2019-20 Migration planning levels

With the federal election run and won, the incumbent government is set to push ahead with reforms to the migration program that were publicised well before the election over the coming months.

One important change announced prior to the election was the cut of 30,000 places to Australia’s permanent migration intake. With the Department of Home Affairs recently publishing their planning levels, we now know where these cuts will occur. While almost every category received reductions in numbers, some have been reduced significantly in comparison to the previous year’s planning levels. Major changes for the 2019-20 program compared to 2018-19 program year include:

  • Employer sponsored: 39,000 places (30,000 Employer sponsored + 9,000 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional) down from 48,250 places – 19.17 per cent decrease;

  • Skilled Independent: 32,652 places (18,652 Skilled Independent + 14,000 Skilled Work Regional) down from 43,990 places – 25.77 per cent decrease

  • State/Territory Nominated: 24,968 places down from 28,850 places – 13.46 per cent decrease

  • Business Innovation & Investment program: 6,862 places down from 7,260 places – 5.48 per cent decrease

  • Partner: 39,799 places down from 47,825 places – 16.78 per cent decrease

  • Parent: 7,371 places down from 8,675 places – 15.03 per cent decrease

  • Other Family: 562 places down from 900 places – 37.56 per cent decrease

  • Special Eligibility: 236 places down from 565 places – 58.23 per cent decrease

  • Global Talent visas: An initial allocation of 5,000 places

An analysis of these changes:

  • Employer sponsored visa application will naturally drop because of the need for occupations to be on the Subclass 186 – Employer Nomination Scheme occupation list unless an application is exempt due to the nominee holding or having applied for a Subclass 457 – Temporary Work (Skilled) visa that was subsequently granted on 17 April 2017. Subclass 187 – Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visas and the Subclass 494 – Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa places are included;

  • Unsurprisingly General Skilled Migration (GSM) visas have been slashed. Subclass 189 – Skilled Independent visas will become extremely competitive. It is unclear whether these numbers account for Subclass 489 – Skilled – Regional (Provisional) visas sponsored by an eligible relative or include 489 visas nominated by a State or Territory. This provisional visa and its replacement, the Subclass 491 – Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa which will come into effect on 16 November 2019, are specifically referenced;

  • Parent visas queues will most likely increase further;

  • As Other Family visas are subject to processing arrangements that place them at the bottom of the family visa queue, there is almost little incentive to lodge an offshore Remaining Relative visa or an Aged Dependent Relative visa as processing times for these visas are already listed with a wait time of 50 years;

  • The government has high hopes for its Global Talent scheme, allocating 5,000 places. A Freedom of Information (FOI) request on the number of these visas approved suggest otherwise.

While planning levels are important, the reality may be something different as the 2017-18 program year saw just over 160,000 visas granted when there was a total of 190,000 visas allocated.

South Australia’s migration push

It is no secret that South Australia (SA) has been lobbying the Federal Government for a greater share in Australia’s temporary and migration intake. After their last state election when Liberal Government came to power, the Federal Government have been assisting where needed.

Initiatives such as the two recently signed Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMAs), and the exclusive entrepreneur visa under the Subclass 408 – (Temporary Activity) visa program show how much SA is pushing to attract a greater share of migrants.

A recent FOI request revealed their justification for such an aggressive program. While many factors are cited, statistics revealed that SA and Tasmania are facing a significantly higher proportion of residents aged over 65 years old, a lower proportion of residents in the key working age group of people aged 20-44, and a lagging population increase percentage in their capital cities of Adelaide and Hobart, respectively. This is perhaps why these two states along with the Northern Territory and the ACT still have their capital cities defined as regional areas for 187 visas.

Historic GSM and business skills State and Territory nomination caps published

Perhaps more revealing in the same FOI request was the breakdown of nomination ceilings for both General Skilled Migration (GSM) and business skilled visas (listed as the Business Innovation and Investment Program – BIIP) by state and territory for the 2017-18 program year. While historic, these are interesting nonetheless as they are generally not available to the public.

The nominations allocated for the GSM program (190 and 489 visas) for 2017-18 were:

NSW – 5,300

Victoria – 2,800

Queensland – 1,300

WA – 800

SA – 3,750

Tasmania – 1,550

NT – 1,000

ACT – 800

Total – 17,300

There are a couple of key takeaways from this. Firstly, we are unable to distinguish how these nominations were divided between the non-regional permanent 190 visa and the provisional regional 489 visa.

Secondly, it seemed strange for Western Australia to have the same number of nominations as the ACT considering they have over six times the population. Since then, the ACT nomination program was subject to criticism from overseas students when it closed its GSM program due to high demand. It was later allocated further nominations for the 2018-19 program year and abolished its first-come-first-serve application process in favour of their own “matrix” score system to allow them to manage demand similar to the Expression of Interest model for 189 visas.

For business skills visas, which include the Subclass 188 – Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) visa, which leads to the Subclass 888 – Business Innovation and Investment (Permanent) visa, and the Subclass 132 – Business Talent visa, the breakdown for the 2017-18 program year were:

NSW – 850

Victoria – 2,290

Queensland – 570

WA – 250

SA – 570

Tasmania – 40

NT – 25

ACT – 15

Total – 4,360

The most startling discovery is that over half of all business skill nominations were allocated to Victoria with NSW appearing not willing to court many business skilled migrants in proportion to their population.

Given the cut to GSM visas beginning 1 July 2019 it goes without saying that these allocations will certainly not be current.

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