New immigration policies favour employers of temporary workers but disadvantage skilled migrants and family sponsorship applicants, and could ultimately harm Australia’s long-term future.
Employers have been handed much of the power to control who stays and who goes in Australia following a series of key changes to Australia’s Migration Program, the last of which will come into effect in July.
Winners and losers
The biggest winners under the new system will be people sponsored by employers for temporary work visas which can later be converted to permanent visas. The biggest losers will be Australians seeking to bring family members into the country, and those applying for entry under the General Skilled Migration system.
In 2010-11, while the overall size of Australia’s migration program remained at 168,700 places, family migration visas were slashed by 5,750 places and skilled visas by 3,600 places. At the same time, employer sponsored places were boosted by 9,150.
“In the Government’s view it seems employers are the best judges of who should migrate to Australia,” says Mark Webster, Director of Acacia Immigration Australia.
The new Skilled Occupations List which came into effect in July 2010 puts the brakes on the General Skilled Migration program with the number of occupations on the list dropped from 400 to 181. The new Skilled Migration Points Test which starts on 1 July this year will see the system tightened even further.
The cut in places for family migration means that processing times are getting longer and longer with many people waiting nine months or more for their visas to be processed. Under the new Skilled Migration points test, there is hardly any advantage given to applicants with family members in Australia.
On the other hand, employer sponsored visa options are being actively encouraged by the government which has opened up more of these opportunities within the migration program and streamlined processing arrangements.
The changes reveal the Government’s preference for ‘demand-driven’ migration, where migrants are selected by employers, rather than ‘supply driven’ options, such as General Skilled Migration, which require applicants to pass a points test set by the Australian Government.
“Migration intake should reflect the economic climate and help ensure employers can gain access to skilled professionals in those industries where there are skills shortages,” Mr Webster says.
“The Government is limiting General Skilled Migration, which is about meeting long-term skills shortages, in favour of employer sponsorship which fixes short-term employment problems.
“Many applicants for employer sponsored visas are not highly skilled and are increasingly former working holiday or student visa holders,” Mr Webster asserts.
“Australians need to ask themselves whether it is in the national interest to give so much say to employers in deciding who stays and who doesn’t. The new points test was rushed through cabinet just before the last election with only minimal consultation with stakeholders. However, the legislation has not yet been finalised so it is not too late to make changes.
“It’s time to rethink the demand-driven strategy and look at the migration program as a whole. Otherwise, in a few years time we may be looking at unwinding an out-of-control employer sponsored migration program which does not meet Australia’s needs,” he warns.
Mark Webster is available for comment
For more information and media resources, visit www.acacia-au.com/media
Acacia Immigration Australia
Acacia Immigration Australia is a specialist immigration firm. The firm is acknowledged as a thought leader in its industry, a position which is actively maintained by its founder and principal Mark Webster.
Mr Webster is president of the Migration Institute of Australia (NSW) and is widely sought after as an expert commentator, presenter and lecturer on immigration issues. He has decades of experience in immigration and is one of the country’s leading experts on immigration law.
Mr Webster frequently presents seminars on Australian Immigration Law for the Immigration Advice and Rights Centre (IARC), the NSW French-Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FACCI) and the Migration Institute of Australia (MIA).
Carol Brett, Spinnaker Media Group
P: 0418 651 677