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Employer sponsored Australian visas eliminated for regional industry

by Tony 5/15/2009 12:47:00 PM

It's never a dull moment in the world of Australian visas, as further changes to the employer sponsored (subclass 457) visa program came into effect today (15th of May, 2009).

The changes saw the removal of some occupations from the standard sponsorship arrangements for regional based employers. The occupations affected by this change include all occupations listed under Major Groups 5 to 7 on the Australian Standard Classification of Occupations (ASCO), which includes occupations in the tourism, clerical and agricultural industries.

As a result, the only way for regional employers to now sponsor workers in the removed occupations is through a Labour Agreement. This is an agreement that must be formed with both the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR).

This is the second major reform to the 457 visa program to be implemented in recent weeks, and it follows the increase in the English language requirement on April 14.

While DIAC say they want to allow regional employers to be able to employ temporary migrants in these less-skilled occupations, they've also clearly made the decision to ensure that any influx of migrants doesn't undermine employment opportunities for locally trained workers.

The Labour Agreements are designed to provide a means for industries experiencing skill shortages to bring in foreign workers, while also ensuring that the recruitment of migrants doesn't affect the long-term improvement of employment opportunities for Australians. However, there has been increased rigour applied to the consideration of any request made for a Labour Agreement.

Commenting on the changes, a departmental spokesperson said: "This change will ensure employers using the 457 visa program to gain access to these occupations satisfy all their obligations under the program, including those on training."

This isn't the first time that DIAC have made changes to Australian visas to force the regional sponsorship of an occupation through the Labour Agreement system, as they have done the same thing previously with Truck Drivers (due to specific concerns with that industry). However, that was limited to just one occupation; today's changes now mean that all occupations under Major Groups 5 to 7 on the ASCO can only be recruited from overseas by means of a successful Labor Agreement, meaning the impact on the number of Australian visas granted to employer sponsored workers could be significant.

- Tony Coates is a Migration Caseworker for the Australian Visa Bureau

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

New Australian Budget slashes skilled migration intake

by Tony 5/12/2009 2:46:00 PM

The 2009-10 Australian Budget was released today, which came with the announcement that the 2009-10 Australian skilled migration program has been slashed by a further 6,900 places. As a result, the skilled migration intake now stands at 108,100 places for the next year; over 25,000 places less than the migration program initially set as part of the 2008-09 Budget.

The news shouldn't come as much of a surprise, considering the pressure the Australian Government has been under recently to focus on securing 'Australian jobs for Australians' and make migration cuts in this time of economic strife. Even though March saw the 2008-09 skilled migration program capped to 115,000 places, further reductions seemed inevitable.

In addition to the cutback in places, the Government also announced that the English language level required for trades-related occupations would be increased. Previously, skilled visa applicants in trades occupations who were NOT passport holders of the UK, Ireland, the US, Canada or New Zealand were required to score at least 5.0 out of 9.0 in each of the 4 competencies (listening, reading, writing and speaking) of an IELTS (International English Language Testing System) test. However, from 1 July 2009, these same applicants must now score a higher score of at least 6.0 out of 9.0 in each of the 4 competencies.

The core message of the 2009-10 skilled migration program seems to be that the changes implemented earlier this year are here to stay. I refer specifically to the emphasis put on government-sponsored visa subclasses over the independent alternatives, as applicants for the Skilled- Sponsored (subclass 176, State) visa will continue to be fast-tracked and this subclass will remain uncapped.

The CSL (Critical Skills List) will also remain in place for those people seeking to migrate to Australia without a sponsor, but no further occupations have been added or removed.

The hardest thing to predict will be the processing timeframes for applicants who are not state-sponsored or applying under a CSL-listed occupation. For the two lowest priority groups (i.e. applicants who are applying under an occupation listed on the MODL (Migration Occupation in Demand List) and applicants who are not MODL-listed and are applying for an independent or family-sponsored visa), I would expect to see some movement with these cases come 1 July 2009.

Unfortunately, applicants in these groups will still have their applications under the threat of being suspended until July 2010, especially if there is an abundance of applications that are state-sponsored and/or CSL-listed. Should this backlog of low priority applications grow too high, we should be prepared for such significant changes as the removal of occupations from the MODL and possibly even the visa subclass pass marks being raised.

So, while processing times might look bleak for low priority groups currently, I would urge that anyone who would fall into one of these lower priority groups to apply for their visa now, as their continued eligibility under the Australian skilled migration program cannot be guaranteed.

- Tony Coates is a Migration Caseworker for the Australian Visa Bureau

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

New Australian skilled migration list changes announced

by Tony 5/7/2009 11:28:00 AM

A new Australian Skilled Occupation List (SOL) has been announced that will take effect from 15th May, 2009. No occupations have been added or removed, but there has been a technical change that could affect the Australian skilled migration process for applicants in certain trades occupations.

All Australian skilled migration applicants are required to have their skills acknowledged and approved by a skills assessing body. From the 15th of May, workers in a number of key trades occupations will now have an additional assessing body to choose to be assessed by, but only if they are NOT resident in a recognised country.

Before, applicants who were NOT resident in a recognised country could only be assessed by TRA (Trades Recognition Australia). However, the assessing body VETASSESS (Vocational Education Training and Assessment Services) has now been approved as a co-assessing body for these applicants in the following trades:

Please understand that it is only applicants who are NOT resident in one of the 'recognised countries' who will be eligible to be assessed by either VETASSESS or TRA (Trades Recognition Australia).  Residents of the UK, India, Sri Lanka, South Africa and the Philippines will not be able to have their skills assessed by TRA and must instead be assessed by VETASSESS as usual.

While this change might seem slight, it has the potential to have a very profound effect on the Australian skilled migration process for a number of applicants. 

For example, before 15th May 2009, an electrician, not resident in one of the recognised countries, who lacks the required formal qualifications to get through Pathway A, B or C with the TRA, but has evidence of at least 4 years training, would be forced to apply to TRA through the only other TRA option - Pathway E. This can be an expensive and lengthy process, as it requires that the applicant undergo a workplace assessment with an Australian Registered Training Organisation (RTO) and obtain a relevant AQF Certificate III.

From 15th May 2009 though, that same electrician will now have the option to apply to have their skills assessed with VETASSESS. This will require that they travel to the UK (or other recognised country) to complete a practical assessment, but avoids the necessity of applying to the TRA and could save time and money.

Please note though, there is no change to the skills assessment process for residents of the UK and residents of other recognised countries, as VETASSESS remains the only assessing body they are eligible for.

My personal view is that this change was pushed for by VETASSESS, as they are probably not getting the number of applicants they initially expected. Whether VETASSESS have plans to organise practical assessments in other countries remains to be seen – I presume it will depend on the demand.

A definite possibility would be for VETASSESS to arrange for the skills assessments to be undertaken in Australia. This would then allow all temporary residents of Australia to use them as the assessing body for these trades, and also allow overseas residents of non-recognised countrie to travel to Australia especially for the assessment.

- Tony Coates is a Migration Caseworker for the Australian Visa Bureau

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.