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Australian immigration changes update: Points test discussion paper released

by Lauren 2/19/2010 10:57:00 AM

Australian immigration

The discussion paper includes a
huge number of possible changes
to the GSM points test.

After last week's changes to the Australia immigration General Skilled Migration (GSM) program, we've now seen the release of the promised points test discussion paper.

The paper raises a few questions which I thought were worth addressing.

What new information was provided in the discussion paper?

For the most part, the discussion paper doesn't provide any real answers as to what the future hold for the Australian skilled points test. It provides so many potential scenarios for the future of the points test that it's impossible to really understand what the current feelings of the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) are.

However, there were a couple of points raised that I thought were worth focussing on as examples of just how expansive the paper is and how many routes it opens up for the Department to take with the new points test.

See below for two sections of the discussion paper I've examined, with the parts I thought were most pertinent in bold:

"Should there be points for family sponsorship?

Allocating points for family sponsorship recognises the value of family settlement support. The current Points Test enables applicants with reduced employment prospects and lower levels of human capital to migrate. Birrell et al note that, "offshore migrants who are sponsored - especially those sponsored by family ... do least well in obtaining employment soon after arrival. Almost 30 per cent ... are not employed.

Furthermore, at least a quarter of those who are working are only employed part-time. While we cannot be completely certain of the reason for this lower rate of employment, it is likely that it is caused in part by the less stringent selection criteria that these two concessional categories requires."

The fact that DIAC is stating that migrants on a family sponsored visa 'do least well' upon emigrating comes as a surprise, because our experience has been almost the exact opposite; typically, anyone arriving in Australia with family members already there will benefit from their support and settle into their new life in Australia faster than migrants arriving independently or via state nomination.

Additionally, it's worth considering that before the introduction of priority processing, family-sponsored visa applications were often finalised the fastest out of all the GSM program pathways.

So, while the complete turnaround by DIAC is somewhat surprising, by potentially eliminating points test concessions based on family relations, they can take greater control of the type of individuals arriving in Australia through the GSM program and make the points test more focussed on skills and work experience as opposed to family relations.

"Points for Overseas qualifications

The current Points Test provides additional points to applicants with Australian qualifications, ranging from 5 points for meeting the Australian study requirement of 2 years study in Australia up to 25 points for a PhD completed in Australia. The points for Australian qualifications are in recognition of the general quality of Australian education, the fact that studies are conducted in English and that there is a significant period of acculturation and exposure to the Australian labour market and society.

Applicants with overseas qualifications do not accrue points for these qualifications even if the overseas education institution is recognised internationally as being of a very high standard. It could be argued that this may act as a disincentive for graduates from overseas institutions of a very high standard to apply for GSM.

Points for overseas qualifications could be considered commensurate with the current points for Australian qualifications or at a lower level, for example 5 points could be allocated for this factor per the points currently awarded for regional study.

It is recognised there may be challenges in extending the allocation of points to include certain overseas qualifications. Options to address these concerns could include:

  • confining points for higher degree qualifications to a specific list of higher education institutions (for example those within the world’s top 200 or top 500 as ranked) and courses which are directly linked to the SOL occupation of the applicant;
  • giving applicants with Australian qualifications additional points to reflect the labour market and social advantages of an Australian education;
  • some combination of the above (e.g. all qualifications from the selected 200 or 500 universities are given the same points as an Australian educational institution, possibly while also giving Australian universities on the select list additional points); and/or
  • requiring skills assessing authorities and/or professional bodies to attest to the standard of overseas qualifications (which may already be established through Accords or Agreements with international bodies).

If it is accepted that Australia’s interests are best served through maximising human capital in our economy, then the Points Test should be structured to attract migrants of the highest skill, including those with qualifications from internationally respected overseas institutions."

By allocating points for overseas qualifications according to how prestigious the university is, this seems to be going against the typical migration flow; while we see many highly-trained and qualified people applying for an Australian visa, the number of Cambridge and Harvard graduates is typically fairly minimal!

