BDO’s Migration Services team highlight key recommendations to ensure Australia’s migration system continues to meet the country’s ever-changing needs and at a time of critical skilled workforce shortages.
Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon. Clare O’Neil MP announced on 2 September 2022 that a comprehensive review of Australia’s migration system will be undertaken to support the growth, existing and future challenges and direction of Australia’s migration system.
In November 2022, the Australian Government further released the A migration system for Australia’s future Discussion Paper, calling for submissions to hear from individuals and organisations on their recommendations for a migration strategy that ensures Australia realises the full potential of migration.
In response to this call, BDO’s Migration Services team has highlighted key recommendations to ensure Australia’s migration system continues to meet the country’s ever-changing needs.
It’s critical the Government’s Migration System review meets Australia’s current and future needs, including the challenges of an ageing workforce, exploitative practices and skills and trade barriers, many of which were exacerbated by extensive border closures during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
To achieve this, our key recommendations include:
- Review the migration system, so it aligns with the Simplified Trade System and Australia’s microeconomic reforms
- Amend the regulations to allow applications to be lodged and approved either onshore or offshore, unless there are sound public policy reasons not to do so
- Consolidate the various Skilled Occupations Lists, which are complex and unwieldy
- Introduce an essential skills Visa to address labour force needs including for the health care and aged care sectors
- Remove the requirement to nominate an occupation from the skilled occupation list and obtain the skills assessment for the Temporary Graduate Visa Work stream
- Ensure the new Jobs and Skills Australia statutory body within the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations deliberates as an advisory body, providing independent advice to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and the Minister for Skills and Training or the Secretary of the Department, in relation to a range of current and emerging labour market and workforce skills and training issues, to improve employment opportunities for individuals and help drive economic growth. Make public its deliberations and consult with peak business, employer and educational bodies. This includes consultation on workforce shortages and the size and composition of the migration program
- Remove and/or simplify the labour market testing requirements as these are overly prescriptive and add to the bureaucratic red tape at a time when skill shortages are evident and impact all aspects of Australia’s economic recovery
- Review the basis upon which skills assessments are required, in line with the CEDA Skills Recognition 2022 recommendations
- Remove barriers to, and create pathways to permanent residency for, onshore subclass 457/482 Visa holders regardless of occupation classification, and increase the age limit to 50 years
- Focus on a targeted Student Visa to meet Australia’s current and emerging skill shortages, but avoid exponential growth and ensure Australian students have equal opportunities to upskill and retain as part of the trade-offs of filling jobs with migrants
- Continue using temporary migration as an important part of the migration program, noting the significant contribution that, for example, temporary subclass 457/482 Visa holders continue to make to Australia’s economy
- Implement the Migration Amendment (Protecting Migrant Workers) Bill 2021 to become law and protect migrant workers who are vulnerable to exploitative work practices by providing clear legal redress without detriment to their Visa status or future Visa applications. Consider taking away the privilege for organisations to hire foreign workers if too many worker complaints are made and they are not addressed in a certain timeframe
- Then as an escalation, extend the “naming and shaming” provisions under the Migration and Other Legislation Amendment (Enhanced Integrity) Act 2018 and related measures contained in the associated regulations to enable the Minister to publish information, including personal information, about any employer who breaches Protecting Migrant Workers legislation, and as part of a whole of government approach
- Ensure regular monitoring of sponsorship obligations and compliance by approved subclass 457/482 sponsors to ensure compliance, with particular focus on the migrant worker cohort that is likely to be most vulnerable to exploitative work practices and in key industries of concern
- Enhance the Data Matching Program Protocols between the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Taxation Office to identify employers and Visa holders, detect and deal with non-compliance, deal with breaches of the law and fraud, and otherwise protect the integrity of the Visa and tax systems
- Implement an Identity-Matching Services Act (along the lines of the lapsed Identity-Matching Services Billed 2019), to support the collection, use and disclosure of facial images and related identity information, including passports, Visa and citizenship images between the Commonwealth and all states and territories, for the purpose of preventing identity crime, general law enforcement, national security, protective security, community safety, road safety and identity verification
- Expand the use of personal identifiers or biometrics across the onshore and offshore Visa program with particular focus on high-risk passports and cohorts, to strengthen the integrity of the migration system
- Continue to implement measures to strengthen the integrity of Australia’s national security and including temporary and permanent employer sponsored skilled migration programs through the gathering and sharing of information on the Department’s online digital processes and data matching and analytics, as part of an increasingly stringent and robust regulatory framework that serves to promote migration system integrity
- Implement a review of the licensed migration agent industry to align with the Australian Trusted Trader scheme and introduce a more stringent and robust regulatory framework to address criminality and fraud, including in the context of Operation Inglenook
- Enhance the regulatory framework to make it a punishable offence to coerce, unduly influence or pressurise a migrant worker to accept a work arrangement to satisfy a work-related Visa requirement, or to avoid an adverse effect on their immigration status
- Significantly enhance the provisions that prohibit using the Visa system to achieve a migration outcome on the part of both the applicant and the sponsor
- Significantly enhance and give effect to the provisions under the Migration Act in respect of bogus marriages (currently 10 years imprisonment and up to $100,000 fine), but which measures appear not to have been given effect to.
The Australian Government relies on immigration to support the country’s economic and societal growth. A review of the Migration System must proactively respond to an ever-changing global environment and ensure it meets Australia's critical labour and workforce needs.
Australia must successfully compete with high-income countries and attract skilled labour through a strong migration strategy.
If you or your organisation requires support to navigate Australia’s complex migration system, contact the BDO Migration Services team today.