Australia’s immigration shift: Navigating the July 2024 changes

Australia’s immigration shift: Navigating the July 2024 changes

The Australian government has recently implemented significant changes to its visa programs, reshaping the landscape for temporary migrants and employers alike. These changes will address critical issues such as labour shortages, population management, and economic strengthening.

Given the high cost of non-compliance, it’s imperative for businesses and individuals to understand the latest amendments. So, what are the key changes you need to know about, effective from 1 July 2024?

Changes to work related visa conditions

Current and future holders of 482, 457, and 494 visas who cease employment with their sponsoring employer now have up to 180 consecutive days, with a maximum of 365 days in total across the visa grant period, to find a new sponsor, apply for a different visa, or depart Australia.

During this period, a visa holder may work outside of their nominated sponsor, including in occupations that are not listed in their most recently approved sponsorship nomination.

Read our analysis: The impact of migration amendment regulations on employers and the dissolution of ‘Golden Handcuffs’.

Re-alignment of temporary graduate visa streams

Post-vocational education work stream (formerly graduate work stream)

  • Applicants for the post-vocational education work stream must now be 35 years of age or under at the time of application
  • Holders of associate degrees, diplomas, or trade qualifications closely related to their nominated occupation on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) should apply for this stream
  • Stay duration: Up to 18 months, with extended options for Hong Kong and British National Overseas passport holders.

Post-higher education work stream (formerly post-study work stream)

  • Applicants for the post-higher education work stream must be 35 years of age or under
  • Applicants with degree-level or higher qualifications are eligible for this stream
  • Select degree extension: The two-year extension for select degrees has ceased.

Restriction on applications for student visas for individuals in Australia

Starting 1 July 2024, certain temporary visa holders will no longer be able to apply for a student visa while in Australia. This measure is intended to curb visa hopping and reduce the number of 'permanently temporary' former international students in the country.

The following visa holders will be affected by these changes:

  • Subclass 485 (Temporary Graduate)
  • Subclass 600 (Visitor)
  • Subclass 601 (Electronic Travel Authority)
  • Subclass 602 (Medical Treatment)
  • Subclass 651 (eVisitor)
  • Subclass 771 (Transit)
  • Subclass 988 (Maritime Crew)
  • Subclass 995 (Diplomatic Temporary) – Primary visa holders only
  • Subclass 403 (Temporary Work) International Relations – Domestic Worker (Diplomatic or Consular) stream
  • Subclass 426 (Domestic Worker (Temporary) – Diplomatic or Consular)

Temporary Graduate Visa holders are advised to either depart Australia or seek skilled employment and other visa pathways that may lead to permanent residency. Visitor visa applicants who wish to study in Australia must apply for their student visa from outside the country.

Student Visa holders entering Australia are also no longer able to access the Free Translating Service.

In addition, the Government has significantly increased Visa Application charges for Student Visa Applicants with the fee now being AUD$1,600, representing a 125 per cent jump from the previous fee of AUD$710.

Temporary skilled migrant income threshold (TSMIT)

Starting 1 July 2024, the TSMIT will increase from $70,000 to $73,150. This change aligns with the recent rise in average weekly earnings and applies to nomination applications lodged on or after this date.

Increase in Significant Cost Threshold

The Significant Cost Threshold, which underpins the policy to contain public expenditure on healthcare and community services, has increased from $51,000 to $86,000. This threshold determines whether a visa applicant’s estimated health and community service costs are considered 'significant' and thus fail to meet the Migration Health Requirement. The Department consulted the Australian public on this policy adjustment, and a formal announcement in relation to the change is yet to be made.

Addressing worker exploitation

The Migration Amendment (Strengthening Employer Compliance) Act 2024

The recent changes to the Migration Act aim to enhance employer compliance and protect temporary migrant workers from exploitation. The key measures introduced include:

  • Criminalising coercion: Making it a crime to coerce or unduly pressure individuals into breaching their work-related visa conditions
  • Employer restrictions: Temporarily barring employers convicted of such offences from hiring additional temporary visa holders
  • Public disclosure: Publishing the names of these prohibited employers on the Home Affairs website
  • Increased penalties: Significantly increasing pecuniary and civil penalties to serve as a deterrent
  • Enhanced ABF powers: Providing the Australian Border Force (ABF) with increased powers and tools, including the issuance of enforceable undertakings and compliance notices
  • Repeal of Section 235: Repealing section 235 of the Migration Act, which currently criminalises visa holders breaching work conditions or unlawful citizens working, to encourage victims to report exploitation
  • Considerations under Section 116: Specifying considerations under section 116 of the Migration Act to address situations related to these offences.

In addition, the Migration Amendment (Infringement Notices) Regulations 2024 amends the Migration Regulations to:

  • Align the infringement notice penalty amounts in the Migration Regulations for contraventions of existing civil penalty provisions with the increases in the civil penalty amounts made by the Strengthening Employer Compliance Act
  • Provide for infringement notices in relation to alleged contraventions of new civil penalty provisions inserted in the Migration Act by the Strengthening Employer Compliance Act
  • Remove the infringement notice half-penalty amount which existed in the Migration Regulations for ‘first contraventions’
  • Set a fixed amount for the infringement notice penalty at one-fifth of the civil penalty provision for an individual or a body corporate.

These amendments collectively strengthen the enforcement framework, ensuring better protection for temporary migrant workers and holding employers accountable for non-compliance.

Another crucial aspect of these measures is the enhanced data matching program conducted by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), which will continue collecting data on visas granted in the period 2023–24 to 2025–26 financial years. It ensures visa holders, visa sponsors and migration agents are meeting their tax and super obligations.

Strengthening workplace exploitation reporting conditions

From 1 July 2024, new regulations will enhance protections for migrant workers who report workplace exploitation. These changes outline specific conditions under which a visa cannot be cancelled if the holder has been affected by workplace exploitation, ensuring greater security for those who come forward.

The Workplace Justice Visa

Australia has introduced the Workplace Justice Visa under the Migration Amendment (Workplace Justice Visa) Regulations 2024. This visa empowers temporary migrants who have faced workplace exploitation to stay in the country and pursue justice. Key features include:

  • Duration: Six to twelve months, extendable up to four years
  • Certification Rrquirement: Applicants must obtain certification from authorised entities
  • Work rights: Holders can work while resolving workplace issues
  • Monitoring: The program will be closely monitored for effectiveness and integrity.

Other noteworthy changes

  • Support for partner visa applicants in family violence cases
  • Digital Nomad Visa: Introduced to attract global talent and promote remote work
  • Increased Citizenship and Passport Fees: Adjustments to streamline processes
  • Increased Visa Application Charges: Annual indexation of Visa Application Charges (VAC) in line with the forecast Consumer Price Index (CPI) (2.75 per cent) and rounded to the nearest $5.00
  • New exemptions for UK citizens on Working Holiday Visas – UK passport holders able to be granted up to three Working Holiday (Subclass 417) visas without having to meet any specified work requirements
  • Philippines passport holders eligible to apply for a Work and Holiday (Subclass 462) visa
  • The Skilled-Recognised Graduate (Subclass 476) visa is now permanently closed
  • The Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) (Subclass 188) visa is now permanently closed.

How BDO can help

Our Migration Services team are ready to assist our clients in navigating these changes. Whether you’re an employer seeking skilled workers or an individual planning your Australian journey, our team is here to guide you. Contact us to learn more.