However, should this idea be taken further and introduced with the new points test, it could well benefit applicants from English-speaking countries. According to QS Intelligence Unit's list of the top universities in the world, approximately two thirds of the world's top 100 universities are based in countries where English is the native language.

What can be expected from the changed points test?

While I've highlighted these two sections from the discussion paper, I didn't do so because I thought they were more likely to be introduced as part of the new points test. Instead, the intention was really to demonstrate just how many changes are currently under consideration and just how impossible it is to determine what the end results will be.

However, it's clear that DIAC are considering making some very serious changes to the points test. Should you want to provide your comment on the paper, please be aware that any submissions need to be made by 12 March.

- 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.

Australian State Migration Plans: What the states and territories are saying

by Lauren 2/17/2010 5:10:00 PM

State Migration Plans are set to be a key part of the Australian General Skilled Migration (GSM) program, but there remains little information as to exactly what they will be and how they will work.

When the Australian immigration changes were announced on 8 February, 2010, it was said that 'state migration plans are developed by State/Territory governments and include occupations that are in demand in each individual state and territory. Each state migration plan is approved by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship.'

However, there wasn't any information on the State Migration Plans, beyond the indication that they would be launched in 'mid-2010'. To try and get a better understanding of what to expect, Matt Parker of the Australian Visa Bureau Casework Department approached each individual Australian State and Territory via email.

See below for the responses Matt received regarding the State Migration Plans from each Australian State and Territory:
WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Response:

"The State Migration Plan is being negotiated with DIAC. Please keep yourself up to date with information on our website which is http://www.migration.wa.gov.au/."


VICTORIA

Response:

"The Victorian State Government is still in the process of putting together a state migration plan. We are not privy to what is going to be included in this plan, therefore I unable to provide further information on who it will effect.

It is believed that the plan will be announced in the middle of the year, however it could be longer than this."


SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Response:

"State Migration Plans (SMPs)

  • At this stage the State Government has only received preliminary communication from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (Australian Government) regarding the concept of SMPs.  Therefore, at this stage we can provide very little information of use to prospective migrants or to migration agents acting on their behalf.
  • DIAC have made the decision that each State/Territory is to have a State Migration Plan which will be a formal signed agreement between the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship and each State and Territory Government. 
  • It is expected that the SMPs will identify occupations in which migration is required to supplement supply available from the local labour market.
  • The number of occupations to be included under the SMP is not yet known.
  • It is expected that an SMP will be introduced around the middle of 2010, however no date has been set by or agreed to by South Australia and DIAC.
  • None of the states or territories currently has a State Migration Plan.

Please monitor the Immigration SA (http://www.migration.sa.gov.au/) website for any changes."


QUEENSLAND

Response:

"To the best of my knowledge, no jurisdiction has yet developed a State Migration Plan. Queensland has commenced discussions with DIAC to clarify plan requirements, timeframes and other matters."


NEW SOUTH WALES

Response:

"DIAC is still in the process of consulting with State and Territory governments as what will comprise the individual States/Territory's migration plan."


NORTHERN TERRITORY

There has been no response to our enquiry regarding State Migration Plans from the Northern Territory as of today, 17 February, 2010.

However, any announcement made on State Migration Plans will most likely be made available on the Northern Territory skilled migration website here.


TASMANIA

Response:

"Tasmania’s state migration plan will be complete by the end of June 2010 but it needs to be approved by DIAC before it takes effect."


AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY (ACT)

Response (UPDATED 22 FEBRUARY):

"At this stage I don’t have a time frame for the new State Migration Plan – soon we hope (as in the next fortnight). The ACT Government will honour any sponsorship applications that have already been approved.  The State Migration Plan will encompass the current sponsorship program."

As you can see from the responses Matt received, the message seems to be that the individual States and Territories are still unable to provide any further information on the State Migration Plans for now.

