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Further information released regarding changes to Australian skilled migration in July 2012

by Matt 20/12/2011 16:50:00

The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) have released further information regarding the changes to the Australian general skilled migration system that are proposed to be implemented at the start of the next migration program year in July 2012.  

What is being proposed?

DIAC are considering making significant changes to the way a potential migrant submits an application for a skill-based Australia visa. From July 2012, it is proposed that the current system will be replaced with a two-stage application process under a selection register called 'SkillSelect' which is designed to ensure the Australian government selects the highest quality skilled migrants from a waiting pool.

This will affect all applications in the skilled stream, including visa subclasses 175 (independent); 176 (state/territory sponsored) and 475 (provisional) applications, as well as business skills visa applications.

See below for a diagram that illustrates how the SkillSelect process will work:

How will the new Australian visa application process work?

Prospective applicants will start by submitting an ‘Expression of Interest' (EOI). This is not an Australian visa application, but instead an indication made to DIAC that an individual wishes to be considered for migration. Prior to submitting the EOI, a prospective applicant will need to have obtained an appropriate skills assessment and any English language scores needed to ensure they would be eligible to apply, if invited to do so.

DIAC will note the points test score of the prospective applicant and the time the EOI was lodged. This will help DIAC rank the EOI. Each month, DIAC will invite applicants who rank the highest to apply for a visa. The first of these invitations are expected to be made on 1st August 2012.

How can I ensure my Expression of Interest ranks as highly as possible?

The precise criteria by which DIAC plan to rank EOI’s has not yet been confirmed in full, however it is clear that the points attained prior to invitation will be a determining factor in the ranking of an EOI, with those who score the most in the best position to be invited to proceed. Ranking will be determined electronically, and preference will be given to those who express their interest earliest.

Although points scores will be accessible, rankings will not be made available to the prospective applicant, and can be amended by DIAC at any time. An EOI can also be updated at any point prior to receiving an invitation. Having issued invitations each month, DIAC will make available the lowest score of a successful EOI for each occupation, which will provide an indication of the minimum score needed to maximise the chance of receiving an invitation.

What happens if I am invited to apply for an Australian visa?

DIAC will contact the applicant or agent directly to invite the prospective applicant to apply in earnest. Having received an invitation, a deadline of 60 days will apply to lodge the visa application, which will be submitted electronically through DIAC's online system.

A maximum of two invitations will be given before the EOI is removed from the pool if no application has been made. DIAC have yet to confirm precisely how the application process will proceed once an invitation has been made, however it is likely that further documents will be required along with a completed application form and associated fee. The application is then likely to be assigned to a case officer who will assess the application manually and liaise with the applicant or agent as necessary.

How is Australian state/territory sponsorship affected?

SkillSelect will make the pool of prospective applicants available to state/territory representatives, who will be given the opportunity to issue invitations for sponsorship in accordance with their own State Migration Plan. If sponsorship is agreed, the sponsored applicant will then be invited to apply for a visa.

Will this affect Australian visa processing times?

While processing times have not yet been confirmed, DIAC have indicated that each occupation under which an application can be made will be subject to a 'ceiling'. The ceiling will act like a quota, allowing DIAC to invite prospective applications in any occupation until the ceiling as been reached.

DIAC is conscious that the migration program can occasionally be dominated by specific occupations or industries and are seeking to avoid this from reoccurring. If the ceiling has been reached for any occupation, no further invitations for that nominated occupation will be allocated and no invitations for state/territory sponsorship will be issued until at least the next migration program year. EOIs will remain active for two years before they will expire if no invitation has been made prior to that point. Prospective applicants may then submit a fresh EOI which will be subject to the same procedure.

See below for a diagram from DIAC that illustrates how the ceiling process will work:

What should I do now?

At this stage, there are still significant areas which DIAC have yet to clarify. For example, no information has been released regarding the points test or how points will be allocated. We don’t yet know whether the core occupations on DIAC’s skilled occupations list will be amended. Additionally, no information has been released about the occupation ceilings, and it is unclear what period of time prospective applicants may be waiting for an invitation or for an invitation to move to a finalised application.

Given this uncertainty, Visa Bureau recommends that anyone wishing to apply under the visa streams affected lodge their application prior to the end of June 2012, when the current migration year will end. Applications lodged before this time should be assessed under the legislation in place at the point of lodgement, and will not be affected by changes to the application process implemented after that point.

