In response to evolving migration challenges and the dynamic landscape shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Federal Government has unveiled a visionary 10-year Migration Strategy. This Migration Strategy was informed by extensive consultation with business, unions and other stakeholders, and more than 450 submissions received as part of the Review of the Migration System. This strategic initiative addresses critical issues to ensure the safety of migrant workers and creating incentives to attract and sustain foreign talent on our Australian shores.
Combatting and Preventing Exploitation:
In a bid to tackle worker exploitation head-on, the Australian Government is committed to enforcing higher standards for employer sponsors. The introduction of a public register of approved sponsors has been mentioned and is stated to enhance transparency, aiding prospective employees in assessing the legitimacy of potential employers. Stringent penalties, increased public transparency, and intensified compliance checks for sponsored workers underscore the commitment to eradicating exploitation.
The Department in their Migration Strategy Report touched on the fact that single employer sponsorship is a key driver of migrant worker exploitation. Through the introduction of the Innovative Skills in Deman Visa, the Department aim to take back the power for employers to employees.
Innovative Skills in Demand Visa:
The government is set to introduce the groundbreaking ‘Skills in Demand’ visa, slated to replace the existing Temporary Skills Shortage Visa. This novel approach features three distinct streams – ‘Specialist Skills,’ ‘Core Skills,’ and ‘Essential Skills,’ catering to diverse economic needs. Noteworthy enhancements include the ability for visa holders to count all employment periods towards permanent residency eligibility, thereby alleviating concerns of being tied to a single employer, which in some instances, has created and festered a power imbalance between employer and employee and led to situations of workers exploitation.
In an additional attempt to maintain efforts of combatting exploitation, the Government has also introduced a flexible job transition period of up to 180 days aims to prevent visa holders from feeling constrained. The proposal also explores a phased approach for employers to cover costs after employment commences.
A further and notable change is to the streamlining of the Labour Market Testing Requirements with therequirement to advertise on the Workforce Australia website now being and the advertising validity period will be increased from 4 months to 6 months.
Student Visa Reforms:
Post-COVID, recent growth in international education has been partly driven by non-genuine students and unscrupulous education providers subverting aspects of the current regulatory and compliance framework
As detailed in the Migration Strategy, ‘the Government will introduce a new Genuine Student test for all international students. The Genuine Student test will clearly incentivise applications from genuine students and discourage non-genuine students, whose primary intention is to work rather than study, from accessing Australia’s international education system. This test will replace the existing Genuine Temporary Entrant requirement to acknowledge that post-study temporary migration (and beyond) pathways are available for those who may be eligible. At the same time, the new Genuine Student test will be clear that the vast majority of international students in Australia will return home.’
Additionally, an Increase English language requirements will be implemented to improve the quality of students’ educational experience in Australia and reduce potential workplace exploitation.
Eight (8) Key Actions, as characterised by the Australian Government include:
- Targeting temporary skilled migration to address skills needs and promote worker mobility
- Reshaping permanent skilled migration to drive long-term prosperity
- Strengthening the integrity and quality of international education
- Tackling worker exploitation and the misuse of the visa system
- Planning migration to get the right skills in the right places
- Tailoring regional visas and the Working Holiday Maker Program to support regional Australia and its workers
- Deepening our people-to-people ties in the Indo-Pacific
- Simplifying the migration system to improve the experience for migrants and employers
There are a plethora of other changes, awaiting further discussion and implementation. For further details, please see the links below:
Migration Strategy – Action Plan: Migration Strategy – Action Plan (homeaffairs.gov.au)
Migration Strategy – At a Glance: Migration Strategy – At a Glance (homeaffairs.gov.au)
Migration Strategy – Report: Migration Strategy (homeaffairs.gov.au)