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Australia to overhaul immigration system, smooth entry for skilled workers

Australia to overhaul immigration system, smooth entry for skilled workers
People walk in front of the Sydney Opera House, Australia on Nov 2, 2016.
PHOTO: Reuters

SYDNEY - Australia proposed on Thursday (April 27) overhauling its immigration system to speed up getting highly skilled workers into the country and smoothening the path to permanent residency.

The federal Labor government said the current system used to select skilled migrants - the points test - will be modified to identify people with the correct skill sets the Australian economy needs going forward.

"Our migration system is broken. It is failing our businesses, it is failing migrants themselves. And most importantly, it is failing Australians. That cannot continue," Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil said in a speech at the National Press Club.

Australia has been competing with comparable countries, like Canada and Germany, to lure more skilled migrants, with the surge in demand exacerbated by an ageing population.

The government said the visa process for high-skilled professionals will be made quicker and easier, while steps would be taken to retain international students.

Temporary skilled visa holders, who had been denied even the opportunity to apply for permanent residency, will be able to do that by the end of this year, O'Neil said. But it will not add to Australia's annual intake of permanent migrants, she said.

In September, Australia raised its intake of permanent migrants to 195,000 this financial year, up by 35,000, to help businesses battling widespread staff shortages and pledged more staff and funds to speed up visa processing.

From July 1, the government said it would raise the migrant wage threshold of temporary skilled workers to A$70,000 (S$61,941) from A$53,900, stuck at the same level since 2013.

Around 90 per cent of all full-time jobs in Australia are now paid more than the current threshold, leading to the exploitation of migrant workers, the government said.

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