The ongoing transformation of Australia’s borders and immigration
The impact of COVID-19
A year ago, all five continents closed their borders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On 20 March 2020, Australia closed its borders and they remain closed. COVID-19 has disrupted the world and upended markets, threatened health and wellbeing, and with the closure of Australia’s borders, triggered Australia’s first economic recession in over 30 years.
Now, with zero population growth, some 900,000 Australians unemployed, and some 1.7 million temporary visa holders in Australia, the Australian Government’s Economic Recovery Plan is focussed on protecting Australian jobs while implementing restrictive reforms focussed on attracting the best and brightest to Australia.
The Migration Program continues to be a significant component of Australia’s economic recovery. The 2021 planning level remains at 160,000 places, with a focus on:
- Global Talent Independent Program (15,000 places);
- Business Investment & Innovation Program (13,500 places); and
- Employer Sponsored Program (22,000 places).
Global Talent– Independent Program
The Global Talent– Independent Program is a major new initiative in Australia’s immigration strategy. Its objectives are to “Help transform Australia into a more powerful magnet for marquee enterprises and exceptional individuals…. And reap the benefits of their capital, talent, ideas and global networks.”
Applicants are eligible for permanent residency if they are likely to earn more than AUD 153,600 per year in Australia, and they are highly skilled in one of ten key sectors, namely:
- Agri-food and AgTech;
- Health Industries;
- Defence, Advanced Manufacturing and Space;
- Circular Economy;
- Infrastructure and Tourism;
- Financial Services and FinTech;
The Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce had been established as part of a blueprint for economic growth with a mission on “Australia’s brain gain”.
Protection of Australian jobs and priority skilled occupations
Enhanced labour market testing
Businesses considering employing overseas skilled workers on a Subclass 457 (Temporary Work Skilled) Visa, Subclass 482 (Temporary Skilled Shortage) Visa or Subclass 494 (Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional)) Visa are required to advertise their vacancies on the JobActive website (https://www.jobactive.gov.au), in addition to two other advertisements in two different mediums for at least 28 days.
This means businesses must provide evidence of three job advertisements to show that they were not able to fill the role from within the local workforce.
Priority Migration Skilled Occupations List (PMSOL)
The occupations on the PMSOL were identified based on advice from the National Skills Commission, and in consultation with other Commonwealth agencies. The PMSOL will be reviewed regularly.
The following occupations may be granted priority processing of their visa applications and an entry exemption from Australia’s travel restrictions:
- Chief Executive or Managing Director;
- Construction Project Manager;
- Mechanical Engineer;
- General Practitioner;
- Resident Medical Officer;
- Registered Nurse (Aged Care);
- Registered Nurse (Critical Care and Emergency);
- Registered Nurse (Medical);
- Registered Nurse (Mental Health);
- Registered Nurse (Perioperative);
- Registered Nurse nec;
- Developer Programmer;
- Software Engineer;
- Social Worker;
- Maintenance Planner.
From March 2020, travel restrictions have been in place prohibiting travel into Australia of all foreign nationals, unless exempt.
The Australian Border Force Commissioner or his Delegate determine inwards travel requests.
For offshore visa applicants, Australia’s international border restrictions remain in place. Temporary skilled visa applicants or current visa holders who are working in a PMSOL occupation, which are considered to be critical for Australia’s economic recovery, are eligible to request an exemption from Australia’s travel restrictions online at https://travel-exemptions.homeaffairs.gov.au/tep.
Non-citizens may also be granted a travel exemption if they are in a critical sector where no Australian worker is available to fill the role. Critical industries include:
- critical or specialist medical services;
- critical skills required to maintain the supply of essential goods and services, such as:
- medical technology;
- critical infrastructure;
- engineering and mining;
- aged care;
- agriculture; and
- food production.
- delivering services in sectors critical to Australia’s economic recovery, such as:
- financial technology
- large scale manufacturing; and
- emerging technology.
The Australian Government continues to calibrate the Migration Program as a blueprint for economic growth.