Australian Immigration Law: What’s New in 2023? [Part 1]
Australia’s immigration system is transitioning to a post-COVID normal after the disruptions of the past 3 years. As we progress through 2023, we may see yet more fundamental changes to Australia’s immigration laws to address the critical workforce shortages and supply challenges that are continuing to affect the Australian economy. Below is a summary of the recent and upcoming changes that have been flagged in the news. In Part 1 of this series, we cover Australia’s current border arrangements, Ministerial Direction 100 and the Government’s review of the migration system.
1. Update on Australia’s border arrangements in response to COVID-19
From 12:01am on 11 March 2023, the COVID-19 testing requirements imposed on travellers from Hong Kong, Macau and China in early January 2023 were lifted.
In all other cases, the Australian Federal Government does not require incoming international travellers to undergo any pre-arrival testing.
Many States and Territories have abolished requirements for post-arrival testing and quarantine, but travellers should check the relevant State/Territory Government website for the latest information as requirements may change at short notice.
All visa holders and immediate family members of Australian citizens/permanent residents can travel to Australia without the need for a travel exemption, provided that they have a valid visa/right to reside in Australia and meet the normal border entry requirements. Likewise, there are no restrictions on Australian citizens/permanent residents’ outbound travel from Australia.
Please click here for details of the latest border arrangements implemented by the Australian Government.
2. Ministerial Direction 100 – visa processing priorities
A new Ministerial Direction 100 came into effect on 28 October 2022, which outlines a different set of priorities for skilled visa processing. The new Ministerial Direction is intended to speed up visa processing and clear backlogs. The full list of the visa subclasses and occupations can be found here
Key changes include:
- Giving top priority to nominations and visa applications involving teaching and healthcare occupations.
- Restoring priority for nominations by Accredited Sponsors as well as associated visa applications.
- Abolishing the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) and critical sectors which was a temporary measure introduced since 2020 to deal with the challenges of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Reducing the number of priorities, including removing priority for the Global Talent and Business Innovation and Investment Programs.
Under the new Ministerial Direction, the Department of Home Affairs is expected to prioritise provisional and permanent skilled visa applications where the primary applicant is located outside Australia at the time of making the application.
Additionally, provisional and permanent skilled visa applications by Hong Kong SAR and British National (Overseas) passport holders will continue to receive priority.
3. Review of Australia’s immigration system
In September 2022, the Minister for Home Affairs announced a review into Australia’s migration system. The Australian Government is interested in taking recommendations and hopefully implementing reforms to improve the migration system and better position it for the future.
The review’s Terms of Reference indicate some important themes behind Australia’s migration strategy:
- Australia is joining other countries in the so-called ‘war for talent’ as it seeks highly skilled migrants.
- Improving clients’ experience of the immigration process to compete with other countries for highly skilled migrants.
- The migration system needs to support Australia’s economy and help achieve improvements in productivity.
- The need for building Australia’s sovereign capabilities to address critical challenges associated with aging population, new technologies and climate change.
- Australia will benefit from stronger ties with international partners including greater mobility of people, trade and supply chain links.
- The need for clear pathways to permanent residence and reduce the exploitation of migrant workers so that Australia can better retain skilled migrants who make important contributions to the economy.
The reviewers are expected to report to the Government in early 2023.
Further details about the review can be found here.
Please see link to part 2 here.