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Planning your workforce? Don’t miss these key migration updates

The Federal Budget announcement last month provided crucial insights into the Australian Government’s migration program for the next financial year.

These changes align with the broader migration strategy and ongoing reforms expected to unfold over the coming years. For employers, particularly small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners, understanding these changes is vital for strategic workforce planning and recruitment.

Cap on student visa numbers from 1 January 2025

In recent months, we have seen many changes to student visas as part of the Government’s efforts to strengthen the integrity of the migration program. The Government has announced it will impose caps on student visa numbers from 1 January 2025. Details of those caps are expected to be announced following extensive consultation with stakeholders. For employers, particularly those relying on a casual workforce, this means a potential reduction in available student visa holders in Australia. While this might initially pose challenges in sectors heavily dependent on casual labour, it could lead to a more stable workforce as businesses adjust to these changes.

Reduction in work experience for Subclass 482 Temporary Skills Shortage visa holders

Another notable announcement was the reduction of the work experience requirement for the subclass 482 visa. Currently, to be eligible for this visa, an applicant must have at least two years of relevant work experience. From 23 November 2024, this will be reduced to only one year. The interesting thing about this announcement is the timing. Late last year when the Migration Strategy was released, it was indicated that the subclass 482 visa would cease and be replaced with the Critical Skills Shortage visa by the end of 2024. It is unclear whether this change to the subclass 482 visa means the introduction of the new visa will be delayed or whether this change will flow onto the new visa.

New Migration Program planning levels

An additional 7,175 places available for permanent Employer Sponsored visas is good news for employers. But, on the other hand, the reduction in available places for the Skilled Independent visa will see more onshore applicants seeking to achieve permanent residency through employer sponsorship.

Other changes include the Australian Government setting the planning levels for the 2024-25 permanent Migration Program at 185,000 places on 14 May 2024. This program aims to address skill shortages, especially in regional areas, and strengthen social cohesion through family reunification. The program is divided into three streams:

1. Skill Stream (71% or 132,200 places) – focuses on boosting the economy and filling labour market gaps.

2. Family Stream (28% or 52,500 places) – predominantly Partner visas, facilitating family reunification.

3. Special Eligibility Stream (300 places) – for special circumstances, including returning residents.

Notable changes include an increase in Employer Sponsored visas to 44,000 and State/Territory Nominated visas to 33,000. Conversely, the Skilled Independent visa allocation has been reduced to 16,900. The Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP) is being phased out, with a new National Innovation visa set to be introduced. The Global Talent visa program is also being scaled down to 4,000 visas as it transitions to the new visa framework. The Family stream maintains its levels with a continued focus on demand-driven Partner and Child visa categories.

Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold to increase from 1 July 2024

Separate from the Federal Budget, the Government announced on 28 May an increase in the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) effective from 1 July 2024. The threshold will be raised from $70,000 to $73,150, marking its second increase since 2013. New employer nomination applications must meet the new TSMIT of $73,150 or the annual market salary rate, whichever is higher. Nominations lodged before 1 July 2024 will not be affected. This increase aims to ensure that the income threshold keeps pace with economic changes and continues to attract skilled workers to help address skill shortages and fill labour gaps, particularly in priority sectors and regional areas.

For SME owners, these migration changes present several key impacts. The increase in Employer Sponsored and State/Territory Nominated visas helps employers fill critical skill gaps more effectively. 

Significant allocations for regional visas mean businesses in non-metropolitan areas can better attract skilled workers, addressing local labour shortages and supporting regional economic growth.

Finally, the focus on family reunification and social cohesion can lead to a more stable and committed workforce, as employees with their families settled in Australia are likely to remain longer with their employers. 

2024 is certainly shaping up to be an exciting year in the migration space. As a business owner, staying ahead of migration policy changes is part of maintaining a competitive edge. 

By Rebecca Macmillan, Practice Director, Holding Redlich

The information in this article is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this article is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.

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Holding Redlich

Holding Redlich

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