Also, Visa Bureau clients should approach their caseworker to discuss in greater detail if they are unsure about any of this. Clients will be informed promptly of any updates that may affect their application.

Visa Bureau will be keeping a close eye on all information released from DIAC regarding SkillSelect and any changes proposed or updated. Prospective applicants wishing to benefit from the care of our experienced team of dedicated case workers are invited to get in touch through our assessment webpage, after which a consultant will be in touch to discuss your potential application in greater detail.

- Matt Parker is a 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.

Changes made to Australian migration agent regulations - make sure your agent is up to date

by Leonie 16/12/2011 13:55:00

The MARA Code of Conduct has
been updated for 1 January, 2012.

The Australian Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA) is the body that all onshore Australian migration agents are required to belong to, in order to provide Australia visa advice to potential applicants.

MARA is responsible for regulating migration agents and making sure that migration agents provide clients with the best possible service. Part of this is providing a Code of Conduct that agents must follow, which is updated on a semi-regular basis.

The latest updates to the Code of Conduct are scheduled to take effect on 1 January, 2012. You can download a copy of the new Code of Conduct here, but see below for a list of these changes, as well as a brief explanation for each of them:

Changes to the MARA Code of Conduct set to be made on 1 January, 2012

  • A requirement that notices and information to clients be in writing;

Note: A fairly simple one - this just means that in addition to information being conveyed by phone to clients, it will also need to be sent via email / post.

  • Removal of the statement in Clause 2.9 that “a Registered Migration Agent cannot be responsible for misinformation provided by a client”;

Note: Previously, if a client provided incorrect information as part of their visa application, it was possible for the blame to be placed solely on the client. However, this has now been removed, so an agent will now take responsibility for ensuring that all info provided by the client is accurate.

  • Removal of the words “seek to” from the statement in Clause 2.9A that “a Registered Migration Agent must not seek to mislead or deceive the Authority [MARA] whether directly or by withholding relevant information”;

Note: This is just a change to the semantics, really - the message remains the same, but with the removal of 'seek to', the clause that says an agent must be completely honest with a client is just made firmer.

  • Addition of “a review authority” to the Clause 2.19 requirement that “a Registered Migration Agent has a duty to provide sufficient relevant information to the Department to allow a full assessment of all the facts against the relevant criteria.” NB: This may be because of the number of review applications that are made without full submissions being provided;

Note: This addition has been made to accommodate for an independent review authority to be involved in the resolution of any disputed.

  • A requirement that Registered Migration Agents notify the Office of the MARA of changes to their registration details in advance, or within 14 days of the changes if advance notice would be unreasonable in the circumstances;

Note: This change has been made to ensure that MARA is aware of any changes to an agent's registration in advance, or as soon as possible.

  • A requirement that registered migration agents notify DIAC, Office of the MARA, any review authority and all current clients of any changes to the agent’s contact details in advance, or within 14 days of the changes if advance notice would be unreasonable in the circumstances;

Note: Again, this is a change that has been added to ensure that MARA is kept aware and up-to-date of an agent's details at all time and will be able to contact the agent when necessary.

  • Contracts with clients, now referred to as an "Agreement for Services and Fees", to include the services to be performed, the fees for the services, and the disbursements the agent is likely to incur as part of the services;

Note: This is a change designed to make the process of a client securing an agent's services as transparent as possible, so there is no confusion as to what services the fees will be for. 

  • Agents are not entitled to payment for immigration assistance unless the client has been given a statement that is consistent with the services, fees and disbursements in the Agreement for Services and Fees. The statement has to be an invoice or account which itemises each service performed and the fee for each service.

Note: This change is also designed to increase transparency and ensure that clients will only pay for work that has been performed by the agent.

What do these MARA changes mean? 

It's clear from these changes that MARA is doing its upmost to ensure that registered migration agents act in a responsible, transparent manner. It's also a reminder to any potential applicants for an Australia visa that the first thing they should do when choosing a migration agent is check whether they are registered with MARA.

At the Australian Visa Bureau, we currently have four registered migration agents on staff. You can find their details on our MARA page

Additionally, you can verify their registration status by going to the 'Find an Agent' section of MARA's website and search for them using their name, registration number or their place of work (i.e. Visa Bureau Ltd).

- Leonie Cotton 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.