Australia: Latest immigration

The government of Australia has recently announced several important changes to the immigration rules which may impact visa applicants and employers. We outline the changes below.

Student visa processing priorities

Ministerial Direction No. 107, signed on 14 December 2023, formalises the Australian government’s processing priorities for the student and student guardian visa programmes.

An evidence level is allocated to each Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS)-registered education provider. The new Ministerial Direction works with the evidence level framework to prioritise applications from international students wishing to study in Australia.

Ministerial Direction No. 107 provides the highest priority to:

  • Student visa applications lodged outside Australia by:
    • Schools sector, Foreign Affairs or Defence sector, and Postgraduate Research sector applicants;
    • Higher Education, English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS), Vocational Education and Training (VET), and Non-Award sector applicants studying at an education provider with an evidence​ level 1;
  • Subsequent entrant applications lodged outside Australia that include an unmarried family member under 18 years​;
  • All Student Guardian visa applications (lodged in or outside Australia).

Any secondary applicant (spouse, de-facto partner or dependent child) who is included in the primary visa application will be given the same priority as the primary applicant.

Subsequent entrant means a secondary applicant for a student visa who did not make a combined application with the primary applicant / primary visa holder.

Where the primary applicant intends to undertake two or more courses of study (course packaging), the application will be given the order of priority that applies to the principal course of study (i.e. the course of study with the highest Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) level).

The new student visa processing priorities apply to all visa applications lodged on or from 15 December 2023, as well as applications lodged prior to this date that are yet to be finalised.

Student visa applications lodged in Australia will continue to be processed according to existing processing arrangements.

Removal of the Labour Market Testing (LMT) Requirement to Advertise on the Workforce Australia Website

On 11 December 2023, immigration law has been​ updated to remove the requirement for employers to advertise on the Workforce Australia website. This change will apply to subclass 482 and 494 nomination applications, and will allow employers greater flexibility in relation to how they undertake LMT.

At the same time, clarifying text has been incorporated into the updated instrument which indicates that nominated positions may be advertised over two or more overlapping periods totalling a minimum of four weeks.

This change is an immediate outcome of the Government’s Migration Strategy (see below).

Migration Strategy published

On 11 December 2023, the Australian government released its Migration Strategy, including significant reforms to the migration system.

The Migration Strategy builds on the findings of the first comprehensive review of the migration system in a generation, the 2023 Review of the Migration System​ (the Parkinson Review), and also the​ Rapid Review into the Exploitation of Australia’s Visa System​ (the Nixon Review).

The eight key actions are as follows:

1: Targeting temporary skilled migration to address skills needs and promote worker mobility.

  • A new Skills in Demand visa, with full mobility and clear pathways to permanent residence
  • A new Specialist Skills Pathway to make it easier for Australia to attract highly skilled workers, for example in the technology or green energy industries
  • A Core Skills Pathway to meet targeted workforce needs, with a simpler, regularly updated occupation list for the skills Australia needs
  • New visa settings that give migrant workers more mobility in the labour market to help tackle worker exploitation and drive productivity
  • Streamlined labour market testing (LMT) and visa processing.

2: Reshaping permanent skilled migration to drive long-term prosperity.

  • A commitment to explore a reformed points test for permanent skilled migration, and a new Talent and Innovation visa for migrants who can drive growth in sectors of national importance.

3: Strengthening the integrity and quality of international education.

  • Higher English language requirements for international students and graduates
  • More scrutiny of high-risk student visa applications and a $19m investment into the Home Affairs student visa integrity unit
  • Restrictions on onshore visa hopping that undermines system integrity and drives ‘permanent temporariness’
  • Strengthened and simplified Temporary Graduate visa settings
  • Measures to support international students and graduates to realise their potential.

4: Tackling worker exploitation and the misuse of the visa system.

  • A new public register of employer sponsors to improve integrity and support migrant worker mobility.

5: Planning migration to get the right skills in the right places.

  • A new approach to planning permanent migration over the long-term and greater state and territory collaboration on net overseas migration forecasts.

6: Tailoring regional visa and the Working Holiday Maker Program to support regional Australia and its workers.

  • A new direction to ensure regional visas receive the highest priority visa processing.

7: Deepening people-to-people ties in the Indo-Pacific.

8: Simplifying the migration system to improve the experience for migrants and employers.

  • The removal of 20+ unnecessary and duplicative visas to simplify the visa system.

Expert support with your visa application

If you are interested in applying for an Australian visa and require support with the application process, Smith Stone Walters can help.

Our immigration experts can assess your eligibility and support you throughout the entire process. To find out more about our immigration services, please contact us today.

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