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Response to DIAC's changes to Australian visa priority processing

by Martin 9/25/2009 12:05:00 PM

Many skilled visa applicants will be left in
limbo after DIAC's changes to Australian
visa priority processing.

The decision by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) on Wednesday of a snap change in the order of processing priorities (as covered in a previous blog) has surprised and angered many migrants.

Indeed, a state general skilled migration manager frankly admitted in a seminar for migration agents that she was surprised and had no knowledge of the decision before DIAC made the change in priority processing. She admitted that the impact of the change had not yet settled in, that the states were already asking DIAC for more information, and there were fraught weeks ahead for Australian immigration.

"Fraught weeks ahead for Australian immigration"

As yet, neither DIAC, nor the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Senator Chris Evans have issued a press release about the changes. The change may be interpreted as a kneejerk reaction to immigration concerns by the Federal Government facing an election in the near future.

The change, made this week with no prior warning, and created with a lack of consultation with state and territory immigration departments makes little practical sense in our opinion.

This move effectively overrides the states’ carefully researched and state-specific occupations in demand lists, giving greater importance to the Australian Critical Skills List (CSL) and leaving some state sponsored applications facing up to three years for processing.

It was only a few months ago that DIAC announced a slowdown in processing Australian skilled visas (with the exception of applicants who were either employer sponsored, state sponsored or who had a nominated occupation on the CSL). In that change in June, applicants with an occupation on the Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) were to be considered fourth in the line of priority processing, followed by all other applications in date of lodgement order.

Until yesterday, state sponsored visa applications were given high priority, and once DIAC received and approved a nomination from a state or territory authority, the processing of the application typically commenced within 10 working days.

It was considered unlikely that applications from the first three groups would be exhausted in the 2009-10 program year, and so the final two groups faced a wait of at least another year for processing, unless they applied for and received sponsorship from an Australian employer, or a state or territory.  Many migrants who were in the position to do this changed their pathway in response to this new priority list, switching their application to be for a state or territory sponsored visa.

Since the June processing change, the states’ immigration departments have consulted industries and employers, and designed and tweaked their occupations in demand lists in record time.

For the Federal Government to now decide to process state sponsored applications after four other categories of applications is a complete oversight or breakdown of communication between the states and the Federal Government.

"Complete oversight or breakdown of communication between the states and the Federal Government"

One of the main issues in Australian immigration is regional development, and the state sponsored occupations in demand skills list was designed to supply regional employers with skilled workers in a flexible and supportive way. Western Australia, in the middle of a second resources boom, is in desperate need of mechanical and electrical engineers and technicians. The Western Australian Treasurer Troy Buswell confirmed recently that the state’s has a AU$316 million budget surplus, thanks in part to a 19 per cent jump in the state’s minerals and petroleum exports and record prices for the commodities.

Western Australia has a very different list from New South Wales, a state home to 80 per cent of multinational pharmaceutical companies in Australia and in need of skilled professionals in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and information technology.

The Government have stated that they want the migration program to more tightly target Australia’s skills needs. The CSL is an Australia-wide shortage list whereas the individual state shortage lists are, by definition, much more targeted than the CSL. So, for the Government to decide that state sponsored applications without an occupation on the CSL are unlikely to be processed for three years makes a mockery of their stated intention to more tightly target skills shortages

This new priority processing order will be almost unworkable on a state level, and I can only assume that a further announcement will be made, after lobbying by the states, to redress this situation.

"New priority processing order will be almost unworkable on a state level"

It is possible that the Federal Government has received so many state sponsored applications in the past few months that they are actively seeking to stem that pathway with difficulties, to discourage further Australia visa applicants.

Perhaps the Federal Government, facing up to three years processing time for some applicants and constrained by the precedent law on the MODL lists which gives favour to the applicant over the change in occupations on the list, is wanting to rid themselves of this ineffective tool and seek to address labour shortages by circumventing the MODL with the CSL or a similar Australia-wide list.

This change in Australian visa processing priorities may be a precursor to a bigger change hinted in the two recent issues papers released in relation to the scheduled Migration Occupations in Demand List review (the first of which we covered in this blog, and the second of which we looked at in this blog) and a complete overhaul of the structure of skilled immigration to Australia. 

Any way you look at this recent change it seems badly researched, ill conceived, poorly managed and a step backwards for Australian immigration policy.

- Martin Beveridge is a Migration Consultant 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.

Huge changes to Australia visa processing priorities made by DIAC

by Jodie 9/23/2009 6:26:00 PM

DIAC released a new order of priority
processing today that is set to affect
many Australia visa applicants

We received another update today regarding the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) processing priorities for Australian skilled visas and a new set of changes that have been made

What changes have been made to the Australia visa processing priorities?

Formerly, state nominated visa applications were marked as high priority and were typically entered into processing within a few weeks of state sponsorship confirmation. However, DIAC today released a new order of processing priorities.

