1)485 English language changes proposed

From early 2024 the validity of the english test for a 485 visa application will be reduced from 3 years to
just 1 year. The average IELTS (or equivalent) score required will be 6.5. With at least 5.5 in each band

2) New higher priority given to company sponsored visas in “regional” Australiai


3) Limit of 476 visas granted this financial year


4) ‘Skilled-Recognised Graduate (subclass 476) visa application is closing – 22 December 2023

The Skilled-Recognised Graduate (subclass 476) visa has been capped from 22 December 2023.
Applications lodged from 22 December 2023 will be finalised as invalid, and no further applications will
be granted this program year.
If you have an application pending with the Department, you will receive instructions on how to claim a
repayment of your Visa Application Charge (VAC) through ImmiAccount.

5) International student bubble bursts as visa crackdown bites

The number of people in Australia on student visas has finally turned around from its high point of
660,000 in September, indicating that Australia’s migration bubble has begun to burst.
The number of student visa holders living in Australia fell by 50,000 from a record 664,178 at the end of
September to 612,099 at the end of November.
And while November witnessed yet another monthly record in offshore visa applications, fewer were
approved than a year earlier.
The migration bubble appears to have finally burst as numbers start to decrease. Tamara Voninski
Although the majority of the decline will be students returning home before they come back for another
semester of study in early 2024, visa approvals are lower than a year earlier.
The data suggests that Australia has hit peak migration, as The Australian Financial Review revealed in
November, and has now begun a downward trajectory.
The government has been under intense pressure from voters and backbenchers over the impact that
historically high migration levels are having on the rental market. Its major review of the migration system
released in December contained a raft of reforms designed to weed out non-genuine students and return
integrity to the visa system.
However, the turnaround will put pressure on university budgets, which are also suffering from sluggish
demand from domestic students.
Abul Rizvi, a migration expert, said 3000 fewer visas were granted based on offshore applications in
November. That equates to an 11.7 per cent fall.
The greatest falls were from Nepal, down 32 per cent, Colombia, 26 per cent, and the Philippines and
India, both down by more than 200 applications.
Mr Rizvi said that was offset to some degree by a spike in demand, particularly from China (up 46 per
cent, to 7991) and Vietnam (39 per cent), which is probably linked to the government’s announcement
that students will be required to have higher English-language proficiency to qualify for a visa.
He said the reasons behind the lower approval rates were not clear, although greater scrutiny of
applications particularly from some countries and some regions was most likely one explanation.
“The government must find a way to reduce demand, particularly from low-performing students who are
destined for immigration limbo in Australia,” Mr Rizvi said.
“While the planned increase in English-language requirements will dampen demand somewhat, this
effect may be temporary as students improve their English-language skills and resit English language
tests, particularly as IELTS [the International English Language Testing System] now allows students to
resit a single skill element rather than resitting the whole test.”
However, the government’s decision to apply far greater scrutiny to student visa applications from people
already in Australia would start to have an impact on numbers early in the new year.
While onshore visa applications increased from 10,204 in November 2022 to 12,408 in November last
year, the approval rate fell from 99.6 per cent to 90.1 per cent.
Onshore visa applications have been strongly implicated in nefarious behaviours of students, colleges
and education agents rorting the visa system for non-genuine students to access the jobs market.
Mr Rizvi said he also expected to see an increase in visa cancellations as the new rules are introduced
and the Department of Home Affairs scrutinises visa applicants more closely.
International students have returned en masse but numbers should start to moderate in the coming

