Upcoming Immigration Changes 2023


Significant number of changes came into effect on 25 November 2023, these included;

  • a pathway through the 186 TRT stream to ENS SC 186 (and RSMS SC 187 in some cases) no matter which stream the applicant had been sponsored under on their TSS SC 482 or SC 457 visa
  • applicants holding SC 482 or 457 are now able to apply for SC 186/187 after two years with their sponsor, done from three years
  • applicants sponsored under Labour Agreements (LA) are also able to access these reduced time-frames, where they have not accessed concessions under the agreement.  Those who have accessed concession are required to complete the requirements for access to SC 186 visas as per the original LA
  • COVID concessions were also ceased on that date, without prior warning, which led to consequential amendments to a number of visa classes
  • SC 309, 820, 801 and 485 visas can now be granted no matter the location of the applicant at the time of grant
  • SC 309 visa applicants were given direct access to appeal to the AAT for review of visa refusals.

Given the impact of the cessation of the COVID concession, we recommend booking an appointment to discuss your case.


Skilled migration occupation lists review

Australia’s skilled visa programs are made up 3 main lists and which are currently being reviewed:

“One of the problems is that we are trying to attract highly skilled people but only being able to offer a short term visa with no permanent residency avenue. This will of course mean that a move to Australia is less attractive and we are more likely to lose that talent to other markets.

A positive outcome would be if they combine the lists and give the option of permanent residency to all skilled workers under the TSS.

The Department of Home Affairs has set 25 November 2023 for implementing changes to the employer-sponsored permanent residency program. Once the ENS reforms have been implemented, short-term Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) 482 visa holders will gain access to permanent residency under the 186 Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream of the ENS visa program.

The current skills list can be found here.

The last update to the current Skilled Migration Occupation List was made when the COVID-19 pandemic had just hit. Shortly after Labor Government has increased the number of permanent migration visas available in 2022-23 from 160,000 to 195,000 places.

Read more: Migration Program planning levels

Policy shifts for a new migration system

We need to build a new temporary skilled migration system, to ensure Australia has the skills we need to enhance our economic prosperity and security, by:

  • For the first time, creating proper, tripartite, regulated pathways for desperately needed workers, recognising the long-term labour shortages in our essential industries like the care sector, while maintaining the primacy of our relationships with the Pacific as a guiding principle
  • Building a mainstream temporary skilled pathway to bring in the core skills we need, using an improved approach to determining which skills we really need – doing away with outdated, inflexible occupation lists. This pathway will include skilled migrants above an increased temporary skilled migration income threshold (TSMIT), to ensure our migration system remains a program for skilled migrants, and wages and conditions of local workers are not undercut
  • Developing fast, simple pathways for the specialised, highly skilled workers we need to drive innovation in our economy and to help us build the jobs of the future

We need to reform the way we select those who are offered permanent residence:

  • Changing how we select permanent skilled migrants (reforming ‘the points test’) to focus on factors that best contribute to lifting Australia’s productivity, participation, and addressing our ageing population challenges, all while meeting our strategic security imperatives
  • Radically reshaping the Global Talent and Business Innovation & Investment programs, and building a new, simple pathway to attract the migrants we need to drive innovation

Making it simple and efficient for employers and migrants

We need a system that improves the experiences of people who interact with the migration system through:

  • Simplifying the system (e.g. visa categories, rules, requirements) and improving the user experience of employers and migrants
  • After addressing the most acute aspects of the visa backlog, continuing to make the system faster and more efficient through investment in IT, data and people capabilities
  • Placing small business on a more level playing field by exploring a switch to monthly employer fees and charges rather than a large up-front investment

We need an evidence-based approach to migration decisions, and better coordination and integration of the labour market, the training and education systems with the migration system. This means:

  • Establishing a formal role for Jobs and Skills Australia in defining Australia’s skills needs using evidence, including advice from tripartite mechanisms
  • Formalising feedback between the migration system and the training and education system to ensure labour shortages are dealt with in a comprehensive, planned manner
  • Once a formal role is established for Jobs and Skills Australia in our migration system, many of the drivers of complexity can be simplified and removed

Delivering outcomes for Australians and migrants post-arrival

Building on the work already underway within the Government, we need to create a new nation building endeavour with State and Territory governments to plan our migration intake, by:

  • Aligning investments in infrastructure, service provision and housing including ensuring joint action across governments to address barriers to increasing housing supply
  • Establishing a greater role for States and Territories in identifying their migration needs and priorities, especially in our regions

We need to improve the job readiness and outcomes of migrants, including international students, by:

