EY gives insights into migration program positives and negatives from COVID-19 policy conundrums.

The pandemic has disrupted Australia’s annual migration program planning process.

Australia’s competing immigration policy goals are the reliance on skilled migration for economic growth and the protection of the local labour market. Tensions between these goals is relatively stable and managed by detailed eligibility frameworks and compliance measures. In contrast, the tensions inherent in COVID-19 policy responses are more difficult to reconcile. Governments will continue to struggle to balance the competing priorities of protecting public health and minimising the impact on the economy.

For the first time since 1946, net overseas migration will be negative and Australia’s population growth is expected to fall to 0.2 per cent in 2020-21 and 0.4 per cent in 2021-22 - the slowest growth in over a century.

In this context, immigration initiatives in the 2020-21 Federal Budget are designed to boost economic recovery and generate employment growth by attracting innovators, investors and JobMakers:

  • AUD 29.8 million will be invested in a task force to attract international business and exceptional talent
  • three high value skilled visa programs have been significantly expanded and will be prioritised.

EY encourages employers and individuals to consider in particular the Global Talent visa program, as the tripling of the target for 2020-21 should further encourage potential candidates

Whilst employer sponsored visa programs may be prioritised, in the context of growing unemployment in Australia, closer attention is being paid to employer nominations for Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) and permanent residence visa applications. The Department of Home Affairs has also announced its 'expectation' that positions being nominated for permanent residence advertised on jobactive before the nomination application is lodged.

As for the borders restrictions, the 2020-21 Federal Budget assumed that restrictions on international travel are expected to remain in place until the latter half of 2021. However, as Australia seeks a sustainable response to the pandemic international border restrictions are being eased incrementally for instance with travel restriction exemptions (critical skills or compassionate and compelling reasons), international arrivals' increase, and pilot travel programs.

EY welcomes the refunds and waivers of visa application charges for temporary visa holders affected by travel restrictions.


Source: EY

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