
- All Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Sc 482 visa holders will be eligible for ENS visas sponsored by their employers.
- Applicants will need to continue to work in the occupation nominated for their TSS visa(s).
- Sponsored visa holders will be eligible for ENS TRT after two years (down from three years) of sponsorship on a TSS by their employer.
- Applicants will need to meet all other nomination and visa requirements for the TRT stream of the Employer Nomination Scheme visa.
- The limit on Short Term stream TSS visa applications that can be made onshore has also been removed in the interim.
Roam Commentary: These changes will benefit many Sc 482 visa holders and employers. Further clarification will be required on access to the Direct Entry stream and whether any additional changes will be made to the Sc 186 visa program. The current announcements do not clarify whether there will be an increase to the age limit to 50 years, a move widely speculated on among migration professionals.
Federal Budget 2023 - 24 - what it means for Australian Immigration
The Government this evening, 9 May 2023, handed down its first full Budget since it was elected in 2022. The following announcements related to the Department of Home Affairs portfolio and the migration program were included in the Budget and associated papers.
Migration Planning Levels
The 2023-24 migration planning level will be 190,000 places,
with 137,100 allocated to the skilled migration stream.
Roam Commentary: The migration planning level relates to permanent places which will be made available to migrants. The focus on the skilled program will mean that the lengthy queues for parent and other family visas (excluding Partners) are likely to continue to drag or extend further in the coming 12 months.
Increase in Fees and Charges
The Government will increase Visa Application Charges (VACs) from 1 July 2023.
The Budget Papers indicate that Visa Application Charges will rise by between 6% and 40%, with the increases distributed across the following visa subclasses:
Visitor, working holiday, work and holiday, training, temporary activity and temporary work (short stay specialist) visas
Business innovation and investment visas
Pacific Engagement Visa and Pacific Australia Labour Mobility visas
Exempt from increase
Roam Commentary: The government estimates these increases will raise an additional $500 million over the next 5 years, allowing for additional visa processing staff and reducing delays.
However, the ongoing increase in visa charges is a matter of concern when considering the international competitiveness of Australia as a destination. Australian visa charges are significantly higher than the majority of international destinations and can act as a disincentive for migrants. Further, the fact the government does not offer a refund for applications that are refused exacerbates the difficulties migrants face when applying for Australian visas.
The Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold ('TSMIT') will increase from a base remuneration of $53,900 to a base $70,000 on 1 July 2023. The TSMIT acts as a baseline, where if the Market Salary Rate is below this level, the role is not eligible to be nominated for a Sc 482 visa.
Roam Commentary: At present, it is certain that new nominations lodged ON or AFTER that date will be required to meet the new TSMIT of $70,000 or the annual market salary rate, whichever is higher.
It is currently uncertain whether Nominations lodged prior to this date will be assessed against the pre-2021 TSMIT of $53,900 or the post 1 July TSMIT of $70,000. Further clarification on this point is being sought.
The increase to the TSMIT will have a broader impact on the remuneration of Sc 482 visa holders as employers with existing Sc 482 visa holders will need to ensure these visa holders receive 'market rates'. If new applications are put forward at or above the TSMIT, sponsors will need to consider the impact on existing visa holders in the same or related roles. This may result in significant upward pressure on remuneration.
Visa processing and compliance monitoring
Visa processing capacity to be supported with funding of $75.8 million over two years from 2023-24. Of this, $48.1 million will be allocated over 12 months to support 500 visa processing officers, in an effort to manage the number of visa applications on hand. $27.8 million of this amount over the two years will be spent to upgrade existing visa ICT systems to improve visa service delivery efficiency.
An additional investment of $50.0 million over 4 years from 2023-24 (and $15.3 million per year ongoing) is to be provided for additional enforcement and compliance activities to maintain the integrity of the migration system.
Roam Commentary: The increase in funding for compliance and enforcement activity is beneficial but unlikely to be sufficient to address concerns of widespread exploitation and wage theft. The government is to be congratulated for undertaking additional focus on this area and it is hoped that the increase of close to 50% per annum will result in meaningful action to support temporary visa holders and prevent unscrupulous employers abusing the system.
AusCheck will be provided with $164.8 million over 4 years from 2023-24 to establish enduring funding arrangements. AusCheck provides background checking and card issuing services, recovered through charging regulated sectors.
AusCheck's services will also be extended to the migration service industry through a strengthened 'fit and proper person' assessment for Registered Migration Agents, subject to the passage of legislation.
