Immigration changes for 2023-24 in Australia: After an April 186-page study called Australia’s migration system “not fit for purpose” and risked temp worker exploitation, it will be overhauled.
After it, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil made two statements, and the federal budget, released on 9 May, included several more, including a visa fee rise and money to improve visa processing.
2023-24 visa changes
New Zealanders living in Australia for four years or more can apply for Australian citizenship directly from 1 July 2023, the start of Australia’s financial year. They no longer need a permanent visa.
New Zealanders with Special Category (subclass 444) visas (SCVs) who entered after 26 February 2001 are affected. Long-term residents can backdate their residency.
New applications for the Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visa in New Zealand are closed and will close permanently on July 1.
New Pacific migrant visa
3,000 Pacific migrants and Timorese will receive a new visa. Each year, a ballot will choose Pacific Engagement visa (PEV) applicants who can seek for permanent residency in Australia. Online applications begin in July.
Student visa changes
Student visa employment restrictions were reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic and lifted in January to alleviate labour shortages. Primary and secondary student visa holders could work above 40 hours per fortnight.
Student visa work limitations will return on July 1 at 48 hours per fortnight. Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ federal budget confirmed this, exempting overseas students working in aged care until 31 December 2023.
From this date, some subclass 485 Temporary Graduate visa holders can stay in Australia longer.
The extension increases the stay time for Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD graduates to four, five, and six years, respectively.
On July 1, WHMs will no longer be able to work for the same employer for more than six months without approval. In January 2022, the six-month working limitation was lifted to combat pandemic labour shortages.
Pre-1 July labour will not count toward the six-month limitation period. WHMs can work at any company for six more months even if they started before July 1.
Other immigration changes
Martin Parkinson’s examination of Australia’s migration system discovered “broken” areas. The government received 38 “reform directions” and Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil has made two announcements.
Migrants will earn more.
First, the employer sponsorship minimum pay increased on July 1. Since 2010, the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) has remained at $53,000. Without the freeze, it will rise to $70,000.
The TSMIT hasn’t increased in a decade. Ms. O’Neil stated on the review’s release that it is a down payment on the Albanese government’s migration system.
Skilled employees will get permanent residency.
Second, the administration declared all skilled temporary employees could apply for permanent residency by year’s end.
Temporary Protection Visa (subclass 785) and Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (subclass 790) holders who held or applied for a TPV or SHEV before February 14, 2023, will be eligible for a permanent visa track, as declared by the government.
He noted that opening the path to permanent residence for competent temporary entrants is a good start. Mr. Rizvi called the TSMIT hike a “poor decision” that hurt migrants and Australians.
The migration review targets and optimizes the system. He replied both of those things are good. The importance of immigration to Australia’s future is also highlighted, which is a plus.
The immigration changes included in budget:
The Department of Home Affairs and Australian Border Force are investing $630 million to strengthen the country’s migration program and “already strong” border and national security.
Ms. O’Neil and Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said these investments support the government’s proposed targeted, simplified migration system that serves our national interests and helps migrants succeed in our community and economy.
Skilled migrants favoured
In 2023-24, the government will increase permanent migration planned to 190,000. Last October, the Albanese government’s first budget raised it to 195,000.
To address skill shortages, it will give skilled migrants 137,100 slots, or 70%. The 2022-23 program has 142,400 slots.
The family stream—mostly partner visas—will have 52,000 spots. Demand will push partner and kid visas.
The federal government will raise visa application fees for certain categories starting July 1. An increase in short-term speciality visas, work and holiday visas, training visas, activity visas, and visitor visas is expected.
Tourists, international students, and backpackers will pay more for visiting visa subclass 600, student 500, and working holiday visas.
The cost increase will not affect the Pacific Engagement Visa or Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme.
Over five years, the government plans to use the additional $665 million in revenue from the price increases to address visa processing times and other issues.
The government will spend $125.8 million from 2023-24 to execute Jobs and Skills Summit outcomes.
This includes $75.8 million over two years to “extend the current surge in visa processing resources” and $50 million over four years (and $15.3 million ongoing) for increased enforcement and compliance actions “to maintain the integrity of the migration system”.
The migration review suggested anything else?
The evaluation showed Australia’s migration regime fails to attract highly skilled migrants and help businesses hire staff. Systematic exploitation and the potential for a new, long-term underclass were discovered.
The assessment said Australia’s visa settings “unintentionally enabled a cohort of migrants to become permanently temporary”.
It proposes a three-tiered assessment system, fewer visa kinds, retaining international students, and modifying Australia’s points system to pick migrants with the “greatest long-term economic contribution”.
Holding Redlich migration lawyer Rebecca MacMillan called the study and measures “sensible” but cautioned of a long road ahead.
How to implement the proposals requires careful thought.
Building a temporary mainstream skilled pathway, “doing away with outdated, inflexible occupation lists,” and making the process easier and faster for highly specialized employees are all part of the government’s migration policy.
The administration will consult in May and June before releasing the migration policy later this year.
Mr. Rizvi agreed that future reforms will take time. He predicted more adjustments beyond the budget as the government figures out how to execute some of the recommendations.
More immigration to Australia?
The budget expects a “one-off catch-up from the pandemic” to boost net overseas migration (NOM) to 400,000 this year and 315,000 in 2023-24.
NOM covers permanent and temporary residents. October’s budget papers predicted Australia’s NOM would return to 235,000 this year and next after the COVID-19 pandemic halted foreign immigration.
Forecasts show a two-year acceleration over original expectations before stabilization.
The budget reports that temporary migration has rebounded faster since Australia reopened its international borders.
From 2024–25, migration and population growth are predicted to normalize. In 2024-25, NOM will drop to 260,000 and stay there in 2025-26 and 2027-27.
Ms. O’Neil has said the government’s strategy is “not about more people,” while deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley has accused Labour of a “big Australia” vision.
Mr. Rizvi attributed the net migration increase to COVID-19-related migration policy settings and a strong labor market. He stated the two together would virtually certainly increase net migration.
- Starting July 1, 2023, four-year New Zealanders in Australia can seek citizenship without a permanent visa.
- New Zealand will cease Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visa applications on July 1, 2023.
- Pacific Engagement visa (PEV) applicants are polled annually. July begins online visa applications.
- Student visa holders can work 48 hours per fortnight starting July 1, 2023, with exemptions for international aged care students until December 31, 2023.
- After July 1, 2023, WHMs can only work for one company for six months without approval. Pre-July 1, 2023 WHMs have no six-month limit.