Skilled Migration to Australia- Recent Changes in Migration Policy

18 April 2017, was a turbulent day for migration agents and visa applicants around the world, with the most unexpected news flashes related to subclass 457, Australian citizenship and General Skilled Migration Occupation Lists.

In my fifteen years of experience as a Migration Consultant for Australia’s General Skilled Migration Program, sudden changes have been a part of the immigration policy updates from time to time. We’ve witnessed the large scale changes like the Cap & Cease in 2010 when applications under review with the Australian Immigration Department, now known as the DIBP, were announced to a sudden suspension. The Trades Recognition Australia, too, expunged the TRA application policy returning all the applications under review in 2007.

The unforeseen and abrupt changes usually imply an overhaul in the immigration policy. More often than not, such changes are directed at curtailing the abusage of the existing migration policy and aimed at plugging the loopholes with more stringent visa norms.

I would look at some of the changes as ‘planned changes’, such as the following that will come into effect from 1 July 2017 and later for the General Skilled Migration program:

The maximum age for the Skilled Independent Subclass 189 visa to be reduced from 49 to 44.
The review and likely revision of occupation lists for the year 2017-18.
The revised criteria and occupations for the State Migration Plans.
Occupation Ceilings to be imposed by the DIBP for the year 2017-18.
Changes to the visa application fee schedule.
The abolishment of subclass 457 visa from March 2018 and replacement of a new temporary work visa called the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Visa with effect from March 2018.

The following changes with effect from 19 April 2017, however, were a bolt out of the blue, taking prospective migrants and visa aspirants by an unpleasant surprise:

An acute reduction in the list of occupations eligible for subclass 457 visa.
The replacement of the SOL with the MLTSSL [Medium and Long-term Strategic Skilled List].
The replacement of CSOL with of an STSOL [Short-term Skilled Occupation List] currently being referred to as the ‘Combined List’] which to be used for employer-sponsored and state nominated visas.
The dismissal of a whopping 200 occupations from the STSOL.
Classification of 24 Occupations as ‘rural occupations’ which would be available for subclass 489 visa only.
Changes in the eligibility criteria for the Australian citizenship.

Interestingly, amidst all the reshuffling, Australia’s Permanent Migration Programme for the year 2017-18 has been announced to remain at a ceiling of 190,000 places, as in the previous years. What this potentially means is a shift in the intake of eligible applicants, with perhaps more migration opportunities becoming available for applicants for subclass 489 and regional sponsorships.

As opposed to the mythical beliefs about the cut back in the migration opportunities in times to come, the new policy would be focussed on bringing in the skilled workforce for meeting the genuine skills shortages which continue to remain critical despite the inflow of skilled workers over the years.