The Australian migration program for the second half of 2008-09 has changed so that skilled migrants who have a confirmed job, or have skills in critical need will be given priority for a permanent visa to come to Australia.
The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said the changes, effective from 1 January, will ensure that the Skilled Migration program is driven by the requirements of industry and targets skills in critical need across a number of sectors.
'This will ensure our migration program is more responsive to the needs of the economy and assists industries still experiencing skills shortages,' Senator Evans said.
The new measures from 1 January 2009 include:
1. Prioritising and improving the processing of sponsored permanent migration visas, where skilled migrants are nominated by employers for jobs that cannot be filled locally;
2. Providing State and Territory Governments greater scope to address the critical skill needs in their jurisdiction. This reflects the different economies and skills requirements across States and Territories;
3. Giving priority to people who apply without a sponsor where they have an occupation on a list of skills in critical shortage;
4. Retaining the existing 133 500 planning target as a cap, with the actual number of visas granted to be kept under review by the Government for the remainder of the 2008-09 year.
'In light of the changing economic circumstances, the Rudd Government has reviewed the Skilled Migration program and consulted business and industry along with state and territory governments Australia-wide about their skills needs'.
'To meet immediate skills needs, the government will fast-track the processing of sponsored permanent migration visas, where skilled migrants are nominated by employers for jobs that cannot be filled locally.'
'This could see employer sponsored visas occupying an increasing share of the skilled program, with 36 000 visas likely in the current year,' the minister said.'
Senator Evans said about 80 per cent of employer-sponsored visas are granted to people who were already living and working in Australia on temporary visas. Fast-tracking the grant of these visas will provide greater certainty to employers and increase the number of visas granted onshore.
The list of skills in critical shortage are mainly in the medical and key IT professionals, engineers and construction trades. The occupations on the critical skills list are the ones most frequently sought by employers through sponsorship.
There was a delay in processing 10 000 applications from engineers, medical professionals and other skilled migrants. Previously, they may have had to wait more than a year before being considered.
'Fast-tracking professionals on the critical skills list will ensure that the economy gets the skills it needs now, not just those applicants who applied first,' Senator Evans said.'
The government has also given state and territory governments' greater scope to address the critical skill needs in their jurisdiction. This reflects the different economies that have developed across the country.
It is hoped that the 2008-09 skilled migration program will be better in delivering the skills needed in the economy. There will also be an increase in the number of visas granted to those already in Australia and currently in jobs.
The skilled migration program was significantly increased in the May Budget from 102 500 to 133 500 places to ease nationwide skills shortages.
Senator Evans said a report released earlier in the year by respected economic analyst Access Economics shows that new migrants to Australia deliver hundreds of millions of dollars to the Commonwealth budget and the broader economy every year.
In its Migrant Fiscal Impact Model: 2008 Update, Access Economics found that the fiscal benefits from taxation and visa charges far outweighed the costs that migrants impose on health, education, welfare, employment and settlement services.
'The bottom line is that our migration program is vital to keep the economy growing as well as helping Australian businesses overcome skills shortages,' Senator Evans said.'