  • Providing faster pathways to permanent residence for the skilled migrants and graduates we need
  • Recognising Australia’s place as a destination of choice for international students, we need to ensure that all international students are genuinely in Australia to study, including by tightening requirements and by strengthening the quality assurance of education providers
  • Reducing time international students spend on bridging visas by easing the path to graduate visas

Our system needs to provide greater protections for all migrants, and therefore local workers, by:

  • Reforming the policy settings that drive exploitation, including by increasing mobility to allow temporary migrants to move employers, and enforce their workplace rights, without jeopardising their ability to stay in Australia

We also need to restore the Australian values of integrity, fairness and inclusion at the heart of each stage of the system

We need to improve the integrity of the system, by:

  • Improving post-arrival monitoring and enforcement of wages and conditions to detect and prevent exploitation, including by investing in compliance resources and the use of Tax File Numbers by migrant workers
  • Strengthening the regulation of registered migration agents

We need to bring fairness back into the system, and address ‘permanent temporariness’, by:

  • Ensuring migrants have clarity on their prospects for permanent residence – whether that means staying here or returning home
  • Resolving some of the biggest caseloads of permanently temporary people such as New Zealand citizens and TPV/SHEV holders to ensure they can build a career and a family with clarity and a full connection to Australia
  • Providing clear pathways to permanent residence for temporary skilled visa holders We need to drive stronger inclusion of all migrants in our economy, by:
  • Improving and streamlining skills recognition, to help more migrants, including secondary applicants, enter the labour market at a level commensurate with their qualifications

Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189) New Zealand stream changes

Related: Direct pathway to Australian Citizenship for New Zealanders

Period of residence, income threshold and health requirements that have been streamlined and are no longer required to be satisfied by on-hand New Zealand stream visa applicants- applications open 1 July 2023:

The New Zealand stream criteria that no longer need to be satisfied by a primary applicant are those that previously required the applicant to:

  • be resident in Australia for a continuous period of at least 5 years immediately prior to the date of application, and that residence began prior to 19 February 2016; and
  • meet the taxable income threshold in relation to three income years within five years immediately before the date of application (including the income year that ended most recently before the date of application), or be exempt, for example due to care of a child who is to remain in Australia; and
  • satisfy Public Interest Criterion (PIC) 4007 relating to health

Family members of the primary applicant included in the visa application will also no longer need to satisfy Public Interest Criterion (PIC) 4007 relating to health.

Pacific Engagement Visa

A new visa will be introduced in July 2023 providing 3,000 places for eligible migrants from Pacific countries and Timor Leste. Spots for the

Pacific Engagement visa (PEV) will be allocated by a ballot process each year.

State requirements for 190 and 491 visa in 2023

  • State requirements for 190 visa
  • State requirements for 491 visa

Since Labor’s election win there has already been some significant changes to Australia’s migration policies.

485 visa COVID-19 replacement stream

Related: Extended Work Rights for Select Occupations and Qualifications

Important: This stream will be available for new applications from mid-2022. Further details will become available over the coming months. Please continue to check back for updates.

To be eligible, applicants must:

  • currently hold, or have held a Temporary Graduate visa that expired on or after 1 February 2020; and
  • have been outside Australia at any time between 1 February 2020 and 1 December 2021.

In normal circumstances, applicants can only be granted one Temporary Graduate visa, and a further visa is only available on the basis of regional work and study.

Cap removed for partner visas

In 2023, there will be no limit to the number of partner visas issued per year. It means that the processing time for partner visas will be much quicker and easier.

Change to priority processing time

New rules for visa processing time. Applications are being processed in the following order of priority:

  • Healthcare or teaching occupation applications
  • For employer-sponsored visas, applicants nominated by an Approved sponsor with Accredited Status
  • Those for a designated regional area
  • For permanent and provisional visa subclasses, visa applications that count towards the migration program, excluding the Subclass 188 (Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional)) visa
  • All other visa applications

New visas/ opportunities for Indian nationals

Australia Government has entered into a free trade agreement with India, which came into effect from 29 December 2022. This has several impacts on visas for Indian nationals:

  • No Labour Market Testing is required for TSS visa.
  • Australia to extend access to the Work and Holiday (subclass 462) visa to up to 1,000 Indian citizens each year.
  • Longer stay for Indian international students under new post-study work rights arrangements.

Related News

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35 Years or Under Age Limit for 485 Visa (50 for Masters by research and PhD)

Core Skills Occupations List (CSOL)

Bridging Visa R

Genuine Student (GS)

Mobility Arrangement for Talented Early-professionals Scheme (MATES)