CANBERRA, AAP – The number of migrants able to come to Australia each year could increase once COVID-19 border restrictions are eased.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has indicated the annual migration intake next year could be scaled up to help fill vacancies in key industries.
It comes as the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry called for skilled migration numbers to almost double to 200,000 people a year.
“We’ve got great flexibility to make sure we are meeting more skill shortages,” Mr Hawke told ABC Radio National on Wednesday.
“Calls for an increase we understand, given there has been a lag, but what we’re talking about here is carefully evaluating how many Australians we can get into work, how many people can enable Australians to get into work, and filling critical shortages.”
Last year, a cap was set of 160,000 people, which was mostly filled by applications for partner visas in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions.
A cap of 160,000 people has also been set for this year.
“What this means is when we open the borders, most of that will come from November 1 onwards, and we will see good numbers of skilled migrants,” Mr Hawke said
International travel is set to resume on November 1 in NSW, but will be limited to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their families at first.
Skilled workers, international students and visa holders will be allowed to come into the country at a later date, followed by international tourists.
Migrant employment and training company AMES Australia said the boost to skilled migration caps would lead to a post-COVID economic boost.
Chief executive Cath Scarth said the pandemic-induced hiatus on skilled migration was a chance to improve the system.
“We are seeing labour shortages across the nation as a result of COVID, so it is clear that migration is going to play an important role in our economic recovery,” she said.
“We know that early and intensive support for migrants shortly after their arrival gets them into work commensurate with their skills and qualifications much more quickly.”