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With businesses, hospitals, and farmers across the nation screaming out for workers with experience and qualifications, concerns are growing over the slowdown in offshore visa processing. There is clearly a need for workers to come to Australia as soon as possible. The state of paralysis is said to be political and linked to the election. But just how will the outcome of the federal elections affect immigration policy?

The number of temporary visa holders in Australia surged to 2.4 million in the years leading up to the pandemic before falling to 1.8 million following the border shutdown. International border movements have rebounded dramatically this year yet official data suggests flows of experienced foreigners are lagging. At the same time, the number of overseas visitors permanently departing Australia jumped 28 percent in March, supporting the claim that two years of hard-line border rules have spurred many long-term expatriates to leave.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke announced in the March budget that Australia’s permanent migration ceiling will be capped at 160,000 in 2022-23 despite the calls from the business community reporting significant barriers to getting hold of the skilled workforce they need to operate at full capacity.

Last year a Liberal-dominated parliamentary committee announced that about 20,000 workers on temporary visas would be given priority access to permanent residency as a reward for staying in Australia during the pandemic. The same would be given to migrants on employer-sponsored visas with competent English language skills and aged under 45. International student graduates who score impressive marks and work in a field with persistent skills shortages should also be eligible for fast-tracked permanent residency, the committee said.

Labor, on the other hand, also made immigration reform a key piece of its election policy agenda, vowing to end the nation’s dependence on temporary visa holders and make it easier for foreign workers to become permanent residents. Labor sources say the party wants to reform the partner and parent visa subclasses and crackdown on exploitation in the visa program for farmworkers. Labor wants to create an immigration system that favors permanent over temporary, with more pathways that allow people to come to Australia to settle, start businesses, build communities and raise families.

It must be considered that Australia's permanent Migration Program is carefully designed to achieve a range of economic and social outcomes that meet Australia’s needs, ensuring the quality of life is maintained without putting too much strain on services, systems, and infrastructure. The permanent Migration Program is planned annually, with program settings announced as part of the Federal Budget each year.

The Federal Elections are held on Saturday, 21st May.


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