However, it's interesting that all States and Territories reiterate that any plans are subject to the approval of DIAC, giving the impression that the Department will be taking a far more 'hands-on' approach to state sponsorship and migration, rather than let the States and Territories work autonomously.

When can further information on the State Migration Plans be expected?

Until DIAC finish consulting with the individual State and Territories on the approach to take to the State Migration Plans, it seems unlikely that further information will be provided. Therefore, we're assuming that it will still be at least a couple of months until they are revealed to the public.

With the State Migration Plans set to be a vital part of the new GSM process, we will keep monitoring the situation and provide more information as and when it becomes available.

- 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.

Relocation Down Under: Northern Beaches, Sydney

by Stephanie 2/11/2010 3:52:00 PM

The final episode of Phil Spencer’s programme Relocation: Phil Down Under airs this week, with Phil looking for a home for the Sharples family in Sydney.  

New South Wales, and the capital Sydney, is the most popular destination for Australian immigration: some 67,000 migrants moved there last year. The buzzing cosmopolitan city enjoys coastal breezes, long sandy beaches, and plenty of sunshine along with the benefits of being an international financial and fashion centre.

The week, Phil is helping three generations of the Sharples family find their first permanent home in almost a decade in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney.

The Northern Beaches extend almost 30 kilometres along the New South Wales peninsula from Barrenjoey Lighthouse to Manly with 22 stunning beaches, each with their own personality, along the way.

The most well-known on the Northern Beaches is the busy and popular tourist attraction of Manly, but there are other beaches such as the Pittwater beach to the north-west of the peninsula, a picturesque waterway with national park bushland surrounds, that belong to the locals.

Real estate along this peninsula has always historically been varied in price, although the price for anything near the water or with a view climbs steeply.

Australia’s most popular online real estate search website, realestate.com.au,  lists the pros of the Northern Beaches market as being the wide choice of properties, price range and areas, and with good local infrastructure and steady prices it’s a good investment. However, the Northern Beaches can be an expensive market to enter, due to the proximity to water and the lack of ability for the suburbs to expand due to the natural peninsular boundaries. 

For almost a decade Jon and Jeannette Sharples have been moved from one posting to the next with John's job in the military, and they are keen to finally have their own dream house although the move Down Under is their biggest yet.

Making things a little more complicated for Phil, Jon's mother Joan will be joining the family in Australia and will need her own space in the new home.

Despite the challenge, Phil also finds the time to do a spot of property searching for himself.

The last in the series Relocation: Phil Down Under screens on Channel 4 on  Friday, 12 February, at 8pm.

- Stephanie Bradley is Content and Communications Editor 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.

Major Australian immigration changes: MODL axed, new SOL coming

by Lauren 2/10/2010 6:55:00 PM

Australian immigration

Major Australian immigration
changes were announced by Chris
Evans, Minister of Immigration.

Even though major Australian immigration changes have been in the pipeline since the announcement that the Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) was undergoing a review, the announcement made by the Minister of Immigration, Senator Chris Evans, on 8 February, 2010 still came as a shock.

It was the immediacy of some of the announced updates that took many Australia visa applicants unaware, leaving many people on the pathway to Australian immigration confused and concerned whether they would will still be eligible.

While not every aspect of the Minister's announcement has been fully clarified, I've tried to provide an explanation below of exactly what changes were introduced, as well as interpret how they will affect visa applicants:

What Australian immigration changes were made on 8 February?

  • The Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) has been revoked, effective immediately.

    Before 8 February, 2010, Australian skilled migration applicants with an occupation on the MODL could gain a minimum of 15 extra points. With the list now revoked, all MODL points that were able to be claimed by having an occupation featured on this list are now no longer available (unless the applicant has already lodged).

    One way around this for applicants is for them to reconsider the visa subclass they are applying under. For example, by receiving sponsorship from an Australian State or Territory, it is possible to pass the points test with a score of 100 and apply for the Skilled - Sponsored visa subclass, as opposed to a score of 120 required for the Skilled - Independent visa subclass.

