With over 500,000 temporary visa holders leaving Australia as a result of COVID-19 and border closures, it’s no surprise that a number of industries are suffering from skill shortages. We are now hopeful for possible changes to be made to the Skilled Migration Program to support Australia’s economic recovery and help businesses attract and retain staff.
The Joint Standing Committee on Migration presented an interim report about Australia’s skilled migration program. The report includes 12 recommendations to the program, focusing on some changes that would help Australia to recovery from the economic effects of COVID-19.
As Australia has always been an attractive destination for migrants, the Committee believes that with this report and its recommendations, Australia has the opportunity to attract highly talented individuals and businesses, back skilled migration, fill essential gaps, and create more jobs for Australians.
The Committee will continue with a wider focus on long-term reform of the skilled migration program. Submissions addressing and responding to the report will be accepted until 31 March 2021.
What are the recommendations?
1. Streamline Labour Market Testing
- To be less prescriptive about what constitutes labour market testing.
- Only require medium to large businesses to conduct labour market testing.
- Exempt requirements if businesses are headquartered in Australia or owned by an Australian citizen
- Exempt occupations which are on the PMSOL or critical skills lists
- Exempt occupations classified as Skill Level 1 and 2 on the JobActive website
2. Remove the Skilling Australia Fund levy (SAF levy) until the pandemic is over or if retained
Aligning the payment of the SAF 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 SAF levy.
- The Federal Government should establish greater transparency over the state governments’ use of funds from the Skilling Australia Fund to skill Australians.
3. Provide greater transparency
The Department of Home Affairs to be required to provide greater transparency on where employer sponsored visa applications are in the queue.
4. Remove visa conditions
Visa conditions for sponsored skilled visa holders should be adjusted to allow them to work for multiple employers without making applications for new visas if they are 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.
5. Urgently update the PMSOL
An urgent review of the PMSOL could be expanded to include Chefs, Veterinarians, Café and Restaurant Managers and Seafarers
6. Urgently review the PMSOL
Conduct 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).
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.
8. Reserve flights and quarantine for skilled migrants
The Government to reserve places on flights and in quarantine for skilled migrants.
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.
- Expedite the processing times for skilled visa holders who have remained onshore in relevant employment seeking a subsequent skilled visa or permanent residency visa.
10. Clearer pathways to permanent residence
All employer sponsored visa holders be given a clearer pathway to permanency.
11. Global marketing campaign to attract talent
The establishment of a global marketing campaign to attract global talent and investment.
12. Inclusion of temporary and permanent visas for BIIP and GTI
The Business Innovation and Investment and Global Talent programs to provide options for both automatic permanent residence and temporary visas with a clearly articulated path to permanent residence.