At the beginning of 2023, Australia’s government announced a crucial review of its migration policy, the biggest change in decades. Until now, the system has relied heavily on temporary migration, with 1.9 million people living in Australia as temporary migrants. The number has almost doubled since the early 2000s, while the intake of skilled migrants remained steady at 30,000 a year.
Policies focused on temporary migration discouraged highly-skilled migrants from settling in Australia because of the crushing visa requirements and slow-moving migration system. The result? A shortage of much-needed profiles, such as healthcare, education, childcare and IT professionals.
With the new visa and immigration policy review, the government has committed to rebalancing the temporary and permanent programs, removing policies that create “permanently temporary” conditions and shortening the currently drawn-out visa processing times. In short, Australia wants to manage its immigration applicants more fairly, attracting skilled workers with an easier system.
Australia: a migrant’s country
The shores of Australia have been the destination for millions of migrants starting with the beginning of the British settlement in 1788. From then, new settlers have been attracted to the island from around the world.
Today, Australia is one of the countries with the highest number of foreign-born residents, with almost 30% of its population being first generation migrants (born overseas). The majority of foreign-born Australians still come from England, followed by rapidly increasing groups from India, China, New Zealand, the Philippines and Vietnam.
In the 2021-2022 financial year, the country registered a total of 395,000 migrant arrivals. Currently, foreigners can apply for permanent residence through the Migration Program for skilled, family and special eligibility categories. Refugees are not included in this Migration Program and are granted residence through the Humanitarian Program.
How is Australia’s migration system going to change?
So far, the process of obtaining a permanent visa has been complicated and frustrating for migrants, leading to calls for the Australian Government to take action and better support migrants looking to make Australia their home. Up to this point, a permanent visa applicant had to jump through various hoops only to be able to apply, from satisfying mandatory requirements, to demonstrating family ties in Australia, to matching the demand for certain professional skills. After that, they must endure the wait for visa processing times and uncertain employment and earning prospects, an often disheartening experience for migrants and their families.
The current government, led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, responded to these hotly debated issues by promising to significantly change Australia’s permanent immigration program to attract talent by providing migrants a clearer path to permanent residency. The administration raised the number of visas awarded from 160,000 to 195,000 in the 2022-2023 financial year. As for international students, graduates who are studying in-demand degrees in Australia will be allowed to work more hours and extend their stay in the country for an extra two years.
It’s still too early to tell if the changes will result in positive outcomes for Australia and its immigrant community, but some of the actions to reduce wait times seem to be starting to have effect. After the promise of a 36 million Australian dollar investment and the strengthening of the processing staff with 600 extra people, the backlog of 1 million visa applications waiting to be processed was halved in just nine months and wait times have been significantly shortened. Apart from speeding up the visa application process, the next challenge will be to address the need for equity and fair treatment for Australia’s migrant workforce, drafting a program that will bring fairness and peace to the lives of the people that wish to make Australia their home.
Why are immigrants important for Australia?
Australia is not the first country to rely on immigration to drive growth and it certainly won’t be the last. Just like Canada with its 100 million policy, Australia wants to revamp its immigration program to fill the gaps in its labor force.
Australia’s shortage of skilled workers is serious and extensive, already affecting various sectors, like health, hospitality, eldercare, childcare, education, and IT. Funneling in young migrants would bring to the country the skills and knowledge it needs, and by extension the promise of growth for companies and wellbeing for the country.
At the same time, immigration has the power to improve another looming Australian issue, which is the rise of its population’s average age. Australians are living longer and having fewer children, resulting in the persistent rise of the country’s median age, currently about to reach 38 years. Young migrants and their children can boost the number of people in the workforce and balance out the average age of the country.
At Ria, supporting our customers is at the heart of everything we do. A mother leaving her country to support her children and parents, a brother working abroad to provide for his siblings back home: these are the stories of our customers and the reason our work motivates us and pushes us to offer the best service.
Learn more about our services and the best way to send money from Australia, whether it is from one of our stores, online or with our app. It’s that easy!
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