Government tightens skilled migration
December 18, 2008
THE global economic crisis has forced the Federal Government to tighten its skilled migration program.
- Skilled migration program tightened
- Economic crisis forces rethink
- Skills shortage fast-tracking
Under changes announced yesterday, the Government will make it harder for some migrants to get permanent visas, while fast-tracking approvals for migrants with skills in critical demand.
Immigration Minister Chris Evans said engineers, medical, IT and construction trade professionals on a new "critical skills list" would be favoured.
As revealed last week by The Age hairdressers and chefs will no longer get priority.
"The overwhelming message is that we need to maintain a skilled migration program but one that is more targeted," Mr Evans said. "There were concerns that the permanent skilled migration program was not delivering the right skills to the right areas."
Under the changes, states and territories will have greater scope to sponsor migrants to fill shortages specific to their economies , while "457 temporary visa" holders nominated by employers for jobs that cannot be filled locally also get priority.
The Federal Government has come under pressure to revise its skilled migration program as the economy has slowed and unemployment has crept higher.
In the May budget, it expanded skilled migration from 102,500 to 133,500 places in light of more positive economic forecasts. But Mr Evans said yesterday: "Since the budget, there has been a significant shift in the global economic outlook, with some major developed countries entering into recession. This is having an impact on the Australian economy."
While industry and business have pushed the Government to retain the cap of 133,500 places, Mr Evans said the number of visas granted for the rest of the financial year would be "kept under review".
"The Government retains the ability to cap the program below that figure if necessary," he said.
The changes are designed to channel skilled migrants to industries with shortages, while retaining the program to a level that keeps the economy going as the population ages.
The "critical skills list", which includes 60 occupations, will take precedence over the "migration occupations in demand list", which includes hairdressers, pastrycooks and locksmiths.
Mr Evans said the "migration occupations in demand list" had failed to fill shortages and some applicants had nominated occupations they had no intention of working in.
The changes could have a big impact on what international students choose to study and the types of courses colleges provide. Tens of thousands of international students have gained permanent residency after studying courses which are weighted with visa points because they are included on the "migration ocupations in demand list".
It is acknowledged in the international education industry that hairdressing and cookery have been popular as they attract extra migration points, allowing a path to pemanent residency in Australia, without students having any intention of working in those jobs.
International education sources said it was too early to tell what impact the changes would have on private training colleges, which have boomed on the back of demand for such courses.