Changes to Australia’s temporary skilled visa system and other immigration programs are in the balance as the country prepares for a federal election on Saturday.

Australia’s two major political parties have both proposed measures to further restrict immigration programs, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison promising to cut annual migration numbers and the opposition Labor Party focusing on measures to protect against harm to local workers.

The discussion comes a year after the government abolished the Subclass 457 visa and replaced it with the more restrictive Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) visa. The Australian Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee completed a review of the temporary skilled visa system in April, publishing a host of recommendations for additional changes, including:

  • Increasing the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) to a minimum of 62,000 Australian dollars (about US$42,550) and indexing annually in line with Australia’s average full-time wage.
  • Updating health assessment policies so that applicants would not be rejected on health grounds if there is no possibility that health and social services would incur costs.
  • Increasing transparency on changes to occupations lists.
  • Changing the ANZSCO framework and the skills assessment process, including having the skills assessment completed by industry groups rather than immigration officials.
  • Introducing stricter labor market testing requirements.
  • Reviewing labor agreements to ensure they are only undertaken to meet a genuine skills shortage and that relevant stakeholders have the chance to offer input.
  • Requiring employers to pay the wages of temporary visa holders into an Australian bank account.

Whether the committee’s recommendations are implemented may depend on how well Morrison and his Liberal Party do in the election.

The Labor Party is running on a platform that includes increasing the TSMIT to a minimum of A$65,000, upping the payments employers are required to make to the Skilling Australians Fund, creating a new Australian Skills Authority to act as an independent body to review occupations lists and determine what areas have a genuine skills shortage, and increasing penalties on employers who exploit workers, including migrants.

The Labor Party has also backed the creation a SMART visa for specialists in medicine, academia, research and technology. The idea was first proposed in 2017 after the government announced that it would abolish the 457 visa program.

Analysis & Comments: Immigration has been a hot-button issue in the lead-up to Australia’s election. Both major parties are backing proposals that would introduce additional restrictions on Australia’s skilled visa programs. Deloitte will continue following the proposals and will alert clients to any significant changes to Australia’s visa and immigration programs. Deloitte will also continue to advocate to the government on our clients behalf to address genuine skills shortages in the Australian marketplace and a balanced, accessible migration program.

Source: Deloitte LLP. Deloitte LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC303675 and its registered office at 1 New Street Square, London EC4A 3HQ, United Kingdom.