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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.

DIAC announce processing update for Australian visa applications stuck in 'category 5'

by Matt 25/11/2011 18:14:00
Applications for skilled migration to Australia are currently categorised into one of three priority groups, each with an associated processing timeframe set as per a Directive drawn up by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. The application will sit in that priority group until it is allocated to a case officer, who will begin assessment of the information and documents provided.

The three Australia visa priority groups sit behind two faster employer-sponsored streams, so the skilled migration groups are subsequently labelled groups 3, 4 and 5. According to the existing Priority Processing Directive drawn up in July 2011, the timeframes for processing of general skilled migration visas are currently as follows:



Category 3 (sponsored as part of a State Migration Plan)

12 months (low risk countries)

Category 4 (occupations in high demand)

18 months

Category 5 (all other applications)

Once all other applications have been finalised.

Applicants who find their applications allocated to category 5 have not been given a specific timeframe by which they can expect their application to be finalised, and are instead at the mercy of the categories above them. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has now released fresh information that may help to put the timeframe into some context for those waiting.

Although DIAC's site confirms that no category 5 applications are currently being allocated to case officers, fresh statistics have been announced indicating that there are currently 42,631 applications in category 5 which have yet to be assessed. Of these applications, 64% were lodged from within Australia, and DIAC have announced that they will be processing these first (starting with applications that have been in the queue the longest).

DIAC have confirmed that processing of category 5 is likely to occur within the current migration program year, which runs until 30 June 2012, starting with onshore applications made prior to September 2007 before moving to offshore applications made at the same time. This should give a degree of comfort to applicants who continue to wait in hope for news of progress in their allocated priority group.

DIAC has been careful to note that processing of applications in category 5 will continue to depend on the number of applications received in higher priority groups, and is subject to any changes made to the Processing Direction.

Consequently, although this is a positive sign that DIAC is aware of the ever-growing period of time applicants in this category have had to wait and are indicating that things may start to move in the coming months, offshore applicants who with applications lodged after September 2007 may continue to face a significant wait before case officers are allocated.

Applicants who submitted their application prior to 1 July 2010 may have an option to apply for state sponsorship and subsequently move into priority group 3. Visa Bureau clients should approach their caseworkers with any concerns or to discuss this 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.

Dozens of new occupations added to Western Australia's State Migration Plan

by Matt 15/09/2011 16:51:00

Western Australia has added dozens of occupations
to its State Migration Plan (SMP).

Since the beginning of July, which marks the start of the Australian immigration program year, we have been waiting for the various States and Territories in Australia to release updated lists of occupations they are willing to sponsor as part of their State Migration Plans (SMPs). Visa applicants who work in an occupation listed by a state in Australia can apply to become nominated by that State, prior to the lodgement of their visa application.

The government of Western Australia (WA) has today released an updated version of its SMP. Dozens of new occupations have been added, giving sponsorship opportunities for anybody with eligible work experience in these fields. Would-be applicants with suitable experience in occupations listed on WA’s new SMP, as well as existing applicants for permanent residency that were lodged prior to 1st July 2010, now have the option of applying to WA for sponsorship.

You can find the full list of occupations on the WA State Migration Plan by clicking here.

What are the benefits to being sponsored under a State Migration Plan?

One of the main benefits of being sponsored under a State Migration Plan is how it will affect visa processing timeframes. Applicants whose occupations appear on this list will be assigned, or re-assigned, into Priority Group 3, according to the current processing directive. This means that these applicants should see their applications finalised in approx. 12 months after lodgement, or as soon as possible if their existing application has already be lodged longer than that.

In addition to WA, both South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory have both released updated SMPs. We continue to wait for the remaining areas of Australia to make amendments to their existing lists and Migration Plans. 

There are a limited number of visa places available for sponsorship and lists are amended when occupation places become limited or full, in line with economic needs of the State. We therefore suggest that anyone with an interest in decreasing the processing time of their application, and with an option for sponsorship, acts quickly to avoid disappointment.

Visa Bureau clients will be contacted by their case worker where a new option for sponsorship has become available, and should contact their caseworker if in any doubt as to sponsorship availability or procedure.

- 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.

Submitting the health assessment for your Australian visa application with eHealth

by Matt 14/09/2011 16:19:00


eHEalth is now mandatory for Australian
visa applicants from the UK and Ireland.

As of 1 August 2011, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) have classified the UK and Ireland, along with 12 other countries, as places where anyone applying for an Australian visa that is part of the General Skilled Migration (GSM) program must submit their health assessments electronically.

