Changes to Make Australia’s Skilled Work Visas Simpler

Skilled Migration to Australia: What’s Next?

Migration consultants around Australia are now preparing for the launch of new skilled visas this year.  The new skilled visas will follow the roll out of reforms to Australia’s skilled work visa system which were announced at the end of last year. How are these changes going to affect approved sponsors and sponsored employees? This is what we know so far.

Australian skilled work visas: Background to upcoming changes

Last year, the Australian Government released a review into Australia’s migration system. The Final Report of the Review of the Migration System described areas of Australia’s migration system as “dysfunctional, especially in the skilled migration space.” This included a massive backlog of visa applications waiting for decisions, layers of visa fees for sponsoring employers and onerous restrictions placed on visa holders.

In December 2023, the Government released its Migration Strategy which set out a roadmap to reform Australia’s migration system in 3 stages.

The first stage included immediately reducing the visa backlog and using skilled migration to meet Australia’s pressing skill shortages.

Skills In Demand Visa

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The measures included:

    • Making transition from temporary to permanent residency easier

The Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream of the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa became available​ to all Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa holders whose employers wished to sponsor them.

    • TRT eligibility change

Eligibility for the TRT stream was reduced from 3 years down to 2 years employment with the sponsoring employer.

    •  Short-term visa holders now have a pathway to permanent residency
    • Australia-UK Trade Agreement takes effect

Labour Market Testing (LMT) for 482 visas would be waived for UK passport holders being sponsored for certain occupations.

And the age limit for prospective UK backpackers on the 417 working holiday visa was raised from 30 to 35 years of age.

Plans for a Targeted Temporary Skilled Migration System

The second stage of the reforms are now getting underway. They include building a “targeted temporary skilled migration system” and beginning “the initial simplification of the migration system.”

Rolling out the “targeted” temporary skilled migration system includes introducing new skilled worker streams.


Skills In Demand Visa

Introducing the ‘Skills in Demand Visa’

The Skills In Demand visa will be a new 4 year temporary skilled worker visa. It is expected to launch later this year.  The new work visa is being designed to offer visa holders more mobility between employers and clear pathways to permanent residence.

The Skills in Demand visa will eventually replace the 482 visa. It will have some important differences to the 482 visa, including:

    • More simpler pathways to Permanent Residency
    • More time to find a new Job if the visa holder parts ways with their sponsoring employer
    • Employer sponsorship visa costs made more practical and less onerous, especially for small businesses and start ups
    • Faster visa processing times
    • The development of an Employer Sponsors register to help skilled visa holders find another employer who is an approved sponsor if they part ways with their existing sponsoring employer.


Core Skills Pathwa

Photo by Josh Olalde on Unsplash


As well as introducing the Skills In Demand visa, which will replace the 482 visa, the government is developing 3 other pathways targeting key skills.

Specialist Skills Pathway

This pathway will be a new streamlined approach to attract highly skilled specialists who will help ‘future-proof’ Australia’s industry and security. Think occupations like software engineers, cyber specialists and net-zero economy engineers.

It will, for example, help Australia attract highly skilled Engineering Managers who develop electrolysers to help with our transition to a net zero economy, Cyber Specialists who assist banks to respond to cyber-attacks and Software Engineers  who help Australia embrace the artificial intelligence transformation.

The Specialist Skills Pathway will be available to applicants who meet the general eligibility criteria (for example, be nominated by an approved employer, meet the health and character requirements) and who are:

  • in any occupation except trades workers, machinery operators and drivers, and labourers
  • earning at least $135,000 (the Specialist Skills Threshold) and no less than Australian workers in the same occupation.

Specialist Skills Pathway processing time: The Government will commit to a service standard of 7 days median visa processing time for workers in the Specialist Skills Pathway. “The achievement of this standard will ensure Australia’s migration system is among the most attractive in the world for highly skilled migrants,” the government says.

Core Skills Pathway

Unlike the Specialist Skills Pathway, trades workers, machinery operators and drivers, and labourers will be eligible under the Core Skills Pathway. However to qualify, their occupations will need to be on the Core Skills Occupation List based on advice from Jobs and Skills Australia. They occupations will also need to be paying salaries above the TSMIT (including for roles paid above the Specialist Skills Threshold).

Essential Skills Pathway

Photo by Caleb Ruiter on Unsplash


Essential Skills Pathway

Another pathway in development is the ‘Essential Skills Pathway’. This is being designed to address sponsoring overseas workers in jobs that remain vacant but offer salaries less than TSMIT (Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold.

Australia’s Aged Care sector, for example, faces a serious skills shortage. However the salaries offered are often less than the TSMIT.

To get around the salary barrier, employers can sponsor skilled workers from overseas via a Labour Agreement. Labour Agreements are bespoke agreements between employers and the Government. They give an employer special exemptions to the standard visa rules to enable them to access overseas workers to fill critical vacancies. (There are currently more than 1,800 unique labour agreements in effect).

The Government is still defining the Essential Skills but ” may give consideration to sectors and occupations that are vital to supporting the living standards of Australians and where persistent shortages exist.“  To remove any risk of exploitation, however, the government is looking at developing a more regulated pathway for lower paid workers with essential skills.

.The Government says it will be consulting on how to regulate migration for lower paid workers with essential skills by mid 2024.


The changes to temporary skilled migration to Australia will role out over 2024. The Skills In Demand visa will eventually replace the 482 visa. Although the Department of Home Affairs has not released a launch date for the Skills In Demand Visa, often new measures are introduced at the start of the new financial year.

Lots of questions still remain in the move to simplifying the system. For example, will there be changes to the skills assessments for Skills in Demand visas? Will there be changes to employers becoming accredited sponsors and approved sponsors? Will we see changes to visa fees?

Look out for more articles explaining the changes to Australia’s skilled visas.

What other questions do you have?


If you have questions about becoming a standard business sponsor, contact us today on Call: 1300 794 680



Migration Strategy

The Final Report of the Review of the Migration System

Department of Home Affairs