March 24, 2021

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Party now acknowledge that migration is crucial to economic growth and prosperity.

AFTER TELLING temporary entrants to “return to their home country” at the beginning of Covid19 pandame, just 12 months ago and cutting the Migration Program ceiling by 30,000 per annum to “bust congestion” as part of his 2019 pre-election plan, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison now says we must overhaul temporary migration in the post-COVID era to fill rapidly emerging skill shortages.

Recently the Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke said that:

“Convinced that the migration program will be a huge part of how we recover from COVID.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says Australia has the “opportunity to attract some of the most skilled and highly qualified individuals from across the world”.


And with no reference to the Prime Minister telling temporary entrants to go home or cutting immigration to “bust congestion”, Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Migration, Julian Leeser, said:

“Australia needs to replace the skilled migrants that left our shores as a result of the pandemic. Without the return of skilled migration, Australia’s economic recovery will be severely hampered and it will be harder to create more jobs for Australians.”

Why Australia is changing its immigration policy? No one believes congestion has been “busted” by the recent lockdowns or that cutting the migration program by 30,000 per annum would have busted congestion. That was just Scott Morrison making up a rationale for Dutton’s earlier cut to the program, as well as a bit of convenient dog-whistling.

And if immigration is to now be increased, how will that be done? There is great potential for the Government to make a mess of this, especially if done at the same time as the Department of Home Affairs is implementing a major IT upgrade. 

There are likely five main drivers for why the Morrison Government is proposing to increase immigration:

  • Ongoing employer anger at the changes Peter Dutton made in 2017-18 to employer-sponsored migration;
  • Recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aged Care will require a very substantial increase in the number of qualified aged and health care staff to bring aged care delivery to the proposed standard and to meet the increasing demands of a much larger aged care population. This increase cannot possibly be delivered solely by training more Australians;
  • Pressure from the agricultural and international tourism industries to address their workforce and related challenges;
  • Pressure from universities due to the number of university staff who have lost their jobs following a sharp fall in revenue from overseas students and the Government’s decision to not grant universities access to JobKeeper; and
  • Likely advice from Treasury that further ageing of Australia’s population over the next 10-20 years will make high rates of real economic growth impossible to deliver.

Employer-sponsored migration

Employer-sponsored skilled temporary entry visas declined significantly after the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and then made a remarkable recovery as the stimulus into the Australian economy rapidly reduced unemployment.

The rise in unemployment from 2014 again resulted in a fall in skilled temporary visas. That decline continued as changes to this visa introduced by Peter Dutton plus a slowing in visa processing saw a large decline in 2017-18. While there was a short recovery in 2018-19, that was due to backlog clearance rather than an increase in applications. The decline continued in 2019-20 and there is likely to be a further fall in 2020-21 due to COVID.

Source: data.gov.au.

While he will not say so, the recommendations of Julian Leeser’s Committee are designed to undo many of the changes Peter Dutton made in 2017-18. But is that the most sensible way forward?

I managed Australia’s migration and temporary entry arrangements for over a decade and can attest that employers seeking to fill a genuine skill shortage are mainly interested in speed, flexibility and certainty.

They don’t want to be messed about by the kinds of bureaucratic delays Peter Dutton specialised in when they need to fill a key vacancy.

From a public policy perspective, the key risks employer-sponsored skilled visa design must address are:

  • Employer-sponsored visas being used to undercut job opportunities of Australians, especially for entry-level job vacancies given high youth unemployment amongst Australians without post-school qualifications;
  • Use of employer-sponsored visas to suppress wages and exploit overseas workers; and
  • Sponsoring employers avoiding their obligations to train Australians.

In this context, it is extraordinary that Leeser ignores the most important policy lever available. That is the minimum salary that every sponsor of a skilled temporary entrant must pay. An appropriately set minimum salary, with minimal scope to use “in-kind” non-cash benefits, effective enforcement and severe penalties for non-compliance, is by far the most effective way to minimise the key risks of skilled temporary entry.

From the checks I have been able to make, it seems the minimum salary requirement for skilled temporary entry may not have been substantially increased since 2013. If that is correct, we can only conclude that skilled temporary entry has been part of the Government’s agenda, as explained by former Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, to slow wages growth in Australia.

If the Government wants to overhaul skilled temporary entry to deliver the speed and flexibility employers desire, it must strengthen the minimum salary requirement, with an appropriate concession for employers in regional Australia.

If not, it will risk, for example, the large corporate aged care providers in Australia using skilled temporary entry to undermine the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aged Care which wants to increase the qualifications and wages of aged care workers rather than to have them continue to be exploited.