Please understand that these changes only affect the time it takes your visa to be decided, and not your visa eligibility. See below for the new order (with the highest priority listed first):

  1. Applications from people who are employer sponsored under the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) and the Regional Skilled Migration Scheme (RSMS);
  2. Applications from people who are nominated by a State/Territory government AND whose nominated occupation is listed on the Critical Skills List (CSL);
  3. Applications from people who are sponsored by family and whose nominated occupation is listed on the CSL;
  4. Applications from people who are neither nominated nor sponsored but whose nominated occupation is listed on the CSL;
  5. Applications from people who are nominated by a State/Territory government whose nominated occupation is not listed on the CSL;
  6. (i) Applications from people whose occupations are listed on the Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL); OR
    (ii) Applications from people who are sponsored by family and whose nominated occupation is not listed on the CSL;
  7. All other applications are to be processed in the order in which they are received.

What does this mean for Australia visa applicants?

The new order of processing priorities puts much greater importance on processing applications with a nominated occupation on the CSL. The following information further clarifies the new timeframes for both CSL-listed and non CSL-listed applications:

"APPLICATION ON THE CSL

If your nominated occupation is on the CSL and you have applied for an onshore or offshore GSM visa it is estimated that your application will be finalised within 12 months from your lodgement date.

APPLICATIONS NOT ON CSL

If your nominated occupation is not on the CSL and you have applied for an offshore GSM visa it is unlikely that your visa will be finalised before the end of 2012."

Essentially, anyone without a nominated occupation on the CSL will have to wait a considerable time before DIAC finalises their visa application. However, DIAC have announced that they are currently undertaking a Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) review (which we've discussed on an earlier Visa Bureau blog) which could result in further amendments to the processing priorities.

One potential outcome of the MODL review could be the introduction of the Future Skills List; a new targeting mechanism which could replace both the MODL and the CSL as the tool used by DIAC to determine the priority of visa applications.

What should I do at this time?

With the MODL review still in the pipeline, it's unlikely that these will be the last changes made to General Skilled Migration for now. Therefore, the best thing for all applicants to do is to stay calm and continue working towards their visa lodgement.

Additionally, while less priority has been placed on applications which are state sponsored, I would still advise continuing your application for state sponsorship if you have yet to do so. Possessing state sponsorship is still considered beneficial and would place in you a higher position than you would otherwise be in.

This information has just been announced today by DIAC and it has come as an enormous surprise to both migration agents and visa applicants alike. We'll post a more extensive blog providing comments on these changes soon, as well as any further updates we receive as the situation progresses.

- Jodie List is a MARA-registered migration agent 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.

Western Australia skilled sponsorship update - new fee for applicants

by Lauren 9/22/2009 11:16:00 AM

From 23 September, a non-refundable fee
of AU$220 will be charged by the WA govt.
for sponsorship applications.

We received news yesterday that, from 1pm on Wednesday 23 September, a non-refundable fee of AU$220.00 will be charged by the Government of Western Australia for anyone lodging a skilled sponsorship application.

Applications lodged prior to this will not be required to pay the fee but, as the Western Australia Skilled State sponsorship online application system will be suspended until Wednesday 23 September, any applications not already lodged will be subject to this fee.

We are currently unsure whether the Government of Western Australia will be adding any additional requirements or criteria to the sponsorship application process. However, we will post further updates on the blog as we receive more information.

- Lauren Mennie is Casework Department Manager 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 sponsor checks introduces as part of sponsored Australia visa process

by Lauren 9/17/2009 11:09:00 AM

A police check from the Australian Federal
Police is now required for anyone acting as the
sponsor of a visa application including a minor.
(Image: Australian Federal Police).

As of 16 September 2009, the sponsors of Australian child visa applications and Australian partner visa or prospective marriage visa applications which include a minor applicant will be required to provide a National Police Check as part of the assessment process.

The results of the National Police Check will be used by the department to ensure that children seeking to enter Australia are protected from being sponsored by people with convictions for child sex offences or other serious offences indicating that they might pose a significant risk to a child in their care.

This new requirement applies to new applications as well as any existing applications that have not already been decided.  Therefore, if you have yet to have your Australia visa application approved, your sponsor will be required to provide a National Police Check.

Will these checks lead to processing delays?

The requirement for sponsors to obtain an Australian National Police Check may lead to some delays in finalising existing visa applications. These are expected to be relatively short for the majority of cases where the result of the check does not indicate any significant convictions.

For new applications, it will be open to the sponsor to obtain the Australian National Police Check prior to making the visa application if they wish to do so to speed up processing of the visa application.

How can my sponsor obtain an Australian National Police Check?

An Australian National Police Check may be obtained from the Australian Federal Police. Information on obtaining the check is available from the AFP website (www.afp.gov.au/business/national_police_checks).

 

- Lauren Mennie is Casework Department Manager 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 government migration legislation set to put the pressure on UK work permit sponsors

by Marissa 9/10/2009 2:24:00 PM

The employer sponsorship licence is vital
for any employer acting as a UK work
permit sponsor

Earlier this week, it was announced that new UK immigration measures will be introduced by the government to "ensure the UK economy remains strong and skilled migrants who are offered positions in the UK fill genuinely needed skills shortages".