This must be done using the Department’s 'eHealth' system. eHealth will be mandatory for all applications, with the only exceptions being for employer sponsored visas (ie. subclasses 457, 119 and 121).

What is eHealth?

DIAC’s eHealth service has been operating in ten countries since 2005. However, until this point, it has not been a mandatory requirement for applicants from the UK and Ireland.

eHealth results in significantly faster processing of medical results, since it is a paperless submission procedure, allowing panel doctors (authorised by DIAC) to submit examination results and upload photos and chest X-Rays directly to the DIAC office assessing their application.

The panel doctor will use the information provided by the applicant to log on to DIAC’s eHealth system, locate the application, and submit health assessment results when they are ready. This information is received by DIAC instantly, and the Department claim that 75 percent of results are ‘auto-cleared’ with no manual intervention. The remaining 25 percent have a processing timeframe of just 48 hours, with many processed and finalised in minutes.

How does this affect the documents I can provide at the time of lodging my Australian visa application?

Those applying for family or partner-based visas should note that health assessments can no longer be provided at time of application lodgement, and will be requested after the application has been lodged by the case officer assigned to assess the application.

At that point, applicants for these visa types will be provided with a specific reference number (referred to as a HAP ID) which they should provide to the panel doctor at the appointment.

DIAC intends to enable eHealth globally and we recommend applicants use the facility where it is available. The fourteen countries in which panel doctors should now supply health assessments electronically are as follows:

Bangladesh Brazil Colombia (Bogota region only) Hong Kong Macau Ireland Malaysia
Nepal Singapore South Korea Taiwan Thailand United Kingdom Vietnam

Visa Bureau clients will be sent the relevant eHealth forms to take to their appointment at the appropriate time by their case worker, and should contact their caseworker if there is any uncertainty about how eHealth affects their application.

- 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.

Australian 2010/11 migration program - how many sponsorship places are available for the next year?

by Matt 20/10/2010 16:30:00

Currently, only Tasmania and the ACT have
provided information regarding the exact
number of sponsorship places they have
been allocated for the 2010/11 program.

Earlier this year, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) revealed their initial planning level figures for 2010/11 (running from 1 July, 2010- 30 June 2011). These figures indicate the number of Australian visas the Australian federal government will allow to be granted across the entire migration program, and more specifically, the allocation given to the various different type of visa categories within the program.

How do the 2010/11 planning figures compare to the 2009/10 figures?

Compared to planning level figures for the 2009/10 period, some visa categories for the 2010/11 period have a slightly higher figure allocated to them. For example, the figure allocated to employer sponsored visas has risen by 26%. Other areas have seen reductions made, such as the figure for family sponsored visas, which has dropped by 72% compared to 2009/10 numbers.

One update that should be of considerable interest to many Australian skilled visa applicants is that the figure allocated to State and Territory sponsored visa applications has more than doubled compared to last year’s allocation, currently standing at 23,000 allocated places for 2010/11.

What does the new quota for State and Territory sponsored applications mean?

It's important to understand that the figure of 23,000 allocated places will be split between the different States and Territories in Australia, and as applications of this kind are finalised by DIAC, the quota will gradually be filled.

However, through recent contact with DIAC and state government representatives, we have learnt that state sponsored applications that have not yet been processed by DIAC will form part of the quota for the year they are finalised. As a result, an applicant that obtained state sponsorship and lodged their visa in 2008 that received a visa grant in the 2010/11 program year will be part of the states quota for 2010/11.

Theoretically then, it's possible that the number of state sponsored visa applications that have been not been finalised by DIAC could exceed this year’s allocated quota of this visa type. Should they meet the planning level before the end of the 2010/11 year, any further applications of this type might not be processed until the following year. It should be noted that the partners and dependants of applicants will also count towards each state’s quota.

How have the 23,000 allocated places been distributed between the Australian states and territories?

We have approached all the states and territories in Australia, and asked them to confirm the number of sponsorship grants they have been allocated for 2010/11, so we can see how the overall quota of 23,000 is distributed across the different states and territories in Australia.

In addition to this, we have asked each state and territory to confirm how many sponsorship applications they have approved, which have yet to be finalised by DIAC, in order to gain a better insight into how close each area is to filling their quota for this year and how close DIAC are to meeting the planning level for state sponsored visas.

