Major changes to Australia's migration program

3 minute read  27.04.2023 Taya Hunt

The government has publicly released the Review of the Migration System Final Report, and a draft outline for a new migration strategy for Australia.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil announced major changes to Australia's Migration Program at today's National Press Club.

The government has now publicly released the Review of the Migration System Final Report (Migration System Review), and a draft outline for a new migration strategy for Australia (Draft Migration Strategy).

Two key changes to be implemented in 2023

While the full migration strategy will not be released until later this year, two specific changes have already been announced:

  • Increase of TSMIT to $70,000: The temporary skilled migration income threshold (TSMIT) is the minimum earnings threshold employers must meet to sponsor workers under the standard employer sponsored program. From 1 July 2023, the TSMIT will increase from $53,900 to $70,000. This will affect employers seeking to nominate new skilled workers, but also existing skilled workers whose visas are expiring and will require a further onshore nomination.
  • Access to permanent residency for temporary skilled workers: By the end of 2023, the Home Affairs Minister has announced that all temporary skilled workers will have the opportunity to apply for permanent residency. The specific parameters of this announcement have not yet been released.

These specific announcements are the first of what are expected to be significant reforms to Australia's migration program. We will release further client alerts as more details are released.

Migration System Review

The Migration System Review states that Australia's migration program is not attracting highly skilled workers. It also says there is evidence of systematic exploitation and that temporary workers lack pathways to permanent residency.

The Migration System Review identifies five objectives on which the migration program should be built:

  1. Building Australia’s prosperity by lifting productivity, meeting labour supply needs and by supporting exports;
  2. Enabling a fair labour market, including by complementing the jobs, wages and conditions of domestic workers;
  3. Building a community of Australians;
  4. Protecting Australia’s interests in the world; and
  5. Providing a fast, efficient and fair system.

New migration strategy

The Draft Migration Strategy is available online. The government will consult with the State and Territory governments and key stakeholders on the Draft Migration Strategy. The final strategy will be released later this year. The objectives outlined in the Migration System Review will underpin the new system.

In summary, the key proposed policy reforms are:

  • Introduction of three new pathways for temporary skilled migrants: Fast simple pathway for highly skilled workers; mainstream temporary skilled pathway that focuses on evidence based assessment of skills; and pathway that addresses long-term labour shortages in essential industries;
  • Reforming the points test for permanent skilled migrants;
  • Reforming the Global Talent and Business Innovation & Investment programs with a new, simple pathway;
  • Simplifying the administration of the system to improve user experience of employers and migrants;
  • Jobs and Skills Australia to play a formal role in the migration program, to coordinate labour market needs, training and education;
  • Establishing a greater role for States and Territories in identifying their migration needs and priorities, especially in our regions;
  • Providing clearer pathways to permanent residence for temporary skilled visa holders;
  • Tightening requirements and quality assurance of education providers to ensure international students are genuinely in Australia to study;
  • Providing migrants with more opportunities to move employers and enforce their rights;
  • Addressing migration worker exploitation by improving post-arrival enforcement of wages and conditions to detect and prevent exploitation;
  • Strengthening the regulation of migration agents; and
  • Allowing secondary applicants to participate in the labour market at a level consistent with their qualifications, by improving and streamlining skills recognition.

How can MinterEllison assist?

We can provide advice on how the immediate changes will affect workers' visas. We can also assist by providing strategic advice to employers on how they can navigate the changes to Australia's Migration program to address skills shortages in the future.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us.