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The Joint Standing Committee on Migration releases its interim report on Australia’s Skilled Migration Program

By March 20, 2021No Comments

On 18 March 2021, the Joint Standing Committee on Migration (the Committee) presented an interim report for its inquiry into Australia’s skilled migration program. It makes 12 welcome recommendations focused on Australia’s recovery from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also makes submissions in relation to Australia’s international competitiveness in attracting entrepreneurs, venture capital, start-ups, and the best and brightest migrants with cutting edge skills.

A further report is expected in July this year which will consider longer term issues regarding the skilled migration program.

What is the impact of COVID-19 for Australia’s foreign labour supply?

As a result of COVID-19, over 500,000 temporary visa holders left Australia resulting in significant skills shortages. The Committee heard that job vacancies in November last year reached 254,000, higher than any point in the last 10 years.

The Committee also received submissions from businesses, industry representatives and submissions that the current skilled migration program is adversely impacting economic recovery. Business NSW told the Committee that half of businesses in NSW are currently experiencing skills shortages. In Western Australia one in three businesses have skilled labour shortages. More than a third (36%) of businesses in the Northern Territory have identified their greatest challenge over the next 3-6 months to be retaining and attracting staff.

Given the above, what are the recommendations?

The Interim report makes twelve recommendations which include:

Recommendation 1: Streamline Labour Market Testing

Streamlining Labour Market testing to: (a) be less prescriptive about what constitutes labour market testing (b) only require medium to large businesses to conduct labour market testing (c) exempt requirements if businesses are headquartered in Australia or owned by an Australian citizen and (d) exempt occupations which are on the PMSOL or critical skills lists; and o exempt occupations classified as Skill Level 1 and 2 on the Jobactive website

Recommendation 2: Remove the Skilling Australia Fund levy

Removing the Skilling Australia Fund levy requirement until the pandemic is over or if retained: (a) 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 (b) 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 (c) the federal government should establish greater transparency over the State Governments’ use of funds from the Skilling Australia Fund to skill Australians

Recommendation 3: Provide greater transparency

The Department of Home Affairs be required to provide greater transparency on where employer sponsored visa applications are in the queue

Recommendation 4: Remove visa conditions

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: Urgently update the PMSOL

An urgent review of the PMSOL urgently be expanded to include Chefs, Veterinarians, Café and Restaurant Managers and Seafarers

Recommendation 6: Urgently review the PMSOL

An urgent review of the PMSOL 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 (including civil engineers, electrical engineers, motor mechanics, cooks, carpenters, electricians and other roles in the hospitality, health, trades, agriculture and manufacturing sectors)

Recommendation 7: Review occupation lists

A review of the various skilled occupation lists 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: Reserve flights and quarantine for skilled migrants

The Government reserve places on flights and in quarantine for skilled migrants

Recommendation 9: Improve processing times

Improve visa processing times for employer-sponsored visas because of the labour market needs during the COVID-19 pandemic economic recovery; and 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: Clearer pathways to permanent residence

That all employer sponsored visa holders be given a clearer pathway to permanency

Recommendation 11: Global marketing campaign to attract talent

The establishment of a global marketing campaign to attract global talent and investment

Recommendation 12: Inclusion of temporary and permanent visas for BIIP and GTI

That the Business Innovation and Investment and Global Talent programs provide options for both automatic permanent residence and temporary visas with a clearly articulated path to permanent residence.

What does this mean going forward?

Though these are not binding, the Committees interim findings and recommendations is affirmation of the importance skilled migration plays in Australia. In 2019, the Director of Migration Statistics Jenny Dobak said that just under 30 per cent of Australia’s resident population were born overseas. This level of multiculturalism is a significant driver of the dynamic economy Australians can be proud of. Although Australia looks to be in good shape for a ‘V-shape” post COVID-19 economic recovery, it’s important to recognise that sustainable economic growth is correlated to our ability to attract and retain global talent. The above recommendations are welcome commentary in that regard.

Should you be a business or employer looking to recruit foreign talent to Australia, feel free to contact one of our immigration experts at [email protected] or +61 3 9016 0484 for further information.

This document does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Please consult an immigration professional for up to date information.
Mihan Hannan

Author Mihan Hannan

Formerly a Senior Associate in one of Australia’s most reputable immigration litigation and review practices, Mihan is solutions focused and well versed in all aspects of Australian immigration law. Mihan also has a subscription addiction, being obsessed with tools to improve the firms immigration work flow.

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