Immigration reforms affecting overseas recruiting

In the post-pandemic world, and at a time of acute labour force shortages, Australia’s Skilled Migration Program continues to underpin our economic prosperity to meet the country’s labour needs.

Improving the economic contribution of skilled migrants through legislation

Australia’s highly complex and codified immigration laws and policies change constantly in response to the priorities of the government of the day.

The skilled worker temporary and permanent entry programs are balanced by the need to protect Australian jobs and ensure that Australian standards and conditions of employment are advanced.

The Temporary Skills Shortage (subclass 482) visa   includes age, employment history, salary, English language proficiency, eligible occupations and mandatory labour market tests criteria which must be met.

Balancing immigration and international obligations

Australia is a signatory to the World Trade Organisation General Agreement on Trade in Services 1994, which allows for the movement of people seeking access to the employment market on a temporary basis.

As the world’s 13th-largest economy, Australia has continued to pursue trade liberalisation through free trade agreements that allow for the movement of persons supplying services without the need for labour market testing.

However, labour market testing is required unless doing so would be inconsistent with Australia’s international trade obligations.

The position must now be advertised in a specified form. Three advertisements, including on Workforce Australia, need to run for a continuous period of 28 days in the four months prior to the lodgement of a subclass 482 nomination application to evidence that there are no suitable Australian workers for the position.

On 12 August 2018, the Skilling Australians Fund Levy commenced, which applies to all subclass 482 and 186/187 nomination applications. For organisations with less than $10 million annual turnover, this is calculated as a base amount of $1,200 for each year of the proposed 482 visa nomination.

For nominating organisations with more than $10 million annual turnover, the base amount is $1,800 for each year of the proposed visa - $7,200 for a four year visa period.

The subclass 186/187 levy is $3,000 if the annual turnover of the nominating organisation is less than $10 million and $5,000 if the annual turnover is more than $10 million. The levy must be paid when the application is lodged by the nominating organisation (which cannot recoup the money from the sponsored worker).

 The levy raises significant ongoing revenue which is spent on upskilling Australian workers.

Government policy and regulatory compliance and enforcement

The establishment of the Department of Home Affairs - with the Australian Border Force as its operational enforcement arm - reflects a new paradigm in managing Australia’s borders as part of Australia’s migration program.

The Department receives well over 11 million visa applications annually worldwide, and in this financial year is budgeted to raise over $3.25 billion in visa fees, fines and levies, reflecting growing demand for temporary and permanent entry.

Australia’s focus is on heightened security, a whole of government approach, online processes and systems, analysis of metadata/data, and the sharing of information with national and international agencies and partners.

Australia as an open and prosperous society continues to balance a visa framework responsive to Australia’s economic needs with an ongoing focus on operational enforcement, specialised border capability, intelligence, risk, compliance and enforcement.

This continues to pose significant challenges to global mobility and reflects the ongoing immigration debate on how best to achieve stricter border controls while meeting Australia’s skilled workforce and economic needs.