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Our takeouts from the ‘Review of the Migration System’ report

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Our Immigration Director of Absolute Immigration Legal, Alex Kaufman, provides us with takeouts from the recently released Government report – ‘A Migration System for a More Prosperous and Secure Australia’.

To hear more from our team of experts and the announcement of the increase of the TSMIT threshold, tune in to our webinar – details at the end of this article.

Yesterday’s press club address by Home Affairs Minister O’Neill was a highly anticipated teaser into the future of Australia’s migration system and to the public release of the Final Report of the ‘Review of the Migration System’.

In terms of addressing Australia’s emerging need for skills, the review recommends that the Federal Government adopts a risk-based approach to regulation of temporary labour migration, with three tiers, namely:

  1. a ‘light touch’ high salary cohort;
  2. a ‘mid-level cohort’ (above the proposed $70,000 TSMIT, but below the high-salary threshold of cohort 1); and,
  3. subject to further multistakeholder consultation, a lower wage cohort in sectors experiencing persistent shortages and who are most at risk of exploitation and displacing Australian workers with similar skills.

It is proposed that ‘regulatory effort’ should be highest for cohort 3 and lowest for cohort 1.

Other key recommendations include:

[Recommendation 17] Allowing temporary migrant workers to move from their current employment to find work with another employer within the same sector or job family. Migrants could have up to 6 months to find new employment.

[Recommendation 18] Requiring all employers of temporary visa holders to register that employment through a light-touch process; those with a history of serious workplace breaches would be deregistered and ineligible to employ visa holders.

[Recommendation 19] Require employer fees and charges to be paid monthly, rather than up-front, to facilitate mobility between employers and increase access for small business by reducing up-front costs.

[Recommendation 20] Provide migrant workers with targeted training on workplace laws and conditions based on the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme model.

[Recommendation 21] Improve post-arrival monitoring and compliance including through coordination with the tax system, using tax file numbers (TFN) and single-touch payroll. Resolve and avoid ‘permanently temporary’ migration.

[Recommendation 22] Review the drivers that have created a continuing ‘permanently temporary’ cohort with a view to ensuring future cohorts do not emerge. Restore the Working Holiday Maker program to its original intention.

[Recommendation 23] Ensure the primary focus of the Working Holiday Maker program is cultural exchange and does not operate to tie migration outcomes to the performance of work. Subject to Australia’s obligations under trade and other international agreements, consider limiting Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visas to one year.

Minister O’Neill indicated that she anticipates that if all recommendations were implemented, the result would be a net reduction in the annual migration ceiling. This is the strongest indicator yet, that most – if not all – recommendations will be implemented in the skilled visa arena.

If that is the case, the standard complexities and issues accompanying transformational change will invariably apply.

In this case, we anticipate savings provisions and transitional arrangements will occupy the minds of employers and applicants, and we recommend that the Department adopt a unified approach to legacy and interim applicants by ensuring that changes are pegged to the time of application and with sufficient notice given on critical dates. Our experience in 2012 and 2017 with regulatory reform based on time of decision criteria was lamentable for business, applicants, and the Department alike.

Despite the apparent (and welcome) move away from the ANZSCO for tier 1 applications, it appears that occupational classification will continue to play a role in the tiers 2 and 3. Unless the skilled occupation lists are carte blanche, we see a continuing role for Labour Agreements as an important stop gap for business to make a case outside of the ‘three-size-fits-all’ model that has been proposed.

The proposal to afford a ‘light touch’ to the assessment of certain visa tiers sounds attractive, but is not necessarily in keeping with the Department’s stated intention to enhance the integrity of the programme.

We would be interested to see what this looks like in practice, but throughout the bedding down process and beyond, professional assistance and advice to help navigate the new framework is strongly recommended.

For commentary regarding this report and the changes announced to the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT), tune in to our webinar at 11am, Tuesday 2 May. Register here

For further information, please email aisupport@absoluteimmigration.com to arrange an online consultation.

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