    Alternatively, there are alternative ways to gain additional points towards the points test. One way to do so would be to achieve a band score of 7.0 in all categories of an International English Language Testing Scheme (IELTS) test, which would help you score the maximum of 25 points for English language ability.
  • The Skilled Occupation List (SOL) is to be replaced mid-2010, at which time the Critical Skills List (CSL) will also be revoked.

    At this time, the intention for the new SOL seems to be to have it act as a tool that determines both the occupations that Australia is in demand of and the order in which Australia visa applicants will be processed.

    This new list is going to be compiled by Skills Australia with a view to provisionally release it in April, 2010, but it is unlikely that the new SOL will be fully finalised until mid-2010. At this time, the Critical Skills List (CSL) will also be revoked.
  • The Australian visa points test used to assess skilled migrants will be reviewed.

    A discussion paper on a review of the Australian GSM Points Test is currently being prepared, with a released date of 12 February, 2010.
  • State Migration Plans are currently being agreed upon between the states and DIAC (Department of Immigration and Citizenship).

    As yet there has been no guidance into what methodology will be applied or exactly when these plans will be implemented.

Am I going to be affected by the changes?

If you have yet to lodge your visa application, you will be affected by the changes. However, many applicants will have alternative visa pathways available to them (i.e. through state sponsorship), so it's hopeful that the vast majority will not become ineligible for migration as a result of this announcement.

What still needs to be clarified?

There are a few details that remain uncertain, such as when the new SOL will come into action (as there is some contradictory information in the information released), when information on the state migration plans will be issued, and whether any state sponsorships will ‘transferred’ to the new State Migration Plans if all the (as yet unknown) criteria is met. For example, Western Australia have said it is 'unlikely' that their state migration plan will be released until 1 July, 2010.

Without this information, it is impossible to provide accurate advice on the best way forward. Once these key issues have been clarified, applicants caught by the changes can give some proper consideration towards alternative solutions. 

When will further information be provided by DIAC?

Hopefully, further news will come to light before the end of the week (i.e. 12 February). As a company, we will be systematically assessing all our clients and personally informing them of their options, but this will only happen once we feel we have the necessary information to advise with confidence.

What do affected visa applicants need to do now?

At this time, it's easy to feel despondent that DIAC have once again 'moved the goalposts' and made it harder for many visa applicants to reach the standards required to emigrate to Australia. However, my advice remains the same as always; to remain calm and research all alternative options before making a decision.

Further details need to be provided regarding some aspects of the changes (especially the state migration plans), but I will make sure to provide more information as and when I receive it.

- 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.

Relocating Down Under to the Sunshine Coast

by Stephanie 2/4/2010 3:20:00 PM

Britain is still tightly in the grip of winter, but on Relocation: Phil Down Under this week things are decidedly warmer in the sunshine state of Queensland

Australian property expert Phil Spencer meets up with Mark and Amanda Daniels, who are house-hunting on the Sunshine Coast with a cool one million dollar budget.

The ample budget doesn’t mean Phil will find this search easy, as the Sunshine Coast is undisputedly one of fastest growing regions in Australia and the local property market has seen tremendous capital growth over the last decade.

Less touristy than the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast is still only around an hour or two from the capital Brisbane, with gorgeous beaches, expansive coastal views, a beautiful hinterland, and a growing economy.

Lifestyle on the Sunshine Coast is a major pull, but as well as the idyllic beachside living it also has excellent local schools, universities, roads, and other infrastructure.

The Mark and Amanda left behind their successful recruitment business in Devon to emigrate to Australia with their two children. They are keen get the most of their money and want a modern, open-plan home that is close to the beach,  with a minimum of three bedrooms, an office, and a pool for the active children.

Luckily, Phil has a few modern homes along the coast that might appeal to the family.

Relocation: Phil Down Under on Channel 4 on Friday, 5 February at 8pm.

- Stephanie Bradley is Content and Communications Editor 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.