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Protecting Vulnerable Workers: Key Takeaway from the Immigration Law Conference 2024 

The recent Immigration Law Conference 2024, hosted by the Law Council of Australia, addressed a critical issue: protecting vulnerable temporary visa holders from exploitation. This article explores the key points raised by The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles MP, focusing on the steps that the Government is taking to address this challenge. 


Understanding the Issue  

The exploitation of temporary visa holders is a complex problem with far-reaching consequences. During his speech, The Hon Andrew Giles MP (Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs) highlighted the negative impact on both the visa system and workers’ rights.  

The Minister detailed the difficult situations faced by victims, including threats, confiscation of personal documents, and severe mistreatment. This exploitation not only harms individuals but can also lead to lower wages and worse working conditions for all workers. 


Albanese Government’s Approach  

The recent passage of the Strengthening Employer Compliance Act signifies a key step in prioritising tackling migrant worker exploitation. 

This legislation introduces criminal penalties for employers who exploit temporary visa holders and empowers authorities to take action against non-compliant employers, including restricting their ability to hire new migrant workers. 


Prohibition Measure   

From July, employers who are barred from sponsoring new workers will also be liable to become prohibited employers – targeting the business model used by some to undermine wages and conditions across Australia. They will not be allowed to hire new staff if those workers hold a temporary visa. Employers subject to a prohibition notice will be named on the Department of Home Affairs website and this will be communicated widely.  

Enhanced funding and structural reforms within the Home Affairs Portfolio emphasise a revitalised commitment to upholding the rule of law and protecting the rights of vulnerable workers.  


Pilot Programs: Workplace Justice Visa from 1 July 2024 

For some months, the Government has been developing two pilot programs to address the visa barriers preventing people from speaking up and seeking redress.  

Informed by a rigorous co-design process, the pilot programs will focus on introducing formal protection against visa cancellation – to give people the confidence they can report wrongdoing and seek redress, even if they have breached a work-based visa condition.  

A second pilot will test the concept of a workplace justice visa, designed to enable temporary migrants to remain in Australia while they seek workplace justice. The visa will provide a unique vehicle for those who have no other option.  

These pilots will not be work-arounds for people simply seeking to extend their stay in Australia. Eligibility criteria will be designed in a manner to promote visa integrity while also acknowledging exploitation is a scourge in the Australian labour market and must be addressed. 


Commitment to the Legal Framework   

The Government’s address at the Law Council of Australia’s Migration Conference underscores its firm resolve to combat the exploitation of vulnerable temporary visa holders.    

This commitment is manifested through a multi-pronged approach: legislative reforms, targeted enforcement actions, and empowering worker programs.   

Ultimately, these efforts aim to establish a framework for a more equitable and just society. Recognising the complexity of this issue, the government emphasizes the critical role of collaboration.   


Additional Announcements about the New ‘Skills in Demand’ Visa 

The conference included further announcements about the upcoming Skills in Demand Visa program that will replace the Temporary Skills Shortage 482 Visa. 

This new visa program, launching in late 2024, offers significant benefits for both businesses and skilled migrants:  

  • Validity: Valid for 4 years.  
  • Employee Mobility: Allows workers to switch employers without affecting their visa status.  
  • PR Eligibility: Any employment period with any employer will be counted towards permanent residency (PR) eligibility.  


The ‘Skills in Demand’ Visa comprises of three pathways:  

  1. Core Skills Pathway:
  • Focuses on occupations identified as having a national shortage or by Industry Training Organisations (ITO).  
  • Minimum salary above the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT).  
  • Streamlined Labour Market Testing (LMT) with considerations for its future removal.  
  • Includes trade workers and labourers.  


  1. Specialist Pathway:
  • Targets highly skilled applicants in non-trade occupations with salaries of $135,000, indexed annually.  
  • Streamlined processing with a 7-day turnaround time.  


  1. Essential Skills Pathway (Details to be finalised):
  • Focuses on occupations that cannot meet the TSMIT and those with access to Labour Agreements.  
  • Prioritises partnerships with Pacific nations.  
  • May remove regional pathways (possibly referring to visas 491 and 494).  


Ensure your business is always compliant with immigration laws. Absolute Immigration Legal establishes frameworks, conducts audits, and provides expert guidance throughout the regulatory landscape.  

 If you wish to discuss how we can help, contact Absolute Immigration Legal today at  

Author: Yen Wong 

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