As of 21 October, 2010, we have received the following responses from the Australian States and Territories:


  • Queensland have not been forthcoming with precise figures, as they’ve said their planning levels form part of their migration plan, which has not yet been signed off. However, a representative for the State said he "does not believe that the proposed planning levels for Queensland are likely to cause a problem".


  • Tasmania have confirmed that, pending the federal government’s approval, they will be allocated 700 sponsorship places, made up of 460 listed occupations and 240 off-list places.

    To date, the number of granted and on-hand applications totals 220, leaving a total of 480 places available for sponsorship in the 2010/11 allocation.

New South Wales

  • New South Wales have referred us to their website, and declined to comment on what they state is part of their forthcoming migration plan.

Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

  • The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) have confirmed that they have been allocated 1740 spaces, which they’ve said equates to roughly 720 sponsorship places available, after the partners and dependants for applicants have been taken into account.

    They have confirmed that they have 690 applications either pending or already granted (but not yet finalised by DIAC), meaning their quota of 720 spaces for 2010/11 is essentially already full. The ACT has already taken the decision that any future application for sponsorship under their migration plan will be processed by DIAC in the 2011/12 year.

South Australia

  • UPDATED 21/10/2010: South Australia has declined to provide information on their allocated quota or the numbers of visa applications they have already nominated for sponsorship which have yet to be finalised.

    However, they have confirmed that certain occupations have already reached their quota number and are no longer available for sponsorship in the 2010/11 program year. Check the South Australia website for the most recent updates on which occupations will not be considered for the current year.

As the different states in Australia respond, this blog entry will be updated.

- 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.

South Australian interim sponsorship list announced for Australian visa applicants

by Matt 21/09/2010 17:31:00

Migrants who wish to live and work in South Australia
could be eligible for sponsorship under the new
Interim Sponsorship List announced.

Immigration South Australia has announced they will shortly be accepting new sponsorship applications from migrants with selected occupations who wish to live and work in South Australia.

Migrants with occupations on the South Australian Interim Sponsorship List, which will be used until the South Australian State Migration Plan and associated list is implemented, will be able to apply for sponsorship for an Australian Visa in the very near future.

Some of the occupations included on the interim list include electrician, plumber, dentist, dental hygienist, registered nurse, midwife, project builder, taxation or management accountant.

A 140KB PDF document containing the full South Australian Interim Occupation List can be downloaded here.

For eligible sponsorship applicants looking to progress their application quickly, news that sponsorship is now obtainable from South Australia will be very welcome as it provides a way to avoid the growing delay for the South Australian State Migration Plan

If you have already submitted a complete application for South Australian state sponsorship AND your occupation is included in this Interim List, your application will be processed accordingly. You do not need to send a new application at this stage.

To be considered for sponsorship an applicant must have an occupation on the South Australian State Sponsorship Interim Occupation List and must be able to meet all other state sponsorship criteria.

UPDATE 28/09/2010: South Australia are now accepting new applications for sponsorship, with their website now updated with the following information:

"Immigration South Australia will be accepting new applications for sponsorships for skilled migrants who wish to live and work in South Australia.
While we await the finalisation and implementation of the State Migration Plan and the State Sponsored Migration List (SSML), the on-line application form is re-instated to offer sponsorships for a limited number of occupations that have been identified as priority skills for our State."

- 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.

ANMC clarify assessment criteria for nurses emigrating to Australia

by Matt 16/07/2010 12:55:00

Clarification has been provided for
nurses applying for a skills
assessment with the ANMC.

Good news for nurses looking to have their skills assessed as part of the Australian visa application process! The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council (ANMC) has today provided clarification to Visa Bureau on their assessment criteria when nominating a nursing specialisation for a pre-migration skills assessment under the ANZSCO coding system.

Although not yet updated on ANMC’s website, in responding to a query regarding the amount of work experience required for applicants nominating a specialised area of nursing, and whether qualifications in that specialisation are required, the ANMC confirmed the following:

"The ANMC will require evidence of at least three months (full time equivalent) paid work experience in a specialty, within the last five years. They do not necessarily need post graduate qualifications in the chosen specialty, but if they do, documentation should be included. If this standard cannot be met, the applicant [can be] assessed as a general nurse."

This is good news for nursing professionals looking to nominate a specialised occupation, as the requirements for doing so at a skills assessment level are relatively easy to meet. It also confirms the route for nurses who cannot meet this requirement, or who are not nominating a specialised area. 

We are continuing to liaise with skills assessment bodies where appropriate to clarify and confirm assessment requirements, and will update this blog as and when information becomes available.

