In a significant development, the Albanese government has conducted a comprehensive review of Australia’s migration system, highlighting the need for substantial changes to the status of 1.8 million temporary migrants with work rights. The review puts forth a range of proposals aimed at enhancing the system and addressing various cohorts of individuals seeking migration to Australia. Let’s delve into the key proposals and their potential impact on different groups.
To ensure a more efficient and targeted approach, the review recommends the establishment of three regulation tiers for migrants:
- A “light-touch” approach for highly skilled migrants commanding high salaries.
- A mid-level cohort for migrants earning above the temporary skilled migration income threshold.
- A lower-wage cohort catering to sectors experiencing skill shortages, such as the caring economy.
To optimize economic contributions, the government has acknowledged the necessity to recalibrate the points test, placing emphasis on selecting migrants with high human capital. Moreover, the review proposes removing the labor-market testing requirement. Additionally, the government plans to raise the temporary skilled migration income threshold to $70,000, consulting business and unions to determine the pay threshold for the top tier. While the review contemplates overhauling the business innovation and investment program and global talent visa, it does not recommend their abolition.
Recognizing the heightened risk of exploitation faced by temporary migrant workers within the current system, the review expresses deep concern. The issue stems from employer sponsorship, which inhibits employees from reporting non-compliance. To combat this, the review suggests allowing temporary migrant workers to change jobs and granting them up to six months to find alternative employment within the same sector or field. Additionally, employers of temporary visa-holders would be required to register, ensuring that those with a history of serious workplace breaches are deregistered and ineligible to employ visa-holders.
The review advocates for a restoration of the original purpose of the working holidaymaker program, emphasizing a “cultural exchange,” rather than linking “migration outcomes to the performance of work.” Currently, working holidaymakers can stay in Australia for up to 12 months, with the possibility of extending their stay for a second year upon completing three months of specified work, such as regional or agricultural endeavors. The review suggests considering a limitation of working holidaymakers to one year. However, any changes would be subject to international agreements, such as the free trade deal between Australia and the UK, allowing UK citizens to apply for up to three successive working holiday visas without undertaking specified work.
The review indicates that Australia lacks sufficient focus on attracting high-potential international students. To address this, the review proposes a shift from the “genuine temporary entrant” criterion to a “genuine student” test. This change aims to prevent individuals from enrolling in low-value courses solely to obtain work rights. Furthermore, the review suggests aligning English language requirements for international students with those of skilled visa applicants. Additionally, it recommends the automatic provision of a temporary graduate visa upon completion of studies, allowing the government ample time to identify high-value graduates who can potentially transition to a permanent skilled visa. For other international students, the review proposes minimizing the duration they can stay in Australia on a temporary basis.
Parents and Families:
While acknowledging the significance of family reunion in fostering a strong and stable community, the review acknowledges lengthy wait times of up to 40 years for parents to join their children permanently in Australia. To address this issue, the review recommends the introduction of a parent visa lottery to alleviate backlogs. Furthermore, it proposes the creation of a more affordable and attractive temporary visa product for parents, which could eventually replace the existing permanent parent program.