Australia’s visa sponsorship and migration program has been hard hit by COVID-19, with 500,000 temporary visa holders leaving the country in the past 12 months. The Parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s skilled migration program handed down its interim report in March which includes 12 recommendations.

Our resident migration expert at Entity Solutions has helpfully summarised the recommendations into 5 insights that will impact professionals and companies below.

Get in touch on the contact us page if you have any questions about migration.

1.    Labour Market Testing

Recommendation

The mandatory labour market testing (LMT) should be:

  • streamlined to be less prescriptive;
  • only required for medium/large businesses;
  • businesses outside Australia or owned by non-Australia citizens; and
  • should be exempt for occupations which are on the Priority and critical skills lists.

Entity Solutions

This recommendation would be a benefit for businesses with annual turnover of less than $10 million (AUD), and for applicants whose nomination occupations are on the priority and critical skill lists. (The lists are limited to the medical, IT, health, engineering, and construction sectors.)

If the LMT will be exempt for those occupations, the application can be submitted without waiting for at least four weeks which is the mandatory period required. If the LMT will be exempt, the business will get rid of the cost, the effort, the complexity, and the time they spend on this process.

2.    Skilling Australian Fund (SAF) levy

Recommendation

Until the pandemic period is over, the mandatory payment of the Skilling Australian Fund (SAF) levy for the visa sponsorship requirement should be removed. However, if the SAF levy is still retained, the fees should be:

  • Paid when the employment of the skilled migrant is commenced or be refunded to the sponsor if the application is unsuccessful
  • Exempt for the employer if they have spent the same amount or more in the past 12 months on training their Australian employees.

Transparency in reporting on how the SAF has been used and where employer sponsored visa applications are in the queue.

Entity Solutions

There were a lot of criticisms regarding the cost of the SAF levy, such as:

  • The point in the nomination process where the levy needed to be paid
  • The difficulty in obtaining a refund if a nomination was refused
  • A lack of clarity of what the Fund supports.

This recommendation would be a great benefit in terms of cost-saving for sponsor businesses.

3.    Travel and occupation lists

Recommendation

New occupations to be added to the Short-term Skilled Occupation List, the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List and the Regional Occupation List:

  • Urgently add Chefs, Veterinarians, Café and Restaurant Managers and Seafarers to the Priority Migration Occupation Lists
  • Review and expand other occupations including civil engineers, electrical engineers, motor mechanics, cooks, carpenters, electricians and other roles in the hospitality, health, trades, agriculture and manufacturing sectors to the urgent skills shortages in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic recovery.

In addition, places on flights and in quarantine for skilled migrants should be reserved.

Entity Solutions

Adding more occupations to the priority occupation lists would give more opportunities for overseas workers to apply for visas and if granted, they will be able to come to Australia without the need for a travel exemption. Currently only the below 18 occupations are entitled to a travel exemption:

  • Chief Executive or Managing Director
  • Construction Project Manager
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • General Practitioner
  • Resident Medical Officer
  • Psychiatrist
  • Medical Practitioner nec
  • Midwife
  • Registered Nurse (Aged Care)
  • Registered Nurse (Critical Care and Emergency)
  • Registered Nurse (Medical)
  • Registered Nurse (Mental Health)
  • Registered Nurse (Perioperative)
  • Registered Nurses nec
  • Developer Programmer
  • Software Engineer
  • Social Worker
  • Maintenance Planner

4.    Employer Sponsored Skilled Visas

Recommendations

  • The sponsored skilled visa holders who work in industries that require them to work for different employers or to undertake multiple roles with the same employer to meet practices of the industry, should no longer need to make new visa applications for each position
  • Improve visa processing times for employer-sponsored visas because of the labour market needs during the COVID-19 pandemic economic recovery
  • Expedite the processing times for skilled visa holders who have remained onshore in relevant employment seeking a subsequent skilled visa or Permanent Residency (PR)
  • A clearer pathway to PR for all employer sponsored visa holders.

Entity Solutions

These recommendations would be a great benefit for employer sponsored visa holders who are required to work for different employers (like doctors, nurses, visa holders working in health care sector etc) to be able to work for different employers without making new applications. Furthermore, the employer sponsored visa applications can be processed faster than the current turnaround time of 6-18 months.

Having a clear pathway to residency to all employer sponsored visa holders means that this would open more chances for skilled migrants to gain Permanent Residency in Australia.

5.    Global Talent and Investment visa programs

Recommendations

  • Establish a global marketing campaign to attract global talent and investment. This campaign would target talented individuals and investors in key competitor countries, raise awareness of both the opportunities in Australia, and leverage off the work already started by the Special Envoy for Global Business and Talent Attraction.
  • The Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP) and Global Talent Independent (GTI) provide options for both automatic PR and temporary visas with a clearly articulated path to PR.

Entity Solutions

This recommendation would help to attach talented migrants with exceptional recognition to come to Australia and businesspeople to invest into Australia. This would also be a great benefit for those people under GTI and Investment visa programs if they can assess automatic PR or temporary visas with a clear pathway to PR. This would give applicants a higher level of certainty when they pursue one of those programs.