Global mobility - an ever-changing landscape

This article was originally published 11 November 2020 and updated 11 November 2022.

Following the reopening of Australia’s international borders, Australia continues to experience acute skilled workforce shortages which are impacting Australia’s economic recovery.

The Department of Home Affairs is grappling with the surge of applications, the visa backlog reduction and a focus on more timely delivery of Australia’s Migration Program.

The Department processed more than 2 million temporary and migration visas since 1 June 2022, reducing the visa backlog as the volume of new applications continues to surge.

At 30 September 2022, there were some 2.1 million temporary visa holders in Australia and a further 3.23 million visa holders outside Australia, who are eligible to travel to Australia. This includes nearly 258,700 temporary visa holders with some form of work rights.

Surge of visa applications includes a significant growth in offshore Student Visa applications.

Australia continues its highly selective Migration Program, allowing for some 195,000 permanent migrants in the 2022/23 Program year.

While employer-sponsored temporary work visa programs are demand driven, the number of applications that continue to be lodged is much less the number that are approved.

Changes to the Labour Market Testing requirements

The Department of Home Affairs continues to balance addressing Australia’s skilled workforce needs with protecting the Australian jobs and conditions of employment.

Additional Labour Market Testing requirements came into effect in November 2021, which apply to all subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage nomination or subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) nominations.

Employers must advertise the position on Workforce Australia and place at least two advertisements published in any of the below:

  • on a prominent or professional recruitment website with national reach that publishes advertisements for positions throughout Australia
  • in national print media (that is, newspapers or magazines with national reach that are published at least monthly and marketed throughout Australia)
  • on national radio with national reach
  • on the business' website if the sponsor is an accredited sponsor.

Read our summary of the current Labour Market Testing (LMT) requirements.

To evidence the LMT requirements are met, you should check and be able to evidence each advertisement including the publication date and the closure date.

Many nomination applications are refused because the LMT requirements have not been met.  In that case, the Skilling Australians Fund Levy will not be refunded and any visa application will be refused unless it is withdrawn.

Priority processing

With the Visa backlog and the surge of applications, reducing the number of on-hand visa applications is a priority for the Australian Government.

Ministerial Direction No 100 replaces Direction no. 88 as to the order in which applications lodged with the Department of Home Affairs are to be processed.

It applies to all visas lodged before, on or after the 28 October 2022, and which have not been finally determined.

In order of priority from highest to lowest, applications will be processed as follows:

  1. Visa applications in relation to specified healthcare or teaching occupations
  2. Employer-sponsored visas where the applicant is sponsored by an Accredited Sponsor
  3. Visa applications in relation to an occupation based in a designated regional area
  4. Permanent and provisional visa subclasses that count towards the migration program (excluding subclass 188 Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional Visa)
  5. All other visa applications.

Although visas are being processed faster, with increased lodgements, the Department of Home Affairs continues to handle an increasing on-hand caseload as well as large numbers of older cases.

A new processing times guide was published on the Department’s website on 26 August 2022. This provides a guide on how long individual visa subclasses usually take to process, but the actual times vary from case to case.

Department of Home Affairs/Australian Taxation Office data matching program

The Department of Home Affairs continues to advance its digital processing model, including with online lodgement of applications which allow for an integrated approach to information, data sharing and predictive analytics.

The Department of Home Affairs, together with other prescribed agencies, including the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), continue to collect a vast array of personal and business information.

The management of Australia’s borders and regulatory compliance continues to be shaped by a whole-of-government approach, digitalisation, automated analysis of data, and data-matching program protocols with the ATO.

Data–matching is increasingly used to effectively detect and deal with compliance risks through use of risk detection models and to improve decisions, services and compliance.

The ATO will continue to access visa data from the Department of Home Affairs for 2020-21 through to 2022-23. The data items include:

  • Address history for visa applicants and sponsors
  • Contact history for visa applicants and sponsors
  • All visa grants
  • Visa grant status by point in time
  • Migration agents (visa application preparer who assisted or facilitated the processing of the visa)
  • Address history for migration agents
  • Contact history for migration agents
  • All international travel movements undertaken by visa holders (arrivals and departures)
  • Sponsor details
  • Education providers (educational institution where a student visa holder intends to undertake their study)
  • Visa subclass name.

The ATO estimates records relating to approximately 10 million individuals will be obtained each financial year.

The ATO advised that the data matching program from 2017 to 2020 resulted in the total number of records exceeding 20 million individuals.

Visa data is made available to ATO compliance staff to support risk profiling and trend analysis of the visa population. The data is matched against ATO records to ensure visa holders, visa sponsors and migration agents are meeting their tax and superannuation obligations.

Visa data for 1 March 2020 to 28 March 2021 will be used to assist in confirming eligibility for the Government's COVID-19 economic response, the JobKeeper measure. The data will support pre-issue and post-issue compliance checks enabling the ATO to follow up and action potentially false or misleading declarations.

Data is the new oil, and in our increasingly interconnected and hyper-connected world, the growth of new technologies and data sharing and analytics underpins regulatory compliance and enforcement.

Data sharing continues to play a critical role as businesses adjust operating models for higher levels of digital engagement.

Single Touch Payroll data provides access to real-time data to the ATO and, in turn, enables data sharing to be used to assist the ATO, Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force and the Fair Work Ombudsman identify non-compliance with employer-related obligations, including obligations under taxation and superannuation laws.

As Australia enters a period of considerable change and uncertainty, addressing Australia’s skilled workforce shortages at a time of ongoing reform, requires expert advice, tailored to the individual needs of each case.