Australia Set to Change Skills-Based Visa Programme to Demand-Driven Immigration System

Australia is currently looking at a significant overhaul of its skills-based visa programme, where skilled occupation lists could be axed and hundreds of visa sub-categories slashed, to make way for a demand-driven immigration system where businesses have a greater role in determining what jobs are in short supply.


Australian Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil is reported as saying that every idea is on the table in the biggest shake-up to the immigration system in decades, amid a historic worker shortage.

The government is aiming to boost economic growth and productivity, secure the nation’s geostrategic influence and strengthen its sovereign capability. Unions and industry are expected to play a key role in the review, which has been tasked with finding ways to protect workers from exploitation.

Australia’s processing system is currently making it harder to attract much-needed talent to the country, with visa processing wait times being as long as 15 months.

Proponents of the policy change say abolishing the skills list would speed up processing times and more accurately identify workforce shortages, which are more likely to emerge in jobs where there were high skills and high wages.

O’Neil is reported as saying that the review would help to deliver a more efficient system capable of attracting and retaining the best talent from around the world, with rules that are simple for migrants and employers to use and complement the skills of Australians.

What are the implications of the proposed changes for South Africans?

If the changes were to come about it would flip the traditional skilled migration system from a system where migrants are selected on their potential to find work in skilled jobs after they had been approved a visa to an employer driven system where potential migrants will need to first find an employer with a vacancy for them to apply for a visa.

While having a job to go to would be a good thing for most people, this change to an employer driven system could also restrict potential migrants from being able to migrate to their preferred locations. External experts have warned that changing the immigration system to this extent could take years and, in that case, potential migrants shouldn’t wait for proposed changes, but rather take advantage of the system in its current format, which in recent times has been very generous in the number of visa invitations provided.

The Australian Federal Government is conducting a review at the moment and has released aΒ discussion paperΒ to accompany the review and further information is available on the department’sΒ website.