How Thousands of Migrant Workers Are Set To Pour Into Australia as Anthony Albanese Overhauls The Country’s Migration Program

Key Points

  • Federal government announces plans to revamp permanent migration program
  • Visa applications of almost 60,000 skilled foreign workers go to front of queue
  • Priority to those in education, health and aged care to help fill staff shortages
  • Calls from business groups to lift permanentย annual migrant intake of 160,000

The visa applications of thousands of highly skilled foreign workers will be fast-tracked in a desperate effort to address staff shortages in the health, education and aged care sectors. Some 58,000 overseas migrants will jump to the front of the queue as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s government prepares to overhaul Australia’s permanent migration program.

Australia currently has a massive backlog of one million unprocessed visas, according to new Home Affairs minister Clare O’Neil. Almost 58,000 of those are skilled workers seeking permanent visas, whose applications will be given top priority.

Long term changes to the revamped program will be announced later this year following a government jobs and skills summit in early September. The move was hailed by the minister as a ‘once in a generation opportunity to step back and ask what the immigration system was for and ask whether the current system is meeting needs.’

‘We’ve got to get the system moving again, and then we have to have the deeper conversation,’ Ms O’Neil toldย The Australian Financial Review.

‘There’s a really important conversation to be had about the size and composition of the migration program.’

High priority will be given to given to applications which can fill staff shortages in teaching, health and aged care.

Applicants who can contribute to a high-skilled, high wage economy through manufacturing and science will also be considered.

‘We’ve just come through an unprecedented period in our history where the borders were shut for almost two years,’ Ms O’Neil told ABC Radio National on Wednesday.

‘So, at the other end of that we have a business community and an economy that’s crying out for more workers and an enormous visa backlog.’

Ms O’Neil blamed the massive backlog on the former Morrison government which was booted from power in May. Of the permanent visas issued since the pandemic began in 2020, more than 80 per cent were granted to migrants already in Australia.

‘What many people probably don’t realise is a lot of the people who are given visas to work in Australia are actually already here, and if we continue to operate that way, of course we’re not going to address the skills crisis,’ Ms O’Neil added.

‘So, the change is prioritizing people who are offshore who are wanting to come here to work and working through those applications as quickly as we can.’

Business groups have called for Australia’s annual permanent migration intake cap to be boosted by at least 40,000 skilled workers to 200,000 for the next two years to address the skills shortage.

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