Immigration law changes

Immigration Law Changes in Australia in Recent Years

With a net migration of over 300,000 people in 2023, Australia is among the top 10 countries to take the most immigrants!

Not only does the country offer lucrative job opportunities and a high standard of living, but it also has simple immigration laws that make it immigration-friendly. And with the recent changes to immigration laws, there’s much for immigrants to look forward to.

If you’re planning a move to the Land Down Under, here are all the recent changes to its immigration laws that you need to know. We strive to update it each year with the most significant changes, and as you scroll down the page, you will read about the latest modifications.

Australian Immigration Law Changes in 2017

Permanent Visa for New Zealanders

New Zealand nationals who’ve resided in Australia for at least five years since or before 19th February 2016 and meet minimum salary requirements can avail of all permanent residency options.

New Age Limit Requirements

As per the new rules, the age limit for a list of visas was reduced to below 45 years of age. These include:

At the time of application

  • Visa 186 Employer Nomination Scheme Direct Entry stream
  • Visa 187 Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme Direct Entry stream

At the time of invitation to apply

  • Subclass 190 Skilled Nominated
  • Subclass 489 Skilled Regional Sponsored
  • Subclass 189 Skilled Independent

However, this is not applicable to the subclass 189 Skilled Independent visa for New Zealand stream applicants.

New English Language Requirements

The English requirement for subclass 187 RSMS and subclass 186 ENS under the Temporary Resident Transition stream was raised to Competent English (IELTS 6.0 in all components or equivalent).

In addition, English language exemption for high-salary positions is only available for applicants employed by companies operating an established overseas business.

Mandatory Criminal Checks for 475 Visa

All 475 visa applicants must now submit Police Clearance Certificates for countries they have lived in for at least 12 months in the past decade.

Upgraded Skills Occupation List

The list of skills occupations was upgraded to focus more on recruiting foreign workers for high-demand occupations. In effect, many real estate and shipping roles were no longer part of the list. On the other hand, certain IT roles were upgraded from the 2-year category to the 4-year visa class.

In total, 36 occupations were added to the list, and 12 were removed.

Australian Immigration Law Changes in 2018

Global Talent Employer Sponsored (GTES) Program

The GTES scheme allows employers to sponsor high-skill niche positions that cannot be sponsored by Australian workers or via other existing skilled visa programs.

Employers can sponsor workers for a TSS visa under the GTES for an Established Business stream or Startup stream.

New Business Visa

The Australian Government introduced a New Business Visa that doesn’t require any capital sum or evidence of investment.

New Skilled Migration Stream for Western Australia

Western Australia introduced the new Graduate stream for the Skilled Nomination subclass 190 visa and Skilled Regional (Provisional) subclass 489 visa. Under this, applicants can nominate a non-medical-related occupation in Western Australia.

Changes to Point-Based Immigration System for GSM Visa Categories

The threshold for the Skilled Migration Points Test for the General Skilled Migration (GSM) visa categories was increased from 60 to 65.

Australian Immigration Law Changes in 2019

New Visa Categories

In 2019, the Government of Australia introduced three new visa categories:

  • Regional Provisional Skilled Work Subclass 491 Visa
  • Employer-Sponsored Regional Subclass 494 Visa
  • Skilled Regional Subclass 191 Permanent Residence 494 Visa

On the other hand, two old visa categories (below) were scrapped.

  • Subclass 187 Visa
  • Subclass 489 Visa

New Temporary Sponsored Parent Visa

Under this visa, migrant parents can apply to stay in Australia for up to 5 years. The visas are renewable for a combined maximum of 10 years.

Newly Designed Family Sponsorship Framework

With the passing of the Migration Amendments Bill of 2016, the Australian Government introduced a new sponsorship framework for family visas. This new framework involves a longer two-step application process wherein the first step involves an assessment of sponsors.

This assessment ensures that only allow approved sponsors can apply for a visa and that sponsors cannot abuse vulnerable family members.

New South Australia Visa for Start-up Entrepreneurs

South Australia introduced a new visa pilot program for start-up entrepreneurs looking to establish businesses in South Australia. This program allows start-up entrepreneurs to apply for temporary visas with vocational language proficiency only.

Australian Immigration Law Changes in 2020

Updates to the Australian Citizenship Test

Australia updated its Citizenship Test to focus on Australian values for the first time in over a decade.

Australian Immigration Law Changes in 2021

Reopened Borders

The Australian Government reopened its borders to all fully vaccinated eligible visa holders starting 15 December 2021.

Updates to South Australia Business and Investment Program

Two key steps were removed from the South Australia Business and Investment Program application process. These include:

Australian Immigration Law Changes in 2022

Removal of COVID-19 Restrictions

When visiting Australia, travellers must no longer complete a Digital Passenger Declaration to declare their COVID-19 vaccination status.

Increased Places for Permanent Migration Program

The Australian Government increased the places for the permanent migration program from 160,000 to 195,000 places for skilled, family, and special eligibility visas.

Easy Pathways for Temporary Residents to Apply for Permanent Residence

The new changes will make it easier for the following visa applicants to get permanent residency:

  • Temporary skill shortage visas
  • Temporary graduate visas
  • Working holiday maker visas

New Opportunities for Indian Nationals

A free trade agreement between India and Australia allows Indian nationals to enjoy benefits such as:

  • No Labour Market Testing is required for a TSS visa
  • Longer stay for Indian international students
  • Extension of access for up to 1,000 Indians per year for (subclass 462) Work and Holiday visa

No Limits on Partner and Child Visas

The Australian Government has removed all limits on the number of partner and child visas, making the assessment process much faster.

Australian Immigration Law Changes in 2023

Changes to Processing of Visas

The Priority Migration Occupation List was scrapped in 2023. It enabled faster assessment processes for:

  • Healthcare and teaching occupation applicants
  • Employer-sponsored visas for applicants nominated by Approved sponsors with Accredited Status
  • Applications for a designated regional area
  • Provisional and permanent visa subclasses, applications that count towards the migration program, excluding subclass 188 (Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) visa
  • All other visa applications

Priority Processing for New Zealanders

Priority processing of Skilled Independent (Subclass 189) visa for New Zealanders living in Australia. New Zealanders living in Australia will also benefit after restrictions are dropped.

State-Sponsored Visas

Larger regional allocation for state-sponsored visas, with increased relaxation for most of the criteria.

Pacific Engagement Visa

Australia is set to introduce a new visa for eligible migrants from Pacific countries and Timor Leste. The new visa will provide 3,000 places every year, which will be allocated via a ballot process.