Significant changes to Australia's Skilled Migration Program have been recommended by the Australian Parliament.
Last February, the Minister for Immigration, Alex Hawke, asked the Joint Standing Committee on Migration to inquire into and report on Australia's skilled migration program. The Committee is looking at whether the skilled migration program is meeting Australia's needs and making recommendations to improve it.
The Committee released its Interim Report last week. It finds that Australian businesses are experiencing significant skills shortages due to Covid-19 and travel restrictions. The report states that:
As a result of Covid-19, over 500,000 temporary visa holders left Australia resulting in significant skills shortages. The Committee has heard that job vacancies in November last year reached 254,000, higher than any point in the last 10 years. Business NSW told the Committee that half of businesses in NSW are currently experiencing skills shortages. In Western Australia one in three businesses have skilled labour shortages. More than a third (36%) of businesses in the Northern Territory have identified their greatest challenge over the next 3-6 months to be retaining and attracting staff. The Committee has heard repeatedly that skilled migrants create Australian jobs. 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.
Urgently expanding the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) to include Chefs, Veterinarians, Café and Restaurant Managers and Seafarers.
An urgent review of the PMSOL with a view to expanding the number of occupations. Particular consideration should be given to civil engineers, electrical engineers, motor mechanics, cooks, carpenters, electricians and other roles in the hospitality, health, trades, agriculture and manufacturing sectors.
Review the Short-term Skilled Occupation List, the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List and the Regional Occupation List as soon as practicable.
Reserve places on flights and in quarantine for skilled migrants.
Employer sponsored visa holders be given a clearer pathway to permanency.
Greater transparency on employer-sponsored visa processing times.
Streamline labour market testing (LMT) for employer-sponsored visas. This includes to only require Medium and Large businesses to conduct LMT, remove the LMT requirement all together for occupations classified as Skill Level 1 and 2 and those on the PMSOL or critical skills lists.
Remove the requirement for employers to pay the Skilling Australia Fund as part of the visa sponsorship process, at least until the pandemic is over.
Employer-sponsored visa holders be allowed to work for multiple employers in certain industries.
Improve skilled and employer-sponsored visa applications processing.
Business and Global Talent visas to provide options for permanent residence and temporary visas with a clearly articulated path to permanent residence.
Establishment of a global marketing campaign to attract global talent and investment.
Will the Government adopt these changes?
The Government has made it clear that it plans increase skilled migration to help the economy recover from the pandemic. However, it is still too early to tell. The inquiry is still ongoing.
Some of the recommendations have already attracted media attention. Reserving flight seats for skilled migrants at the expense of Australians returning would be a contentious move.
When will the changes happen?
The speed of the Committee's work suggests that the Government is ready for quick action. Once the inquiry is complete the Committee will deliver its final report. Then it will be up to the Government to decide which recommendations to implement.
It is reasonable to expect that at least some of the changes will be implemented during 2021.However, some of the recommendations require legislative changes that will take time to prepare.
If the Government accepts them, is likely that the first recommendations to be implemented will be the PMSOL changes. That is because they do not require any updates to the legislation.
The bottom line
The interim report is a promising indication that the reduction in skilled and employer-sponsored visas could be over soon. For migrants and businesses, there a light at the end of the tunnel. It is still left to be seen which recommendations will become a reality and when.
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Elan Rysher is a Registered Migration Agent and Qualified Student Counsellor. He is the main Writer for ImmiUpdates and the founder of Rysher Migration. Elan has many years of experience working in immigration, finance and health. Being a former migrant himself, Elan is passionate about helping others fulfil their Australian dream.
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