Interim Report of the Inquiry into Australia’s Skilled Migration Program

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On 3 February 2021, the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon Alex Hawke MP, asked the Joint Standing Committee on Migration to inquire into and report on Australia’s skilled migration program, with reference to:

1    The purpose of the skilled migration program and whether it is meeting its intended objectives;

2    Australia’s international competitiveness in attracting entrepreneurs, venture capital, start-ups, and the best and brightest migrants with cutting edge skills;

3    Skills lists and the extent to which they are meeting the needs of industries and businesses and keeping pace with Australia’s job landscape;

4    The administrative requirements for Australian businesses seeking to sponsor skilled migrants, including requirements to prioritise job opportunities for Australians and job creation;

5    The costs of sponsorship to businesses seeking to sponsor skilled migrants;

6    The complexity of Australia’s skilled migration program including the number of visa classes under the program and their requirements, safeguards and pathways; and

7    Any other related matters.

The Committee has produced an interim report on the short-term considerations relating to Australia’s skilled migration program.

The Committee has not yet completed gathering evidence for this inquiry and will present a final report to the Parliament once the process of gathering evidence is completed.

List of Recommendations

Recommendation 1

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) should streamline labour market testing to:

  • be less prescriptive about what constitutes labour market testing
  • only require Medium and Large businesses to conduct labour market testing;
  • require labour market testing for businesses headquartered outside Australia or businesses owned by someone who is not an Australian citizen;
  • remove the requirement for employers to advertise any occupations which are on the PMSOL or critical skills lists; and
  • remove the requirement for employers to advertise for all occupations classified as Skill Level 1 and 2 on the jobactive website.

Recommendation 2

At least until the pandemic period is over, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment and DHA should remove the requirement for employers to pay the Skilling Australia Fund as part of the visa sponsorship process.

Recommendation 3

That DHA be required to provide greater transparency on where employer sponsored visa applications are in the queue.

Recommendation 4

That the 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

Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List be expanded urgently to include Chefs, Veterinarians, Café and Restaurant Managers and Seafarers.

Recommendation 6

DHA to conduct an urgent review of the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List, 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. The Department should give particular consideration to civil engineers, electrical engineers, motor mechanics, cooks, carpenters, electricians and other roles in the hospitality, health, trades, agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

Recommendation 7

The Committee recommends that the Short-term Skilled Occupation List, the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List and the Regional Occupation List be reviewed 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

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

Recommendation 9

The Committee recommends that:

  • DHA improve visa processing times for employer-sponsored visas because of the labour market needs during the COVID-19 pandemic economic recovery; and
  • DHA 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

All employer sponsored visa holders be given a clearer pathway to permanency.

Recommendation 11

The Committee recommends the establishment of a global marketing campaign to attract global talent and investment. This campaign should:

  • Target talented individuals and investors in key competitor countries;
  • Raise awareness of both the opportunities in Australia, and the migration mechanisms available to those seeking to live, work or settle in Australia; and
  • Leverage off the work already being undertaken by the Special Envoy for Global Business and Talent Attraction.

Recommendation 12

That the BIIP and GTI provide options for both automatic permanent residence and temporary visas with a clearly articulated path to permanent residence.

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