6) Official 190/491 Skill Select results from 18th Dec 2023


7) Changes to FNQ Queensland DAMA agreement

About the FNQ DAMA
The FNQ DAMA is a skilled migration program that is tailored to the needs of our Far North Queensland
region (FNQ). The FNQ DAMA differs in many ways from standard skilled migration pathways, providing
more flexibility and certainty for both employers and workers. The key differences are: An FNQ DAMA Occupation and Concessions List designed for our region, with a greater range of occupations not linked to standard occupation lists, and with no caveats; The ability to have occupations added (or removed) as local demands determine; Semi-skilled as well as skilled occupations (Skill Levels 1-5 instead of Skill Levels 1-3); The facility to design and include unique local occupations not in ANZSCO (the standard classification of occupations); Access to well-defined permanent visa pathways for all occupations in Skill Levels 1-5; Access to age concessions of 55 or 50 (depending on occupation) rather than the general age limit of 45 applying to most standard skilled migration pathways; Multiple visa options – TSS 482, ENS 186, or SESR 494 (that leads to PESR 191); Concessions to experience requirements, compared to those in standard skilled migration pathways; Salary concessions for Skill Level 3-5 occupations (90% of TSMIT) if market salary is demonstrated to be below TSMIT, ensuring that worker terms and conditions of employment are not eroded; English language concessions for numerous occupations; More lenient Labour Market Testing requirements than standard requirements; Priority processing times. The FNQ DAMA operates under a Labour Agreement framework. This means that employers can seek one occupation/position or multiple occupations and positions in a single agreement. It also means that prospective workers do not necessarily need to have been identified at time of applying, allowing for future planning. Individuals can then be nominated against the occupations and numbers of positions in the Labour Agreement. A Labour Agreement is generally valid for five years and can be varied during its lifetime (such as adding further occupations/positions). As with all skilled migration, the priority is employment for Australians first. However, the FNQ DAMA provides a tailored and accessible option for employers seeking to fill one or multiple occupations and positions where they are genuinely unable to fill positions from the Australian labour market. Which employers can access the FNQ DAMA? To access a FNQ DAMA Labour Agreement, employers must first be endorsed by the Cairns Chamber of Commerce as the Designated Area Representative (DAR). Employers can access the FNQ DAMA if they:
7) Changes to FNQ Queensland DAMA agreement

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are operating within the FNQ DAMA Designated Area which includes the Cairns Regional Council, Shire
of Douglas, Shire of Mareeba, Tablelands Regional Council, Cassowary Coast Regional Council, Cook
Shire Council, Croydon Shire Council, Etheridge Shire Council, Torres Shire Council, and Northern
Peninsula Area Regional Council local government areas (LGAs), and the Weipa Town Authority area, or
in the postcode areas of 4852, 4854-4861, 4865, 4868-4876, 4878-4888, and 4895;
are viable and have been operating for at least 12 months unless there are exceptional circumstances;
have no history of not meeting obligations to employees;
are looking to employ Overseas Workers to fill full-time positions with duties that align with one or more
of the occupations on the FNQ DAMA occupation list;
can demonstrate they cannot fill the position locally with Australian citizens or permanent residents;
can provide terms and conditions of employment to overseas workers that are in accordance with those
offered to Australian workers employed in the region.
All enquiries about the FNQ DAMA may be directed to email/dama)(cairnschamber.com.au
Note: * This is a summary only – do not make business decisions based on this summary.
Recent updates
Enhancements to FNQ DAMA head agreement approved by Minister on 19 December 2023
The Minister has recently approved a number of enhancements to the FNQ DAMA, effective from 19
December 2023. These include:
The following occupations have been added to the FNQ DAMA Occupation and Concessions List:
Sand Blaster, Industrial Spray Painter, Motor Vehicle Parts Interpreter (Automotive Parts Salesperson),
Podiatrist, Plasterer (Wall and Ceiling), Wall and Floor Tiler, Outside School Hours Care Worker;
Addition of English Language concession for the occupation of Chef;
Qualification requirement for Child Care Worker (Skill Level 3) reduced from AQF Cert IV to AQF Cert III;
Period of time required on a TSS 482 visa before an ENS 186 (permanent visa) nomination, reduced
from 3 years to 2 years;
Where being nominated directly for ENS 186 (permanent visa) under FNQ DAMA based on counting
periods of time on non-DAMA visas in the FNQ DAMA Designated Area in the same occupation,
removal of the need for those non-DAMA visas to be a TSS 482 or 457 (in other words experience on
any non-DAMA visa with work rights can be counted, which can be either full-time or part-time pro-rata
Removal of ‘Conditional’ Permanent Visa pathway for TSS 482 to ENS 186 for Skill Level 5 occupations
– now aligns with other skill levels;
Realignment of the FNQ DAMA Designated Area to more explicitly also include the Etheridge Shire
Council and the Croydon Shire Council LGAs, as well as to include some postcodes previously omitted
from existing LGAs (4857, 4884, 4887 and 4888);
Changes to the way FNQ DAMA ‘caps’ are allocated, that will allow the Cairns Chamber of Commerce
to endorse employers for years in an employer labour agreement beyond the expiry of a current FNQ
DAMA head agreement (the mechanics of this are still being arranged – further information in early

8) State total nominations approved up until 31/12/2023


9) State Migration planning for the future


10) News Articles

Labor Government’s 2024 challenge to restore visa integrity
Albanese Government still pushing to mend Coalition’s student visa mess
Australia’s skilled migration policy changed how and where migrants settle
Albanese Government targets education and health skills in migration plans
Australia’s elites are souring on migration. But new data shows its benefits