Australia’s migration program is undergoing significant reforms, with numerous recent announcements aimed at enhancing the integrity of the international education sector. These reforms encompass several key aspects:

  1. Strengthening financial capacity requirements for certain student visa applications, which commenced at the beginning of the month after remaining unchanged for many years.
  2. Increased funding was allocated for visa compliance and integrity measures.
  3. Augmented funding for the scrutiny of vocational education providers.

These changes are part of a broader initiative to address issues within the visa system, as highlighted by a recent review of its exploitation. In response, additional funding is being allocated to process protection visa claims, with measures such as expanding the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) and appointing federal court judges before the AAT undergoes replacement by a new tribunal.

Upcoming reforms include a pathway for all primary subclass 482 – Temporary Skill Shortage visa holders, along with expedited processing for overseas workers earning at least $120,000. Although the specific visa category remains unspecified, these changes likely pertain to permanent employer-skilled visas.

Notably, one unforeseen and unfortunate alteration involves the publication of global processing times. Previously, detailed processing times were available for various visa subclasses, including sponsorship and nomination applications, categorized into 25, 50, 75, and 90 percentiles. However, this nuanced breakdown has been replaced by median (50 percentile) timeframes aggregated by visa category, lacking individual subclass distinctions. This change overlooks the skewed distribution of processing times, which often includes delays due to factors like obtaining penal clearance certificates, missing documentation, and visa-related medical issues. Consequently, a more accurate assessment of processing times is achieved by considering both ends of the distribution, a particularly important factor for accredited business sponsors who benefit from faster processing.

In the context of General Skilled Migration (GSM) visas, all Australian states and territories have opened their nomination programs for subclasses 189, 190, and 491. Due to high demand, many states have adopted a Registration of Interest (ROI) model, similar to the Expression of Interest (EOI) and SkillSelect system used for 189 and 491 visas sponsored by eligible relatives. It’s important to note that ROIs are not nomination applications, and meeting minimum eligibility criteria does not guarantee an invitation. Human review, rather than computer algorithms, likely evaluates these submissions, and different states have their own points systems, introducing added complexity and uncertainty.

Notably, subclass 188 – Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) visas will not receive new invitations during this program year. Despite having 1,900 places allocated for this visa category, there are already sufficient pending applications to meet the 2023–24 planning level. Consequently, the Department of Home Affairs has opted not to allocate any places to states and territories. This decision may disadvantage business skills applicants, especially those where factors like age and assessing a business’s performance over fiscal years are critical considerations.

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