As we step into 2024, it’s the perfect time to look back at the eventful year that was 2023 – a year marked by significant changes in Australia’s immigration landscape. Let’s also peek into what the future holds under the government’s new “Migration Strategy”.
Pathways to Citizenship for New Zealanders
In January 2023, the Australian government introduced an expedited citizenship pathway for New Zealand Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visa holders. This move backdated their permanent residence period, simplifying their route to Australian citizenship.
This initiative was further enhanced in April, providing a direct citizenship pathway for New Zealand citizens residing in Australia for over four years, bypassing the need for a permanent visa.
2023 witnessed pivotal reforms in employer-sponsored visa programs.
In May, the government increased the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) to $70,000, aiming to attract more skilled workers and ensure fair wages.
Later in the year, substantial changes were made to the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) subclass 482 visa and the Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream of the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) subclass 186 visas. These reforms simplified the path to permanent residency for TSS visa holders and revised age exemptions for specific applicants. Notably, the reforms allow employers to nominate candidates from all TSS visa streams, eliminating the need for nominated occupations in the TRT stream to be assessed against a skilled migration occupation list, and reducing the required work period in nominated positions to two out of the last three years.
Concerning the age exemptions, the Government introduced updated the legislation for regional medical practitioners and high-income earners aged 45 years and over to allow for a two-year pathway while also putting an end to COVID-19 related age exemptions.
Read more about this here.
Labour Market Testing
The Australian Government revised the process of labour market testing as part of its Migration Strategy, removing the requirement to advertise on the Workforce Australia website for subclass 482 and 494 nomination applications.
Additionally, the updated instrument included clarifying text, specifying that nominated positions may be advertised over two or more overlapping periods, totalling a minimum of four weeks.
This modification in the LMT requirement was an immediate outcome of the Government’s Migration Strategy.
Closure of the Pandemic Event Visa
Introduced in April 2020, the Pandemic Event visa aimed to address critical labour shortages during COVID-19. With borders now open and visa numbers normalising, the need for this specific visa has diminished.
Key Dates and Changes:
- From 2 September 2023: The Pandemic Event visa is available exclusively to current holders of this visa.
- Closure on 1 February 2024: The visa will close to all applications, marking the end of its availability.
Read more about this here.
Ending the COVID-19 Concession Period
The COVID-19 concession period, implemented in response to the pandemic, ceased on 25 November 2023.
The COVID-19 concession period was a set of temporary measures implemented by the Australian Government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The key aspects of the concession period included flexibility in location requirements, adjustments to work and residency requirements, extended eligibility and application periods and concessions for specific visa categories.
Read more about this here.
Easing the Path for International Medical Graduates
The closure of the Visas for GPs program in September 2023 marked a significant step in streamlining the process for employers of International Medical Graduates (IMGs), removing the requirement for a Health Workforce Certificate (HWC) in their nomination applications.
Medical occupations affected by this change include:
- general practitioner (ANZSCO 253111)
- resident medical officer (ANZSCO 253112)
- medical practitioner (nec) (ANZSCO 253999)
This is a step forward in making the integration of skilled IMGs into Australia’s healthcare system more efficient and straightforward.
Supporting Regional Migration and Families
June 2023 saw the removal of the minimum income requirement for the Subclass 191 visa, encouraging skilled migration to regional areas.
Looking Ahead: The Migration Strategy
December 2023 was a pivotal moment with the release of the Migration Strategy, outlining sweeping reforms to ensure Australia continues to attract and retain skilled workers. This strategy includes reforms in skilled migration, international education, and support for regional Australia.
The Eight-Point Roadmap
This strategy outlines eight key actions, each a cornerstone in reshaping Australia’s migration landscape:
- Revamping Temporary Skilled Migration: Introduction of a new Skills in Demand visa, featuring three targeted pathways.
- Reforming Permanent Skilled Migration: Exploring a new Talent and Innovation visa and reformed points test.
- Elevating International Education Standards: Enhanced scrutiny and higher English language requirements.
- Combating Worker Exploitation: Robust legislation, a public register of employer sponsors, and new policies to prevent exploitation.
- Strategic Migration Planning: A long-term, evidence-based approach focusing on skills and locations.
- Focusing on Regional Visas: Prioritising regional Australia in visa allocations and reviewing the Working Holiday Maker program.
- Strengthening Indo-Pacific Connections: Deepening ties through people-to-people links.
- Streamlining the Migration System: A comprehensive simplification agenda to remove redundant visas and streamline processes.
As we progress through this exciting phase of reform in Australian migration policy, we look forward to more updates throughout the year.
Wishing everyone a prosperous and fulfilling 2024!
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