The critical nature of immigration in Australia

The topic of migration is a contentious one. Even more so when it relates to skilled migrant workers, working in Australian businesses. What we can’t deny, however, is the mostly positive impact these workers have on the workplace and the necessity for them to continue in these roles.

You never really know which migrant worker could be the next Elon Musk. The fact is, to this form of productivity and who can help?

SCA Connect has established there is a veritable roll call of big name global entrepreneurs who started as migrant workers: Musk, Ariana Huffington, Sergey Brin, Harry Triguboff, John Hemmes, Tan Le. The list could certainly go on.

These are just the entrepreneurs.

Late last year, the ABC ran an article titled How migrant workers are critical to the future of the agricultural industry. The article posited that more than 900,000 immigrants on permanent and temporary visas enter Australia each year and alluded to a report with evidence to suggest that immigrant workers add substantially to productivity in the agricultural industry.

So whilst we know there is good to come of having immigrant workers in Australia’s businesses, the question that has sprung recently is what effect will changes to the Skilled Visa Programs have itself as a leading, highly ethical and professional Australian immigration consultancy.

It has an extensive client list, working with some of Australia’s largest organisations as well as small businesses. It works across a range of industries including airlines, digital advertising media, and also the retail, construction and surveying and hospitality industries and also assists individuals across key areas of migration including skilled and partner migration.

“A key with all our clients, both corporate and individual, is that we do spend a lot of time working closely with them and building those  relationships.  Based  on that, we work with our clients for a number of years and often with our individual clients we will assist family members in the future,” says SCA Connect Director Jenny Murphy

Let’s have a look at some of the changes to the 457 visa program that have taken effect. Changes have been made to the list of eligible skilled occupations. You can find a full list of occupations removed, added or moved between lists at www. Further significant changes include The English Language Salary Exemption Threshold (ELSET) which exempted applicants (whose salary was over AUD$96,400) from the English language requirement. This has now has been removed for applications lodged on or after 1 July 2017 and English language test results must be provided for applications lodged on or after 1 July 2017. There are exemptions to this, but it is wise to engage an expert such as SCA Connect to find out what they are.

Furthermore, from March 2018 sponsors will no longer  be required to meet the current training benchmarks requirements with these arrangements to be replaced by a requirement to pay a contribution to the new Skilling Australians Fund (SAF). As for the subclass 457 visa program according to the Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton, holders of the new visas will not be as easily able to apply for permanent residency as 457 holders are.

There are far more changes to consider, but you get a sense here of the scope of these changes and the requirement for help when trying to understand how it affects immigrant workers and the businesses supporting them.

Jenny is quick to point out that these changes have created a lot of uncertainty for business.

“At the moment I see the biggest issue is the uncertainty in the employers sponsored visa program in particular. “Whilst some changes have been implemented, there’s further changes planned up until March next year and I think the uncertainty of exactly what that legislation will be has seen a loss of trust between business, potential applicants and the government, especially in the way the announcement of the recent changes were made.”

According to Jenny the 457 program has always been an opportunity to bring skills from more established markets to assist in business growth in Australia and transfer knowledge and skills to Australians.

Jenny is critical of the way the government implemented its changes and the difficulties and misunderstandings that it has created for Australian businesses and visa holders and SCA Connect is playing an important role is guiding clients through this uncertain period.

“The citizenship changes actually had a significant impact on permanent residents. They are left in limbo because the changes are not yet through parliament but it’s the Government’s intention to backdate the changes to all applications lodged on or after 20th April 2017, if passed.

“Many of our clients, between their temporary visas and permanent residency, would have been in Australia for 10 years.

They feel the rule changed half way through the game for them and there is a lot of anger an disappointment regarding some of the announced changes. “

“Take a look at the English requirement for citizenship, there would be a lot of people who have been educated in Australia that would not get the required result.”

Jenny does believe the government will moderate its citizenship changes to be able to pass the legislation.

“I believe they will change,” she says. “I don’t believe they will go through as proposed. I would see there would be a change in the English requirement and also the residency requirement and I’m hoping some sense is given to both of those aspects.”

In light of the changes, SCA Connect has moved from a role of facilitating visa processing to a much more collaborative and consultative role. The company is working with businesses and their HR departments to manage strategies including talent acquisition.

SCA Connect is working closely with its clients to try and manage future changes that have been announced but not yet legislated.

“We have been left with no choice but to evolve and adapt to be able to help businesses put their short and long term strategic plans in place.”

SCA Connect is indeed playing an important role in helping businesses understand changes to the legislation.

We started this article by commenting on the criticality of skilled immigrant workers to the country, Jenny reaffirms that by saying “At the end of the day, Australia is one of many countries competing for skills in industries where there is a global skills shortage. Whilst there are many factors influencing someone to work in Australia, we are competing against the countries such as the US, Canada, the UK and Europe for those skills and I think as a country we need to be able to continue to attract highly skilled temporary residents and migrants who make a significant contribution to productivity and economic outcomes’’.

Jenny believes that in the near future, Australia could be looking at a very genuine skills shortage in highly skilled occupations. With major infrastructure projects going on, it won’t be possible to finish them with the skills that currently exist. So whilst education and skilling of Australians should always remain an important component of the workforce, the reality is Australia relies on migration.

So with its continued focus on employer sponsored migration, SCA Connect plays an important role in improving the current workplace landscape.

Business First is a peer-to-peer magazine: written by CEOs and other high level executives, with interviews with some of the country’s best leaders.

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