To secure the large numbers of more qualified health and aged care workers that Australia will need, Australia will need to source many of these workers through the overseas students’ program. Attracting sufficiently qualified health and aged care workers directly from overseas will be difficult as countries in Europe, Japan and North America will be competing for the same workers.

In this regard, Leeser is right to propose more sensible pathways to permanent residence for overseas students and other temporary entrants. These are the same pathways Dutton made a mess of in 2017-18. For regional Australia, where the demand for qualified health and aged care workers will hit earlier and harder, the Government will also need to revisit the Regional Employer-Sponsored category that Morrison announced with his 2019 Population Plan.

Predictably, that category has turned out to be a total lemon.

Universities will need to switch the focus of their overseas student programs towards health and aged care, and away from the traditional focus on accounting and business. But at a time university finances are heavily stretched, that will be difficult.

The Government will need to assist universities to make the transition to health and aged care training for both domestic and overseas students.

Agriculture and international tourism industries

Both of these industries are pressing the Government for assistance with their labour needs.

Working holidaymakers and work and holiday visa holders have been a traditional source of labour used by these industries. But the number of these visa holders had been in steady decline well before COVID-19 hit, from a peak of around 180,000 in December 2013 to around 140,000 in December 2019, and less than 50,000 in December 2020 and continuing to fall fast.

This is despite a significant expansion in the number of countries with which Australia has a work and holiday agreement as well as expanded opportunities for these visa holders to secure further stay in Australia.

The decline prior to COVID is likely the result of extensive media and social media reports of exploitation of these visa holders, as well as the special “backpacker tax” that has been in place in recent years. Since COVID, with few arriving and large numbers leaving, it was inevitable their numbers would fall sharply.

Source: WHM ReportsDHA website.

The Seasonal Worker Programme has, to a small degree, offset the decline in working holidaymakers. However, this scheme has also been plagued by reports of exploitation and abuse, including an extraordinary 22 deaths of people while in Australia on this very small visa as well as serious complaints from some Pacific Island Governments.

Despite the risks of exploitation, the Government has steadily reduced regulations around this visa and shifted the cost burden from employers and labour-hire companies to workers. The farm lobby wants further deregulation and the creation of a U.S.-style agricultural visa, which has often been described as a new form of slavery.

source: independentaustralia.net

October 7, 2020


For most of us, the key question what is in news for migrants on Australian 2020 Budget announcement.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has declared that the planning figure for the Migration Program will remain unchanged, as the country strives to recover from the economic blow delivered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Morrison Government has announced it will maintain the planned ceiling for the 2020-21 Migration Program at 160,000 places.

In a noticeable departure from the traditional migration composition, the government has placed greater emphasis on family stream visas, raising the planning level from 47,732 to 77,300 places on a ‘one-off basis’ for this program year.

“While overall the government has placed greater emphasis on the family stream, most of these are people already in Australia,” the Acting Minister for Immigration Alan Tudge said in a joint media release with Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton.

Australian Immigration Update with Budget 2020

Keypoints:

Onshore applicants and partner visa applicants will be given priority
Government triples allocation for Global Talent Independent Program- fastest way to get permanent residency in Australia

Family stream: Overall the government will sharpen the focus on the family stream, predominately made up of partner visa category, which has been allocated a total of 72,300 places.

According to the Department of Home Affairs, global waiting times for offshore partner visa to be processed has risen to almost two years.
Budget papers also reveal that an English language requirement will also be introduced for partner visas and their permanent resident sponsors.

This could be an indication of the government’s intention to clear the massive partner visa application backlog that currently sits at 100,000, it could also mean a significant cut for places in the parent category.

In terms of partner visa, Australia’s partner visa processing times blow out due to COVID-19. Budget papers also reveal that an English language requirement will also be introduced for partner visas and their permanent resident sponsors.

These changes will help support English language acquisition and enhance social cohesion and economic participation outcomes

The government also will be prioritising onshore visa applicants and partner visa applicants where the relevant sponsor resides in a designated regional area. While the focus on onshore applications was expected, the fact that partner visa applicants with sponsors in regional areas will get priority is quite a pleasant surprise.

Skilled Migration
Priority will be given to Employer Sponsored, Global Talent, Business Innovation and Investment Program visas within the skilled stream.

Skilled stream: The budget papers reveal that the government will give priority to Employer-Sponsored, Global Talent, Business Innovation and Investment Program visas within the Skilled Stream.

Australian Visa
‘This is the fastest way to get permanent residency in Australia’
As per the planning levels, the government has tripled the allocation of the Global Talent Independent (GTI) program to 15,000 places, a massive increase from the previous program year’s planning level where the government had set an objective to grant 5,000 visas.


