Is Now a Good Time to Move to Australia?
Aishwarya Somal, Director and Senior Immigration Lawyer at Emerson Family and Migration Law, speaks to us this month about Business and Skilled Migration to Australia, expanding on the Federal Government’s doubling of allocated spaces in its Business Migration and Global Talent Visa Programs.
Migration has always made substantial contributions to Australia’s culture and economy; what impact have the travel restrictions had on our culture and economy?
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (‘the OECD’) has highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on immigrants and global mobility, which has been detrimental to Australia’s culture and economy overall. The COVID-19 response and travel restrictions imposed in Australia have prompted the net overseas migration to drastically fall in the 2020-2021 financial year and it is set to enter ‘negative levels’ for the first time this century. This development is unsurprising when considering the limited number of exemption categories which permit a person to enter Australia amid the current travel restrictions, as well as the substantial number of persons who chose, or were forced, to depart Australia since the onset of the pandemic.
Due to the high correlation between the overseas migration intake and population growth in Australia, the plummet in overseas migration will have a significant impact on Australia’s economy and GDP growth.
The travel restrictions have also had an immediate effect on families, who have been unable to secure exemptions to reunite during this period, along with international students who have largely been unable to return to study in Australia. This loss of international students has majorly impacted Australia’s tertiary education sector, along with the associated employment opportunities for Australian citizens and permanent residents.
How does the Australian government plan on addressing this impact?
We have observed the formation of the ‘Trans-Tasman Bubble’ safe travel zone between Australia and New Zealand, which has involved the relaxation of COVID-19 border restrictions and quarantine requirements. A myriad of other exemptions and concessions have been introduced by the Department of Home Affairs for both onshore and offshore migrants. These exemptions and concessions aim to minimise COVID-19 related disruptions and promote the travel of family members of Australian Citizens and Permanent Residents, Business Investors and Skilled Migrants working in ‘critical sectors’.
The Department of Home Affairs has also introduced concessions that provide visa applicants with additional time to complete the necessary requirements for their pending visa applications—including recently introducing a waiver of the requirement for certain applicants to be offshore at the time of their visa grant. Migrants currently can also apply for travel exemptions to enter Australia based on ‘compelling and compassionate’ circumstances if they do not meet any prescribed exemption categories but imminently need to travel to Australia.
The COVID-19 response and travel restrictions imposed in Australia have prompted the net overseas migration to drastically fall in the 2020-2021 financial year and it is set to enter ‘negative levels’ for the first time this century.
The program will continue to have a strong focus on attracting the best and brightest migrants from around the world. What aspects of the plan are appealing for those looking to immigrate?
A major success for the Skilled Migration program to attract the ‘best and brightest migrants’ in the 2019 to 2020 financial year was the Global Talent Independent Visa (GTI), which fulfilled the 5,000 places the program was allocated. Due to this success, the Australian Government has allocated a significant 15,000 places to GTI applicants in the 2020 to 2021 financial year.
To be granted a visa under the GTI Program, a candidate will need to be highly skilled in one of the ten target sectors. They will also be able to attract a salary that meets the high-income threshold which is currently set at $153,600.00AUD, that is subject to yearly changes.
Target sectors include the following:
- Agri-food and AgTech
- Health Industries
- Defence, Advanced Manufacturing and Space
- Circular Economy
- Infrastructure and Tourism
- Financial Services and FinTech
There are a range of benefits to those high calibre applicants who are nominated by a person or organisation with a national reputation and are invited to apply for this visa.
The most appealing benefit is that the GTI is a Permanent Residency visa and has been reported to have a processing time of mere weeks, as opposed to other Skilled Migration visas which can take months to progress.
Other appealing benefits of the GTI program include: that no skills assessment is required; no offer of employment is necessary; no requirements to invest in an Australian business exist; no age limit has been mandated, and an expression of interest can simply be submitted through the Global Talent contact form on the Department of Home Affairs website. Furthermore, Masters or PhD students in Australia with demonstrable talent and/or international recognition may also be eligible for this visa program.
The Skilled Stream has undergone the most changes; can you expand more upon this? What impact are you hoping to see?
