On Monday, November 12, 2023, the Australian government strengthened its visa policies for foreign students and skilled professionals seeking entry into the country. Higher scores on English proficiency exams and more stringent processing of second visa applications for prolonged stays are two new policies intended to decrease immigration. This is a “major step forward in reforming Australia’s broken migration system,” according to the Australian government. By June 2023, they hope to restore migration to a level that can be sustained, reaching a peak of 510,000. By June 2025, the government hopes to cut the number in half with the new plan during the following two years.
Hear it from Clare O’Neil, the minister for home affairs: We’re strengthening the integrity and quality of Australia’s international education.
Australian Government aims to invest $19 million to bolster the student visa integrity unit.
The new policies under the new migration strategy implemented by the Australian government include the following:
Higher English language requirements
In early 2024, the Australian government will raise English language requirements for visas:
- The required IELTS score for a Temporary Graduate visa will increase from 6.0 to 6.5.
- For a student visa, the IELTS score requirement will go up from 5.5 to 6.0.
- Students taking an English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) before their main study must score 5.0 (up from 4.5).
- Students in university foundation or pathway programs need an IELTS score of 5.5.
Stricter measures for student visas:
- The government aims to increase scrutiny of applications from high-risk providers.
- Planning to introduce a new Genuine Student test to encourage genuine applicants and reject those who are seeking visas for employment rather than education.
- Replace the Genuine Temporary Entrant requirement, acknowledging post-study migration pathways.
- Implementation of two Ministerial Directions for visa decision-makers, one emphasising academic and career progression and the other prioritising visa processing based on provider risk levels. Higher-risk providers may face slower visa processing times.
- The government will restrict ‘visa hopping’ that undermines system integrity and drives ‘permanent temporariness.
- It will also apply additional scrutiny to international students applying for another student visa. It will restrict temporary Graduate visa holders from transferring back to student visas while onshore.
Changes introduced for Temporary graduate visas:
Earlier former students could spend up to eight years on a Temporary Graduate visa (TGV), but new settings reduce the initial TGV duration and limit extensions to those who studied regionally.
The maximum age for a TGV is reduced to 35 targeting early career professionals and addressing concerns about older graduates remaining ‘permanently temporary’.
Changes for Skilled Migration Visa:
The Australian government has decided to develop new regulations to deal with the labour crisis and allow prospective permanent residents a path forward.
The Skills in Demand visa is a new 4-year temporary skilled worker visa that the government is introducing. With the help of this new visa, employees will have more options when it comes to changing jobs, and those who wish to pursue them will have clear routes to permanent residency.
A few highlights about ‘The Skills in Demand visa’
- The complicated Temporary Skill Shortage visa sponsored by a single employer will be replaced by the Skills in Demand visa.
- Work experience with any authorized employer using the new visa will be applied toward the requirements for permanent residency.
- Additionally, talented temporary immigrants will be allowed to apply for permanent residency via self-designated, separate channels, such as a revised points system.
- Visa holders will have 180 days to locate a new sponsor if their job arrangement with one end, and they are permitted to work during this time.
- The first, the Specialist Skills Pathway, is for qualified candidates in occupations other than trades, machine operators, drivers, and labourers who are nominated by an authorized employer and meet health and character requirements. These candidates must meet the salary requirements of Australian workers in the same occupation and make at least $135,000 (the Specialist Skills Threshold).
- The Core Skills Pathway is the second pathway in the new Skills in Demand visa. The Core Skills Pathway will be used by most of temporary skilled migrants.
- Applicants who meet the general requirements and whose occupations are on the new Core Skills Occupation List with wages at or above the TSMIT (which will now be called the Core Skills Threshold) or the applicable average market salary, if higher, are eligible for the Core Skills Pathway.
The Australian government has established a minimum wage criterion for certain skilled migration visas, known as the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT). It is the bare minimum of yearly pay that an employer must provide to a temporary skilled migrant to meet their essential living needs while they are residing in Australia. Interestingly, the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) was already raised by the current administration from $53,900 to $70,000.