Happy EOFY, but be aware that the Australian government is about to implement several changes to its immigration regulations, with the aim of addressing various economic and social considerations.
Effective July 1, 2023, these changes encompass a range of areas, including income thresholds (TSMIT), citizenship eligibility for New Zealand citizens, visa fee increases, work hours reductions for student visa holders, and the introduction of a new visa category for migrants from Pacific countries. This article will delve into each of these updates, providing insights into the evolving landscape of Australian immigration.
Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) Increase
One of the key changes to Australian immigration policies is the increase in the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) from $53,900 to $70,000.
From July 1, 2023, this alteration requires employers seeking to sponsor overseas workers to offer an annual salary of at least $70,000, in addition to superannuation, when considering prospective candidates. This adjustment aims to ensure that sponsored workers receive fair compensation for their skills and expertise, while also preventing the undercutting of wages in the Australian labor market.
By raising the income threshold, the Australian government aims to maintain the integrity of the temporary skilled migration program and protect the rights and interests of both domestic and international workers.
The new rule applies to nominations lodged after 1 July 2023.
Streamlined Pathway to Australian Citizenship for New Zealand Citizens
I’ve already written about this (find the blog here), but starting from July 1, 2023, New Zealand citizens who have resided in Australia for four years or more will enjoy a simplified route to Australian citizenship. Previously, these individuals were required to apply for and receive a permanent visa before being eligible for Australian citizenship. However, under the revised regulations, New Zealand citizens holding a Special Category (subclass 444) visa (SCV) will be able to count themselves as Australian permanent residents from 1 July 2022 and will no longer need to obtain a permanent visa. After 4 years of living in Australia including 1 year as a permanent resident, they will be able to apply for Australian citizenship. Any child born in Australia to an SCV holder on or after July 1, 2022, will automatically acquire Australian citizenship at birth
This changes aim to streamline the citizenship process for New Zealand citizens, recognising their significant contributions to the Australian society and economy. It also represents a strengthening of the Trans-Tasman relationship, fostering closer ties between Australia and New Zealand.
Implications of the UK Free Trade Agreement (UKFTA)
The recent enactment of the UK Free Trade Agreement (UKFTA) on May 31, 2023, has brought about notable changes in the immigration landscape for citizens of the United Kingdom.
As part of this agreement, working holiday makers (WHMs) from the UK now have an extended age limit to 35 years (they can now apply up to one day before their 36th birthday). Additionally, starting from July 1, 2024, they can apply for three working holiday visas without the requirement of undertaking “specified” (regional) work.
Moreover, the UKFTA eliminates the need for Labor Market Testing (LMT) when employers sponsor UK passport holders for certain visas, such as the Subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa.
This reduction in administrative burdens aims to facilitate smoother and more efficient processes for employers and workers alike, while strengthening the ties between Australia and the United Kingdom.
Visa Application Charge Increases
From July 1, 2023, visa applicants should be aware of increased charges across various visa categories, ranging from 6% to 40%. These adjustments reflect the ongoing commitment of the Australian government to ensure the financial sustainability and integrity of the immigration system. The government says the revised visa fees will contribute to the efficient processing of applications and the provision of high-quality services to visa applicants, which would be very welcomed by immigration law professionals and visa applicants alike. Please contact us to find out the specific fee changes for your intended visa type.
Student Visa Work Hour Limitations
From July 1, 2023, there will be changes to the maximum work hours for student visa holders in Australia. The revised regulations will limit students’ work hours to 48 hours per fortnight, with the intention of providing a balance between their studies and employment.
According to the Minister, this change ensures that students primarily focus on their educational endeavors while still offering them the opportunity to gain practical work experience and support themselves financially during their stay in Australia. Students must be mindful of adhering to these updated work hour limitations to maintain their visa status and avoid any potential violations that could jeopardise their studies or immigration prospects.
Similarly, employers must ensure that student visa holders ar not working more than 48 hours per fortnight during scheduled and documented study periods at their relevant educational institution – or they may face stiff fines and other potentially undesirable consequences for their businesses.
Concession for Working Holiday Makers
Following on from Covid concessions, WHMs will now have the option to work for the same employer or organization for an additional six months from 1 July without needing to seek permission. Any work undertaken before July 1 will not be counted towards the six-month limitation period.
Introduction of the Pacific Engagement Visa (PEV)
To strengthen regional ties and provide opportunities for eligible migrants from Pacific countries and Timor Leste, the Australian government will introduce a new visa category known as the Pacific Engagement Visa (PEV). This visa will provide 3,000 places each year, allocated through a ballot process. Successful applicants will have the opportunity to apply for permanent residency in Australia. The introduction of the PEV reflects Australia’s commitment to fostering relationships with its neighboring nations, while also addressing labor market demands and contributing to economic growth. It is expected that applications for the Pacific Engagement Visa will open online in July.
Looking further ahead
There are several other mooted changes to immigration, most of which will effected at the end of 2023. These are:
- Removal of Labour Market Testing for employers wanting to sponsor workers.
- All TSS Visa holders will have a pathway to permanent residency, unlike currently where only TSS visa holders in the Medium Term Stream have that opportunity, unless a concession applies.
- A streamlined visa system with fewer visa types/classes.
- The SAF levy and potentially, other employer related charges for sponsored workers will be paid pro-rata.
- Sponsored workers will have a much longer period of time to find a new employer.
The changes discussed reflect Australia’s commitment to strike a balance between economic considerations, regional engagement, and the protection of workers’ rights. It is crucial for prospective migrants, employers, and current visa holders to familiarise themselves with these updates to ensure compliance with the revised regulations. By staying informed about these changes, individuals can navigate the immigration system more effectively and maximize their opportunities in Australia’s diverse and dynamic environment.
Please contact the Team if you have any queries about these changes.