The changes mean that, starting from next year, all jobs must be advertised to British workers in Jobcentre Plus for four weeks before companies can seek to employ individuals from outside Europe; an increase of two weeks on the previous requirement.

While the changes are part of a wider overhaul designed to improve the UK's ability to quickly adjust the immigration stream according to changing economic circumstances, I have a few concerns that this new rule will do just the opposite.

The immediate effect that I can assume the Home Office is anticipating is that UK employers will be forced to invest far more time and effort in trying to find skilled candidates from within the resident labour market, as opposed to directly sourcing workers from abroad.

However, the rigid nature of the changes means that even employers looking for very specific workers will still have to go through the 4 week recruitment process. If an employer already knows that workers with a certain skill-set are not available locally, the new requirements will just cost the employer and result in the vacancy remaining unfilled for longer.

The impact of this new legislation on a company could be significant, as they will be forced to delay a new hire for the sake of a formality. In an already unstable and unsure economy, this seems counter-productive to the needs of many British businesses.

The best advice I can give for UK businesses looking to hire non-British workers is to ensure that they have every other aspect of the migration process set and ready, to best avoid any delays. 

The first step for a work permit sponsor should be that they have their employer sponsorship licence in place, as without this, a UK company is unable to hire workers from outside the EU.

- Marissa Murdock is Casework Department Manager for the UK 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.

MODL review update: Future Skills List detailed and Australian visa change timeframe given

by Lauren 9/10/2009 12:04:00 PM

More details have been released regarding the
MODL review set to make huge changes to the
skilled Australia visa program in 2010.

 We covered the first issues paper in a previous blog, but yesterday saw the Australian Government release the second issues paper for the Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) review. 

Full details won't be available for some time, but the second issues paper does provide a little more explanation on what migrants and migration agents can expect from the review and the impact it will have on Australian General Skilled Migration (GSM).

What new information regarding the MODL review is in the second issues paper?

The most pertinent new information in the second issues paper is regarding the Future Skills List.  The Future Skills List is set to be the replacement for both the MODL and the Critical Skills List (CSL) as the tool used to select applicants with high value skills, and the Government is now considering three potential options:

  1. No Future Skills List in the GSM process

    The first option is not to have an occupational targeting mechanism at all, essentially scrapping any scheme where applicants with 'in-demand' skills receive additional points towards their GSM points test. This would help ensure that the program is not filled by applicants with a narrow range of occupations and remove the perception from some applicants that having an MODL-listed nominated occupation provides an 'easy' avenue towards permanent skilled migration.

    However, the drawback is that there would then be no method to ensure a positive migration outcome for those who fail to meet the Points Test requirements by just a few points.
  2. Future Skills List as component of GSM Points Test

    This option would see the MODL tied into the GSM points test, where applicants with recognised skills in a MODL occupation are awarded 5 points or 10 points where they had a job offer. A significant reduction of the points value would put less emphasis on the MODL as the best way to obtain a GSM Australia visa, while still rewarding applicants who have 'in-demand' skills.
  3. Future Skills List replaces the CSL as a prioritisation mechanism

    This option would have the Future Skills List essentially replace the Critical Skills List (i.e. applicants nominating an occupation under the Future Skills List would have their application receive priority processing).

    However, while this would give the occupations in demand priority, it has the same drawbacks as removing the Future Skills List from the GSM process.  Additionally, it could see applicants with high Points Test scores being processed some time after applicants with lower Points Test scores who happen to have an occupation on the Future Skills List.

When will the MODL review be decided upon and the changes introduced?

The results of the review are still scheduled to be handed to the Australian government in October, 2009.  Additionally, the following section from the second issues list now gives us some idea of when and how the changes will be introduced:

"All three options for integrating a new Future Skills List with the GSM assessment process require complementary changes to the Points Test. A sensible transition period would need to be established to ensure a smooth administrative implementation and to provide potential applicants with adequate notice of changes to the eligibility requirements.

It would also be sensible to look to align any changes to MODL with DIAC’s plan to transition from using ASCO to ANZSCO as a basis for the SOL in the first half of 2010."

So, it can now be assumed that all the changes we previously anticipated will all be made, and the Government is hoping to launch all the changes as part of one, unified overhaul to the Australian migration program in early 2010.

However, with so many changes involved, it seems very possible that they'll be forced to stagger them over a series of months and some could arrive sooner than expected.  Until some more concrete announcements are made, it's hard to put too much stock in any prospective timeframe.

What does Visa Bureau advise applicants to do at this time?

Again, the message remains the same; critical changes to the Australian visa application process are coming and all visa applicants should work quickly towards lodging their visa application, if they have not already done so. Further information will be announced on our blog as and when we receive it.

- Lauren Mennie is Casework Department Manager of 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.