In handing down the migration strategy, federal Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Senator Chris Evans said the list of occupations in demand would be tightened so only highly skilled migrants would be eligible to apply for independent skilled migration visas.
He said the wide-ranging Migration Occupations in Demand List would be revoked immediately.
“The list is outdated and contains 106 occupations, many of which are less skilled and no longer in demand,” Senator Evans explained.
“A new and more targeted Skilled Occupation List will be developed by the independent body Skills Australia and reviewed annually.”
He said the list would be introduced by mid-year and would focus on high-value professions and trades.
A points test will be used to assess migrants and amendments to the Migration Act will be introduced this year to ensure that the skilled migration program is not dominated by a handful of occupations.
Individual state and territory migration plans will also be developed.
The Critical Skills list, which was introduced at the beginning of last year and identified occupations in critical demand at the height of the global financial crisis, will be phased out.
“The new arrangements will give first priority to skilled migrants who have a job to go to with an Australian employer,” Senator Evans said.
“For those who don’t have an Australian employer willing to sponsor them, the bar is being raised.”
International students who hold a vocational, higher education or postgraduate student visa will still be able to apply for a permanent visa if their occupation is on the new SOL. If it is not on the list, they have until December 31, 2012, to apply for a temporary skilled graduate visa on completion of their studies.
Recognising the unique labour challenges facing the state, the WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy and WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry have both come out in support of the migration reforms.
CME chief executive Reg Howard-Smith said it was critical for business that Australia had a flexible and transparent migration system which was responsive to the needs of all employers.
“The development of a state migration plan is necessary to strengthen the WA resources industry’s ability to meet projected workforce shortfalls,” he said.
“The chamber has been advocating for a state migration plan for some time and has been discussing with the state government a collaborative approach to enable this to occur.”
Howard-Smith said any system for migration must be efficient and responsive to industry needs in order to streamline recruitment and appropriately meet labour shortfalls.
According to scenarios developed by CME, an additional 38,000 skilled workers will be required by 2012 to meet the needs of the WA resources industry.
Based on CCI research, an extra 400,000 workers would be required over the next seven years.
“Both permanent and temporary migration programs will be required to fill some of these positions,” Howard-Smith said.
His comments were mirrored by CCI chief executive James Pearson.
“The current system is simply not meeting the needs of local industry,” Pearson said.
“CCI knows that some employers have had to wait up to six months to hire an overseas worker for a position they need filled now.
“The migration system must allow employers, regardless of their size or industry sector, to hire overseas workers for positions that can’t be filled by locals as quickly, and easily, as possible.”