December 8, 2022

Changes in Migration Law 2022

The news is flooded with stories regarding labour shortages and the need for more skilled migrants within the Australian economy. After more than two years of closed borders, the new Federal Labour Albanese Government is trying its best to make up for lost time. With the announcement to raise Australia's permanent migration cap by 35,000 optimism is abound among potential future migrants and current temporary visa holders. After many years there is a feeling within the ranks of potential ‘new Australians’ that “now is the time”!

Cautious Optimism

Many migrants have unfortunately been dupped by previous Federal Governments that positive changes are on the cards. A recent example is the announcement on 25 November 2021 by the former then Federal Coalition Morrison Government’s Minster for Immigration Hon Alex Hawke who stated that essentially as a reward for those who were here during the COVID saga, improved access to Permanent Residence would be provided to ‘Existing Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) visa holders in the short-term stream’ and ‘Legacy Temporary Work Skilled (subclass 457) visa holders who no longer meet the age requirement’. The reality of the change as borne out by the legislative instrument that was later introduced was that the pathway to permanent residency was only open to a subclass 482 visa holder who stayed with the same employer for at least three years on a temporary skills shortage visa under the short term stream that is granted for two years (and normally allowed only one further extension onshore). Meaning if someone changed employer during COVID, or had to change visa as an extension wasn’t available to them, this ‘pathway to permanent residency’ was essentially closed to the skilled migrant. Further the age exemption was only for ‘legacy 457’ holders meaning the special cohort who managed to have a 457 visa application lodged or granted before April 2017. How the Government implemented a well-meaning announcement created vast disappointment amongst those who find themselves over the fair age of 45 or those who decided to transfer to a different employer after for example being ‘stood down’ while holding a subclass 482 visa under the short-term stream. 

The WA Approach

A new Federal Government and the reality of a persistent skills shortage means that half measures taken in the past are now being put to the side. From a Western Australian perspective, the WA Government is doing all it can to attract potential newcomers. Ironically the McGowan Government who won election originally in 2017 on a promise of prioritising West Australians for West Australian jobs, has enacted some of the most straightforward rules for State Sponsorship under the subclass 491 and 190 General Skilled Migration visa schemes. Work experience requirements and offers of employment which were previously the corner stone of WA’s Department of Training and Workforce Australia’s skilled migration program have been done away with. While those residing within, and those who have studied in WA are given priority over those outside the state. WA also has received the third largest allocation (after New South Wales and Victoria despite being well behind Queensland, as the fourth most populous state) so for those here in WA perhaps it really does mean that the time is now.