As the focus continues on Australia’s Migration Program and migration rules are altered to meet our ambitious immigration targets, address the nation’s skills shortages and stimulate our economic prosperity. It’s important to keep up to date on the changing regulatory environment related to employing workers from overseas.
Here’s a summary of recent and upcoming changes related to skilled migration.
Australia and UK Free Trade Agreement fast-tracked
The long-awaited Australia-UK Fair Trade Agreement (UKFTA) came into effect on 31 May 2023. This agreement provides positive opportunities for further trade, investment, and movement of capital and people between Australia and the UK.
As part of this agreement, there will be increased mobility for Australians who want to go to the UK and Brits wanting to work in Australia.
- a framework for professional bodies to agree to streamline licensing processes to facilitate the movement of qualified professionals between Australia and the UK
- from 1 July 2023, UK passport holders can apply for a Working Holiday visa between the ages of 18 and 35 years inclusive
- from 1 July 2024, UK passport holders can be granted up to three separate Working Holiday visas without having to meet any specified work requirements.
The removal of Labour Market Testing (LMT) provisions are included in Chapter 11 - Temporary Entry of Business Persons of the UKFTA. It is anticipated that the required legislative provisions will be amended shortly to remove the requirement for LMT for UK passport holders.
In a time of skills scarcity, securing cross-border expertise will be critical to both nations’ success.
Increase in visa application charge
From 1 July 2023, visa application charges will increase between six per cent and 40 per cent.
The increases distributed across the following visa subclasses:
Percentage increase over indexation
Visitor, working holiday, work and holiday, training, temporary activity and temporary work (short stay specialist) visas
Business innovation and investment visas
Pacific Engagement Visa and Pacific Australia Labour Mobility visas
Exempt from increase
The Passenger Movement Charge paid by carriers will increase from $60 to $70.
The largest cost increase is on the business innovation and investment visa, with the Visa Application Charge increasing to over $12,000.
The fees for the Pacific Engagement Visa and Pacific Australia Labour Mobility visas will be exempt from the increase.
These visa application charges are estimated to increase Government earnings by $665 million over five years from 2022/23.
New Zealand citizens Australian citizenship eligibility changes
From 1 July 2023, New Zealand citizens who have been living in Australia for more than four years – and arrived in Australia after 26 February 2011 - will be eligible to apply directly for Australian citizenship without having to apply for a permanent visa.
These changes apply only to New Zealand citizens holding a Special Category (subclass 444) visa (SCV). Protected SCV holders will continue to be eligible to apply directly for Australian citizenship.
With effect from 1 July 2023:
- All New Zealand citizens holding an SCV will be considered permanent residents for citizenship purposes
- New Zealand citizens granted an SCV before 1 July 2022 will have their period of permanent residence for citizenship purposes backdated to 1 July 2022
- New Zealand citizens granted an SCV for the first time on or after 1 July 2022 will be considered a permanent resident for citizenship purposes from the date of their SCV grant.
The above provisions will apply to New Zealand citizens in Australia. It will also apply to New Zealand citizens who are overseas, but held an SCV immediately before last leaving Australia.
These provisions will apply to citizenship applications submitted after 1 July 2023.
For current SCV holders considering applying for citizenship, please note if you have family members who hold a subclass 461 New Zealand citizen family relationship visa, they will no longer be eligible to renew their visa once citizenship has been granted.
Subclass 461 visa holders whose family members obtain Australian citizenship will need to find another visa pathway, such as a partner visa or child visa. The Visa Application Charge for a partner visa is currently $8,085 and a child visa is $2,790.
Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) raised to $70,000
The Department of Home Affairs has confirmed that nominations can be lodged at the current TSMIT minimum of $53,900 until and including 30 June 2023.
TSMIT will increase to $70,000 on 1 July 2023.
Visas associated with those nominations successfully granted at the lower level TSMIT, may be lodged after 1 July 2023 without an increase in salary being required for the grant of the visa.
Expanded pathways to permanent residence
Sweeping changes to the subclass 186 Permanent Residency program will come into effect by the end of 2023.
Previously only subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (TSS) holders with occupation in the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) were eligible to apply for permanent residency. This restriction will be removed.
Eligible applicants in Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream will also be eligible after two years (down from three years) of sponsorship on a TSS Visa.
Applicants will still need to meet all other nomination and visa requirements for this stream.
Student visa work limitations
A reminder that effective from 1 July, most Student Visa holders will be subject to the work limitation of 48 hours per fortnight. More information is available here.
BDO Migration Services can help
BDO Migration Services keeps abreast of the changing immigration regulations to assist clients understand the laws that apply when hiring migrant workers and avoid potential financial penalties and reputational damage in cases of breach.
Given the complexity and rapidly changing environment regarding Australian visa and entry requirements, we strongly recommend that both employers and visa applicants seek specialist legal advice.
Please contact Rebecca Thomson, Principal Lawyer, BDO Migration Services, with any enquiries.