A change is in the air…in maybe half a decade: Proposal paper released

In December 2014, the DIBP released a Discussion Paper and review of the skilled migration and temporary activity visa programmes. The guiding principles are to explore the effectiveness of the programme and to implement a new skilled migration visa framework, recalibrated for Australia’s future need. Interested parties can access this report here.

I wouldn’t be too worried just yet as it is in the very early stages of consideration and many of the subclasses and pathways may remain unchanged or slightly tweaked. The report does raise, a few interesting points, some of which are surprising:

  1. “Australia is no longer considered the sole desirable destination for skilled migrants” – I had a good chuckle at this lightning bolt. Certainly, an arrogant statement if ever I’ve heard one! Of course, Australia was and still is a prized destination for skilled migrants, but the sole desirable destination?
  2. A move towards more global temporary mobility in the workforce – For multinationals, being able to pluck and drop employees in any given country is a must for efficiency. This is where the 457 visa programme may have overly onerous requirements for relatively short-term and flexible work needs. I suspect that in the future, the 400 visa or a newly created subclass may fill the void with an employer undertaking or possibly even a security bond is introduced by employers to ensure compliance and prevent abuse.
  3. Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visas have been very successful in attracting higher education (university) students – Primarily, this would be because of the simplified pathway (Post-Study) stream that can see students granted a very beneficial visa of up to 4 years in validity after completing their studies in Australia.
  4. The consideration of repealing the Recognised Graduate (subclass 476) visa in 2016 – This visa was designed in 2007 for international engineering graduates with the mining industry in mind. Due to a general downturn in the industry and more recently a giant dump in commodity prices, only 1100 of these visas were granted in 2013-14. It also does not make any sense when this visa specifically asks for engineering graduates, yet this profession requires mandatory labour market testing to nominate an overseas engineer for a 457 visa.
  5. Unions broadly supporting a points-based skilled migration programme and 457 visa workers given priority access to independent permanent migration with a higher points test – A common gripe heard among 457 visa holders is that their sponsor will not support them for a permanent visa and their occupation is not listed for independent skilled migration. Essentially, they are stuck in no man’s land unless they can find another sponsor. This could alleviate the anxiety of many who are in this predicament. 
  6. A potential raising of the age limit – This is probably a prudent move as the pension age will be increased as well.

It should be stressed, of course, that like with the review of the Temporary Work subclass 457 visa last year, nothing is set in stone.