There have been 79,600 places allocated to the Skilled Migration program in the 2020 to 2021 financial year, which unlike previous years, is almost equal to the Family program allocation. The government has placed a renewed focus on visa applicants who will be able to assist with Australia’s post COVID-19 economic recovery efforts, with particular priority being placed upon the above mentioned GTI program, Employer Sponsored visas and the Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP). We are hoping that the Skilled Migration program changes will meet the aim of assisting the Australian states and territories with their economic recovery from the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, while providing eligible and skilled visa applicants with priority processing and immediate pathways to Permanent Residency.
Changes to the Provisional Business Innovation and Investment visa seek to improve the quality of applicants. How so?
The Australian Government has announced that they will be implementing changes to streamline and improve the BIIP from 1 July 2021. The current backlog of BIIP visa applications likely has prompted the intended changes, which will assist with reducing the volume of applications by focusing on ‘higher quality candidates’.
The most notable changes include the closure of the Premium Investor stream, the Venture Capital Entrepreneur stream, and the Significant Business History stream, along with a substantial increase in the application charges by an additional 11.3% for the remaining BIIP visas. The aim of these changes is to focus on attracting higher value investors, entrepreneurs, and business owners ‘of scale’ to Australia in order to increase the economic return of the BIIP.
The government has also announced changes that aim to incentivise and reward high calibre BIIP applicants, including increasing the validity of the provisional visas to five years and providing applicants who meet the requirements with the opportunity to apply for Permanent Residency after three years.
Places have nearly doubled from 6,862 to 13,500 and the government will prioritise the processing of these visas. What challenges will your clients potentially face?
The Australian states and territories have fluctuated in their BIIP openings for state-based nomination during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the requirements for nomination by each state and territory are discretionary, different criteria have been introduced in the various jurisdictions which naturally can pose challenges for prospective BIIP applicants under the various streams. While the Australian Government will be streamlining the BIIP streams to only four as of 1 July 2021, the increased allocation of numbers in the program may assist with mitigating the effects of the competition for the reduced BIIP visa pathways available. Nonetheless, a key change that will be introduced for the Business Innovation stream to ensure the program is attracting migrants with ‘proven business skills’ is an increase in the prescribed level of business assets from $800,000 to $1.25 million. The prescribed annual turnover has also been increased from $500,000 to $750,000. These increases both will inherently make the visa requirements tougher for applicants to meet, as they will need to provide increased support of their business skills and acumen.
Director/Senior Immigration Lawyer
LLB. (UQ) GRAD DIP Legal Practice
Brisbane Head office: Level 8 Northpoint,
231 North Quay Brisbane QLD 4000
t: (+617) 3211 4920
Sydney Office: Level 29, Chifley Tower,
2 Chifley Square, Sydney 2000, NSW
t: +61 2 92169045
Taringa office: 175A Swann Road,
Taringa QLD 4068
t: 07 3211 4920
We are a boutique migration consultation firm recognised as one of the foremost immigration practices, not just in Brisbane but throughout Australia. Founded by Aishwarya, our firm provides specialist advice on all aspects of immigration to Australia for both individual and corporate clients, covering the full range of applications to enter or remain in the country. The various types of visas we are able to assist with include:
- Employer-sponsored and Skilled migration;
- Business Migration;
- Partner Migration;
- For those interested in undertaking study in Australia;
- Refugee or humanitarian applications; and
- Family visas, particularly applicable to parents of a Citizen or Permanent Resident.
We cover all areas of immigration law. We are able to provide expert assistance in relation to the preparation of applications, review of applications as well as represent clients in appeals to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (formerly the Migration Review Tribunal).
 Maani Truu, ‘Australia’s net migration intake drops to negative levels for the first time since World War II’, SBS News (online) (6 October 2020), < https://www.sbs.com.au/news/australia-s-net-migration-intake-drops-to-negative-levels-for-the-first-time-since-world-war-ii>.
 Australian Government Department of Home Affairs, COVID-19 visa concessions (12 February 2021) Department of Home Affairs < https://covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au/travel-restrictions>.