New Australian visa opportunities for 2023

A new government brought several changes to Australia’s immigration pathways this year. Here’s what happened and what’s to come in 2023.

The new government under Labor’s Anthony Albanese has already made some significant changes to Australia’s migration policies and begun tackling the visa backlog since coming into office in May.

And there could be even more changes in 2023, with the government promising to look at the effectiveness of skilled migration occupation lists, which some believe are outdated.

The last update to the current Skilled Migration Occupation List was made on 11 March 2019 when the COVID-19 pandemic had just hit.

Shortly after coming to power, the government announced an increase to the permanent migration program in 2022/23 from 160,000 to 195,000 places for skilled and family visas. The October budget revealed the number of skilled visas available as part of the program would increase significantly from 79,600 to 142,400.

The government also announced changes to Temporary skill shortage (TSS) subclass 482 visas that would allow people to apply for permanent residency, the removal of age restrictions on 457 visa holders, and expanding the eligibility for subclass 462 working holiday maker visas.

More recently, there have been reports more than 19,000 refugees on temporary protection visas will finally be allowed to apply for permanent residency in Australia, with an announcement to be made in the new year. But a spokeswoman for the Home Affairs Department said this had not been confirmed by the government.

Here are five key visa opportunities in Australia for 2023.

1. New visa for certain countries
A new visa will be introduced in July 2023 providing 3,000 places for eligible migrants from Pacific countries and Timor Leste.

Spots for the Pacific Engagement visa (PEV) will be allocated by a ballot process each year.

These visas will be offered on top of the places available on Australia’s permanent migration program.

2. Priority processing for New Zealanders

New Zealanders living in Australia will benefit from priority processing of Skilled Independent (Subclass 189) visa applications in the New Zealand stream.

The department has dropped certain visa requirements including that applicants must have lived in Australia for at least five years and that they meet certain taxable income thresholds as well as health criteria.

The department has stopped taking new visa applications from 10 December 2022 until 1 July 2023, in order to process the backlog already in the system.

“The following streamlining measures introduced acknowledge that this group of New Zealand citizens are long-term residents of Australia, have been working here and contributing to Australia’s economic recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the department website says.

Those who are granted visas will be able to access the benefits of permanent residence more quickly, including being allowed immediate access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme and automatic Australian citizenship for their children born in Australia.

Those granted a New Zealand stream visa will also have their citizenship pathway fast-tracked from 1 January 2023.

3. State-sponsored visas up for grabs

Former Department of Immigration secretary Abul Rivzi said the number of visas available through the state and territories is set to dramatically increase thanks to the larger regional allocation.

“What I’m noticing is some of the states are actually struggling to deliver quickly enough and so a lot of them are making changes to make their systems faster,” Mr Rizvi said.

A Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said it had set a planning level of 31,000 places for state and territory nominated visas (subclass 190) in 2022/23, as well as a further 34,000 places in the regional category (subclass 491), the majority of which are nominated by state and territory governments.

There will be another 5,000 visas for the business innovation and investment program (subclass 188).

Back in 2018/19 before the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically impacted Australia’s migration numbers, about 25,346 state and territory nominated visas were granted and just 647 skilled regional visas.

States and territories have increasingly relaxed many of their criteria, including their skilled occupation lists, to make it easier for people to apply for state-nominated visas.

One of the biggest advantages of a state-sponsored visa is not being tied to a particular employer – although applicants have to be younger than 45 years old and have to also find their own jobs.

Most recently NSW changed the requirements for its visa applicants.

“Previously published points scores and work experience guides for the Skilled Nominated visa (subclass 190) have been removed due to increased availability of the Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189) by the Department of Home Affairs,” a notice on the NSW Government website states.

Mr Rivzi said he expected much higher numbers of people would also be granted Skilled Independent visas (subclass 189) this financial year, compared to the last two years when COVID-19 shut down Australia’s borders.

4. Easier family reunion

The Albanese government has made it easier for families to reunite, introducing demand-driven partner visas in 2022/23.

This means there is no limit to the number of these visas issued. The department is estimating it will issue around 40,500 partner visas this financial year.

Child visas are also demand-driven and an estimated 3,000 visas are expected to be issued.

5. Change to processing of visas

Skilled visa applications for teachers and healthcare workers are now being assessed in just three days after the government stopped using the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) to rank applications.

Ministerial Direction No. 100, introduced on 28 October 2022, set new rules for applications to be prioritised. Applications are now being decided in the following order of priority:

  1. Healthcare or teaching occupation applications;
  2. For employer-sponsored visas, applicants nominated by an Approved sponsor with Accredited Status;
  3. Those for a designated regional area;
  4. For permanent and provisional visa subclasses, visa applications that count towards the migration program, excluding the Subclass 188 (Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional)) visa;
  5. All other visa applications.
  6. Within each category, priority is given to applicants located outside Australia for provisional and permanent skilled visa applications.

The Department of Home Affairs says the change means applications will be processed faster.

“Particularly for the critical Temporary Skill Shortage visa, which is designed to respond rapidly to labour market needs,” a department spokesperson said.
Review of migration system to be delivered in 2023
Experts and users have criticised the huge backlogs and complexity of Australia’s migration system that have seen some people waiting months to get visas approved.

In 2023, three experts are expected to deliver a comprehensive review of Australia’s migration system with an interim report expected by the end of February, and a final strategy by late March/April.

The government has hired extra staff to help with visa processing, bringing Australia’s visa backlog, which was once at almost one million applications, down to 600,000.

“By ramping up processing in the Department of Home Affairs and hiring over 400 extra staff, I’m proud to say that we have now processed over four million visas since coming to government,” Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Andrew Giles said on Monday.

“This has made a huge difference to the lives of Australians re-connected with loved ones before Christmas, and to addressing the skills shortages that have affected all of us.”

Mr Rizvi said the big issue for 2023 was a potential slowdown in employment growth, and a rise in unemployment, which is being forecast by Treasury. Unemployment is forecast to be 4.5 per cent through 2023-24 and 2024-25, higher than the current rate of 3.5 per cent recorded in November 2022.

“The question I have is will the government maintain the migration program at the current level if Treasury’s forecasts are to be believed?” Mr Rizvi said.

Mr Rizvi said it was possible the government would announce a reduction in the number of skilled visas available as part of the May budget, if it became nervous about the labour market.

“Whenever there’s been a sharp downturn in the Australian economy in the past, governments have always cut the migration program, like clockwork,” he said.

Mr Giles has said the government will review Australia’s migration system to make sure it is keeping up with the times.

“We need a system that attracts and retains talent, a system that is simple, efficient and complementary to the skills existing in Australia,” he said.

“International mobility is already important for economic activity. For Australia, this importance will continue to grow over time.”

This week Mr Giles also announced an extension to allow backpackers to work with a single employer for the length of their visa to support Australian employers over the summer.

News Source: SBS News

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