March 19th, 2021

Interim Report on possible changes to the Australian Migration program

The Joint Standing Committee on Migration today presented an interim report for its inquiry into Australia’s skilled migration program.

Committee Chair Julian Leeser MP said that “The Committee has heard repeatedly that skilled migrants create Australian jobs. With over 500,000 temporary visa holders leaving Australia during the COVID pandemic, we need to bring back skilled migration, to fill essential gaps and to help create more jobs for Australians.”

“Skilled migrants provide much needed skills to fill skills gaps, offering businesses the opportunity to better meet demand and expand, and to pass on their skills to Australians,” Mr Leeser continued.

“Australia has always been an attractive destination for migrants. Our excellent response to the health and economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic has made Australia an even more attractive destination. Now is the time to attract highly talented individuals and businesses to Australia.”

“The report recommends a number of measures to streamline the system to ensure we can capitalise on the opportunity in front of us,” said Leeser.

The interim report makes recommendations focused on assisting in recovery from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The inquiry will continue with a wider focus on long term reform of the skilled migration program. Submissions responding to the terms of reference will be accepted until 31 March 2021.

List of Recommendations

Recommendation 1
2.76 The Department of Home Affairs should streamline labour market testing to:
§ be less prescriptive about what constitutes labour market testing
§ only require Medium and Large businesses to conduct labour market testing;
§ require labour market testing for businesses headquartered outside Australia or businesses owned by someone who is not an Australian citizen;
§ remove the requirement for employers to advertise any occupations which are on the PMSOL or critical skills lists; and
§ remove the requirement for employers to advertise for all occupations classified as Skill Level 1 and 2 on the jobactive website.

Recommendation 2
2.80 The Committee recommends that at least until the pandemic period is over, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment and the Department of Home Affairs remove the requirement for employers to pay the Skilling Australia Fund as part of the visa sponsorship process.
If the levy is retained:
– Consideration should be given to aligning the payment of the levy to the commencement of employment of the skilled migrant or guarantee a refund to the sponsor if the application is unsuccessful.
– If the employer can demonstrate they have spent the same amount or more than the levy in the previous 12 months on training their Australian employees in skills relevant to their work for the employer, they should not be required to pay the Skilling Australia Fund levy.
– The Federal Government should establish greater transparency over the State Governments’ use of funds from the Skilling Australia Fund to skill Australians.

Recommendation 3
3.113 The Committee recommends that the Department of Home Affairs be required to provide greater transparency on where employer sponsored visa applications are in the queue.

Recommendation 4
3.116 The Committee recommends that the visa conditions for sponsored skilled visa holders working in industries that require migrants to work for different employers or to undertake multiple roles with the same employer to meet practices of the industry, be adjusted to allow them to work for multiple employers without making applications for new visas.

Recommendation 5
3.127 The Committee recommends that the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List be expanded urgently to include Chefs, Veterinarians, Café and Restaurant Managers and Seafarers.

Recommendation 6
3.128 The Committee recommends that the Department of Home Affairs conduct an urgent review of the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, with a view to expanding the number of occupations to better reflect the urgent skills shortages in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic recovery. The Department should give particular consideration to civil engineers, electrical engineers, motor mechanics, cooks, carpenters, electricians and other roles in the hospitality, health, trades, agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

Recommendation 7
3.129 The Committee recommends that the Short-term Skilled Occupation List, the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List and the Regional Occupation List be reviewed as soon as practicable to ensure that the lists most accurately reflect Australia’s employment challenges as the economy emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recommendation 8
3.132 The Committee recommends the Government reserve places on flights and in quarantine for skilled migrants.

Recommendation 9
3.135 The Committee recommends that:
§ The Department of Home Affairs improve visa processing times for employer-sponsored visas because of the labour market needs during the COVID-19 pandemic economic recovery; and
§ The Department of Home Affairs expedite the processing times for skilled visa holders who have remained onshore in relevant employment seeking a subsequent skilled visa or permanent residency visa.

Recommendation 10
3.144 The Committee recommends that all employer sponsored visa holders be given a clearer pathway to permanency.

Recommendation 11
4.75 The Committee recommends the establishment of a global marketing campaign to attract global talent and investment. This campaign should:
§ Target talented individuals and investors in key competitor countries;
§ Raise awareness of both the opportunities in Australia, and the migration mechanisms available to those seeking to live, work or settle in Australia; and
§ Leverage off the work already being undertaken by the Special Envoy for Global Business and Talent Attraction.

Recommendation 12
4.76 The Committee recommends that the BIIP and GTI provide options for both automatic permanent residence and temporary visas with a clearly articulated path to permanent residence.

https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/committees/reportjnt/024650/toc_pdf/InterimReportoftheInquiryintoAustralia’sSkilledMigrationProgram.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf

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