Roam Commentary: The Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon Clare O'Neil MP, flagged greater regulation of Registered Migration Agents in her recent speech to the National Press Club. Registered Migration Agents are already highly regulated and it is unclear whether the extension of the current AusCheck system will result in any material change to misconduct.
Domestic Violence and People Trafficking
$38.2 million will be provided to extend to the current Escaping Violence Payment (EVP) and Temporary Visa Holders Experiencing Violence Pilot (TVP) to January 2025.
$24.3 million will be provided over 4 years from 2023-24 (and $5.9 million per year ongoing) to pilot an additional referral pathway for the Support for Trafficked People Program and to restructure the program, while increasing ongoing funding to address current and projected demand.
Roam Commentary: Roam recognises the value in extending existing and boosting funding for programs intended to support people at risk of DV and Trafficking. It is disappointing to see that the government has not provided additional legal pathways for temporary visa holders experiencing domestic violence. At present, access to pathways are limited to a small number of visa classes including the Partner visa. This needs to be remedied and additional steps need to be taken to protect vulnerable temporary visa holders.
Immigration Assessment Authority
The Government will provide $4.0 million in 2023-24 for the Immigration Assessment Authority to continue merits review of unsuccessful protection visa applications eligible for fast-track review under the Migration Act 1958, pending the establishment of a new federal administrative review body.
Roam Commentary: The IAA will continue to operate until a replacement for the Administrative Appeals Tribunal is established.
Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services
$9.1 million in 2023-24 to be provided to extend existing Youth Transition Support services for 12 months to 30 June 2024 to continue settlement services to young refugees and migrants to improve their employment outcomes.
The 5-year maximum duration of eligibility for services under the Settlement Engagement and Transition Support Program, the National Community Hubs Program and Youth Transition Support services will be removed, to ensure continued support for refugees and migrants who have been in Australia for longer than 5 years and have unresolved settlement related needs.
Adult Migrant English Program
An improved delivery model for the AMEP will be implemented within the existing funding. Changes will provide improved English language, employment, and settlement outcomes for migrants by providing flexible tuition options, introducing a national curriculum, supporting professional development for teachers, and enhancing client support and performance management.
Love and Thoms High Court cases
$5.5 million over 4 years provided to support a pathway to permanent residency for individuals who are not Australian citizens or permanent residents, and who satisfy the tripartite test as set out in Mabo v Queensland [No. 2] (1992) 175 CLR 1, as a result of the High Court's decision in Love v Commonwealth; Thoms v Commonwealth (2020) 270 CLR 152.
Eligible individuals will be invited to apply for the Resolution of Status visa (subclass 851) for permanent residence providing access to essential Government entitlements, services and programs.
Temporary Graduate Post Study Rights
Temporary Graduate visa holders with select degrees will be eligible for an extra 2 years of post-study work rights to improve the pipeline of skilled labour in key sectors from 1 July 2023.
Roam Commentary: It is likely that the beneficiaries will be limited to people studying in critical areas such as Aged, Disability and Health Care, and Teaching.
International students working hour cap
The working hour cap for international student visa holders will be reinstated from 1 July 2023, following its removal during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be increased by 8 hours from pre-pandemic levels to 48 hours per fortnight.
International students working in the aged care sector will be exempt from the capped fortnightly work hour limit until 31 December 2023.
Roam Commentary: The reduction in work hours for international students is likely to have a significant impact in areas such as retail, hospitality, where international students are a large component of the workforce. It is unclear whether disability and other carers will be included however Roam is urging the government to take an expansive approach to these issues.
Additional training places will be created for Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme workers in priority sectors for the Pacific and Timor-Leste and where there are job shortages in Australia.
Roam Commentary: The proposal to expand the existing PALM program comes despite concerns that the program is causing significant social and economic impacts across the Pacific with large numbers of working aged people travelling to Australia for work. It is unclear whether the Federal government will take steps to expand the pool of potential workers by leveraging prior talks, undertaken by the former government in relation to the previously proposed Agricultural visa program, with other regional nations such as Indonesia, Vietnam or India.
Skills Assessment - Improved Skills Recognition
The Government is re-scoping two Skills Assessment Pilots to provide onshore migrants with fast-tracked skills assessments, free employability assessments, and access to further training to improve their employment prospects.
In addition, the Mechanism for the Mutual Recognition of Qualifications will ensure students from India and Australia will have greater certainty that the qualifications they attain will be recognised by both countries.
- A full copy of the Budget papers are available on the Budget 2023 website.
- The Home Affairs Portfolio Statement is also available.
- Minister Clare O'Neil's and Minister Andrew Giles' have made a joint media statement.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.