IMGs may win an easier path to permanency

4 minute read

The way Australia selects migrants for permanent residency is due for a shakeup, with skilled workers top of the list.

Overseas-trained doctors may be in for a slightly easier ride to permanent residency in Australia, as the Home Affairs Minister signals incoming changes to the visa and immigration system.

Australia’s rural general practice workforce relies heavily on being able to attract and retain doctors who earned their primary medical degree overseas.

ACRRM and RACGP statistics indicate that between 40% and 50% of GPs working in rural and regional areas are overseas-trained.

Speaking after national cabinet on Friday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed that changes were on the way, and also indicated that state and territory ministers had endorsed an independent review of overseas health practitioner regulatory settings.

“We need to make sure that … people with qualifications can actually participate and provide healthcare in this country,” Mr Albanese said.

RACGP president Dr Nicole Higgins welcomed the review announcement, which she said was a path to “ease the bureaucratic headache for practices”.

“It’s particularly important for rural and remote areas, which rely disproportionately on foreign doctors,” she said.

“Go to any rural or remote practice and ask a GP or practice manager how difficult it can be to bring in a GP from overseas and get them set up to actually start working.

The review will be separate to the broad reforms announced by Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil on Thursday, following the release of an independent review into Australia’s migration system.

The new system will create regulated pathways for “desperately needed” skilled migrants and overhaul the “points test” for permanent residency.

“The formula we use to determine which temporary migrants get the chance to become a permanent resident, and eventually a citizen, doesn’t help us select for the skills and capacities we need to build Australia’s future,” Ms O’Neil said.

“The upshot is this: Australia’s migration system has become dominated by a very large, poorly designed, temporary program, which is not delivering the skills we need to tackle urgent national challenges.”

Ms O’Neil specifically called out the health and aged care sectors as in need of more skilled workers.

Doctors on temporary skills shortage short stream visas will also be eligible for permanent residency within the capped program.

Dr Higgins said that, while the RACGP would like to see more of the detail, simplification to the migration system was welcomed.

“Clearer pathways to permanent residency would also help make Australia a more attractive destination for international medical graduates,” she told The Medical Republic.

“We are continuing to call for the government to reinstate the subsidy for international medical graduates to work as a specialist GP in Australia.”

The other tweak to the system that may work in favour of overseas-trained doctors is a lift to the temporary skilled migration income threshold.

Currently, in order to obtain a temporary skilled migration visa, people had to earn more than $53,900 per year.

From 1 July, they will have to earn a minimum of $70,000 per year.

From the end of the year, all temporary skilled workers will have a pathway to permanent residency, but the cap on the number of permanent residency places available each year will not increase.

In a roundabout way, lifting the skilled worker income threshold will decrease the competition for the capped permanent residency places for migrants on higher salaries, like doctors.

“By lifting the temporary skilled migration income threshold we are lifting significantly the integrity of this skilled worker program and making sure that the people who are here are actually going to be in our workplaces helping lift the productivity and the capacity of Australian workers,” Ms O’Neil said.

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