The nominations for GTI applicants in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector has a quite a significant increase for the fledgling program that is currently in its second year. The GTI program seems to be growing, and ACS is increasingly seeing evidence of a significant pool of candidates. It nevertheless remains to be seen whether such growth can be realised,

In addition, the government has also raised the allocation for the Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP) to 13,500 places.

The Budget papers said “From 1 July 2021, the Government will streamline and improve the operation of the Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP). The Government will introduce changes to improve the quality of investments and applicants”.

The immigration number fall for 2020-21: The 2020 budget estimates reveal that Australia will suffer its first negative net overseas migration since the Second World War in a major blow to the country’s economy already bruised by the pandemic.

Net migration numbers are expected to fall from 154,000 in the 2019-20 financial year to a net loss of 72,000 in 2020-21 and 21,600 in 2021-22.

International students in Australia.
The Government will also offer Visa Application Charge (VAC) refunds, waivers or visa extensions to visa holders who have been unable to travel to Australia due to COVID-19.

This includes waiving the VAC for Working Holiday Makers and Visitors to boost tourism once the borders re-open.

August 6, 2020

Australia government student visa fee relief for student effected by COVID-19

The Australian Government has been making several changes to visa requirements in recent weeks.

One of the most notable is that applicants will be given

additional time to hand over their English language results and
complete biometric and health checks, allowing future students who’ve been impacted by COVID-19 the chance to finish their visa applications.

In addition to these measures, Immigration Minister Alan Tudge has announced that current international students who will be unable to complete the requirements of their student visa due to COVID-19 will be able to lodge another student visa application free of charge.

This will certainly be warmly welcomed by the thousands of international students who’ve been worrying about what the future will hold for their education in Australia.

What is the fee waiver?

The fee waiver means that any international student who is unable to complete the requirements of their student visa due to the pandemic, will be able to reapply without paying the usual application fees. This fee waiver came into effect at midnight on Wednesday 5 August 2020.

A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs has confirmed that the waiver will only be available to students who had a valid visa from 1 February 2020:

“A visa application fee waiver will be available to students

who held a student visa on or after 1 February 2020 and
who were unable to complete their course within their original visa validity due to the impacts of COVID-19.”

This fee waiver will only apply to new applications and no refunds will be offered to those who applied before midnight 5 August 2020.

Even if you are eligible to receive the fee waiver, there are some extra steps that must be taken in order to receive the free application.

First, you’ll need to submit COVID-19 Impacted Students form from your education provider, in addition to your visa application.
This form will have to be signed by your education provider, showing how the pandemic has affected your visa requirements.

As well as fee waivers, the Australian Government has announced that the eligibility requirements for a post-study work visa have been relaxed. If you’ve been impacted by COVID-19 and are enrolled with an Australian education provider, you may be eligible for the following:

New or current student visa holders who have been forced to undertake online study outside Australia due to the pandemic will be able to count this toward the Australian Study Requirement.
Graduates who have been affected by the travel restrictions put in place to control the spread of COVID-19 will be able to receive a temporary graduate visa outside of Australia.

It’s clear from these announcements that the Australian Government wants to make sure that international students will be safe in the knowledge that they will be able to continue their education in Australia.

June 25, 2020

Population growth will help propel Australia to become the world’s 11th biggest economy within a decade, a report predicts.

The London-based Centre for Economics and Business Research is forecasting Australia will climb two places on its world economic league table by 2026 from its current ranking of 13.

Countries that depend on brainpower to drive their economies will generally overtake those dependent on natural resources, with China tipped to replace the US as the world’s biggest economy in 2030, the centre says.

While Australia’s economic growth has been fuelled by resources in recent years, the centre also noted that it’s become one of the most popular countries in the world for inward migration.

The London-based Centre for Economics and Business Research is forecasting Australia will climb two places on its world economic league table by 2026 from its current ranking of 13. And it’s particularly Australia’s intake of migrants with highly sought-after skills that will help fuel its future growth.

“Australia is one of the most popular countries in the world for inward migration as well as having natural resources.

“The growing population means that the economy is forecast to rise from 13th largest in 2017 to 11th largest economy in 2026.

“Investment in urban infrastructure will need to accelerate as population increases.”

Australia welcomed 245,400 immigrants in the year ending June 30, 2017, a 27 per cent increase from the year before.

 

“The growing population means the economy is forecast to rise from 13th largest in 2017 to 11th largest economy in 2026,” said the centre’s 2018 World Economic League Table, which ranks the world’s economies by gross domestic product measured in US dollars at market prices to 2030.

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