Amidst concerns over a ‘broken’ immigration system, Australia unveils stringent reforms targeting student and worker visas to reduce migrant intake by half in the next two years.
Australia has recently declared a significant overhaul of its immigration system, intending to address perceived shortcomings and bring the system to a more sustainable level. Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil revealed that the nation will be implementing stricter visa rules for international students and low-skilled workers, aiming to reduce the migrant intake by nearly half over the next two years.
Key Changes and Policies:
- Reduction in Immigration Intake: The government’s strategy involves tightening visa rules, which is anticipated to halve the migrant intake within the next two years. This initiative aims to strike a balance in Australia’s migration system, focusing on targeted reforms to decrease net overseas migration.
- Impact on Net Immigration: The decision follows a peak in net immigration in 2022-23, primarily driven by an influx of international students. Official data forecasts a significant decline to about a quarter of a million by 2024-25 and 2025-26, resembling pre-COVID levels.
- English Proficiency Requirements: International students will face stricter English proficiency tests, with increased scrutiny on visa extensions. This change intends to raise the standard for entry and limit the prolongation of stays in Australia.
- Specialist Visa for Highly Skilled Workers: To cater to the demand for highly skilled labor, a new specialist visa with expedited processing (one week) will be introduced. This initiative aims to assist businesses in recruiting top-tier talent amid intense competition with other developed economies.
- Addressing Bureaucratic Issues: The government acknowledges bureaucratic problems within the immigration system, such as outdated occupation codes. Efforts are being made to update these codes, reflecting the changing job landscape and labor shortages.
Challenges and Public Sentiment:
- Public Perception: Recent surveys indicate that a majority of Australian voters believe the current migration intake is too high, reflecting concerns about the impact of increased migration on housing markets and societal infrastructure.
- Rationale Behind Changes: The increase in migration numbers last year, driven significantly by international students, aimed to mitigate staffing shortages during the pandemic. However, it exacerbated pressures on the rental market and led to an upsurge in homelessness.
- Housing Policy Changes: In addition to immigration reforms, the Australian government has announced plans to increase fees on foreign buyers of existing homes left vacant, aiming to address housing issues exacerbated by increased migration.
Australia’s move to revamp its immigration system reflects a concerted effort to strike a balance between economic needs and societal concerns. By focusing on stricter visa regulations and streamlining the entry of highly skilled workers, the government aims to address the challenges posed by increased migration while positioning itself competitively in the global talent landscape.