Joint standing Committee releases final report of inquiry into Australia’s Skilled Migration Program

Update: 16 August 2021

The Joint Standing Committee on Migration, a Federal Parliamentary committee, recently released their final report of Inquiry to Australia’ Skilled Migration Program. The Inquiry commenced at the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, that led to more than 500,000 temporary migrants leaving Australia since March 2020. The Committee held public hearings with a range of government bodies, industry peak bodies and individuals in February and March 2021 and received 186 submissions.

The committee made a range of recommendations in its final report, including streamlining pathways to permanent residency for skilled migrants, consolidating the skills lists to one skilled occupation list, replacing ANZSCO with a new system that can adapt to the emerging needs of the market and providing temporary migrants more incentives to move and settle in regional Australia.

We have summarised the 18 recommendations below:

1. Develop a dynamic national workforce plan

State and Federal Governments to coordinate their efforts to ensure Australia’s persistent skills shortages and future workforce needs are addressed through Australia’s higher education and vocational education systems, employment services and the skilled migration program.

2. Replace ANZSCO with a more flexible skills identification system

National Skills Commission to develop a new occupation/skills identification system for the skilled migration program that is able to adapt to the emerging labour market needs.

3. Develop accepted definitions of acute skills shortage and persistent skills shortages

Develop definitions of acute skills shortage taking into consideration recruitment difficulty, length of time the skills shortage has existed, number of job vacancies and the importance of filing the occupation with regard to any temporary circumstances such as natural disasters, pandemics considered.

Provide a more streamlined process for employers looking to fill jobs on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL)

4. Use of one skilled occupation list

Consolidating Medium to Long Term Strategic Skills List and Short Term Skilled Occupation List into one list.

5. PMSOL to be replaced with Acute and Persistent Skills Shortage List

Committee recommends that when the pandemic has concluded to replace PMSOL with Acute and Persistent Skills Shortage List (APSSL).

6. Skills list to be regularly reviewed
7. All employer sponsored visa holders to have a pathway to permanent residency

All employer nominated visas to provide a pathway to permanent residency including subclass 482 visa holders in the short term stream. The committee recommends that there could be different pathways depending on the occupation but subjected to existing requirements such as age limit and competent English language ability. 

8. Provide further concessions for temporary regional visas

The concessions could include:

  • Increasing age limit to 50
  • Changing English language requirements to vocational
  • Reduction of prior work experience requirement to 2 years
  • Labour market testing advertising to be available for up to 12 months before nomination is lodged
  • Priority processing for visa applications
9. Increase of Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT)

Revisit recommendations in Review of the Temporary Skilled Migrant Income Threshold (TSMIT) (2017) in order to increase TSMIT with consideration of exemptions or different rates for jobs in regional areas.

10. Changes to post study work arrangements for certain international students and longer post study visas for three years.

Changes to post study work arrangements for subsets of international students that have:

  • Undertaken a university course (or a course run by a reputable non-university higher education provider) leading to a job in an occupation with a persistent skills shortage
  • Demonstrated excellence for instance by graduating in the top ten per cent of all graduates in their course or achieving first class honours
  • Met relevant English language standards
  • On graduation, worked in a job that is relevant to their field of study with a persistent skills shortage

Such graduates would be eligible for a discount on the work experience component for permanent residency under the employer nominated scheme from three years to two years.

11. Streamlining intra-company transfer of executive employees of multinational companies to Australia to expand operations in Australia. 
12. Department of Home Affairs update their visa processing system to ensure a more streamlined visa application process for applicants and employers.
13. Department of Home Affairs undertake to improve their customer service in the Skilled Migration Program.

This includes establishing liaison officers to assist businesses in navigating skilled migration program and providing feedback to the department of home affairs on emerging conditions in industry. Provision of specialist triage system to provide advice on complex visa applications including making officials available to discuss visa applications over the phone and allowing skilled migrants and employers to correct minor discrepancies.

14. Temporarily extend the validity period of labour market testing from 4 – 6 months during pandemic recovery.
15. Exempt businesses from Labour Market Testing when a 457/482 visa holder has been employed in a full time basis for 12 months or more before lodging subsequent visa or permanent residency application.
16. Employers to be exempt from paying Skilling Australian Fund Levy twice for the same visa applicant.
17. Universities to be exempt from Skilling Australian Fund Levy.
18. Government to guarantee a refund of Skilling Australian Fund Levy where the visa application is unsuccessful and where there is no evidence of fraud on the part of the sponsor or applicant.

Now that the Committee has released its final report, it is up to the Federal government to consider the recommendations and detail their response.