- 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.

Australian States and Territories react to DIAC suspending General Skilled Migration

by Matt 10/05/2010 13:34:00

After last week's announcement from DIAC that they would be suspending the General Skilled Migration (GSM) program, we knew that the changes would impact every level of the Australian immigration process; the only question was how quickly other immigration stakeholders would react and whether they'd follow DIAC's lead in suspending their activities for the timebeing.

We began by looking at the immediate reactions of the Australian States and Territories, who play such an instrumental role in the Australian sponsored visa application process.

See below for how each Australian State and Territory has reacted to DIAC's suspension of the GSM program:


Western Australia hasn't made any official statement regarding the suspension of the GSM program, but they appear to have blocked all online applications through the display of the following message on their website:

"Online visa applications are suspended until further notice."


13 MAY UPDATE: Victoria have responded to DIAC's announcement by suspending their own offshore application process until 1 July.

"If your sponsorship application is in process, and you have not lodged a visa application, the application will remain in process however a decision will not be made at this time. You will be advised of any change to this situation and it is requested that you do not  enquire on the progress of your application. 

If you lodged your visa application with DIAC prior to 8 May 2010, however did not include this information in your sponsorship application, you should advise the Skilled and Business Migration Program by 21 May 2010. No further information will be accepted after this date."

The Victoria state government have also made clear that they will be unable to answer any queries concerning visa suspensions, and that applicants with any concerns should direct their concerns to DIAC directly.


While South Australia first announced that they would only suspend the processing of sponsorship applications received after 14 May, this appears to have been superseded by the following announcement:

"Applicants under the General Skilled Migration Program should be aware that DIAC has made an announcement today suspending all Offshore GSM application. Please direct any enquiries on this matter to DIAC via your nearest Australian High Commission and not to Immigration SA.
As a result, Immigration SA will also be suspending processing all Offshore Sponsorship applications, until further notice. However, Onshore sponsorship applications will proceed at this stage."


Queensland have updated their website with the following statement, although it still remains unclear as to what they're going to do:

"On Monday 8 February 2010, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, announced changes to the Australian Government Migration Program. Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) eligibility is a condition of Queensland nomination to a Skilled Sponsored or Skilled Regional Sponsored visa and other sponsored visas. Please check the DIAC website to see if these changes apply to you."

One interpretation is that once the new Australian Skilled Occupation List (SOL) comes out, they will deny sponsorship to anyone not on it, even if they have lodged with DIAC beforehand.

12 MAY UPDATE: I recently heard from a representative of Queensland that they have ceased processing 176 and 475 nomination applications unless applicants can demonstrate that they had lodged a 175 or a 176 visa application lodged with DIAC on or before 7 May 2010.

They also say they are in the process of sending an email to all nomination applicants they have on hand that have not been finalised.


New South Wales has updated their website with the following statement, announcing that they will be immediately suspending applications for sponsorship for the duration of the GSM program being suspended:

"On 7 May 2010, the Australian Government announced that it would temporarily suspend the acceptance of applications in some offshore visa classes until 30 June 2010. These visa classes include:

  • Skilled Sponsored 176 visa
  • Skilled Regional Sponsored 475 visa

As a result of this decision, Industry & Investment NSW will not accept applications for NSW sponsorship in these visa classes until after 1 July 2010."


There has been no response to the suspension of the GSM program from the Northern Territory as of today, 10 May, 2010.

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


Tasmania have made the following announcement that they will be suspending all sponsorship applications from today, 10 May, 2010 to 3 July, 2010.

"The Tasmanian Government will be suspending the assessment of applications for offshore Skilled Sponsored (SS) subclass 176 visas and Skilled Regional Sponsored (SRS) subclass 475 visas between Monday 10 May 2010 and Friday 3 July 2010.  The suspension will take place whilst the Tasmanian Government reviews current sponsorship policies.  During this period the assessment of all other sponsorship applications will remain unchanged."


Everything on the ACT skilled migration website appears normal, and the online form was accessible. 

When can further information be expected?

Assuming that the news of the GSM program's suspension was as much of a surprise to the States and Territories as it was to us, then it's unsurprising that many of them have yet to provide any official statement on how they will respond. However, judging by the reactions we have seen, it seems that most of them will suspend the processing of sponsorship applications ASAP.

It will also be interesting to see if this affects the formation and introduction of the State Migration Plans. For now, we will keep monitoring the situation and provide more information as and when it becomes available.

- 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.

Taking stock of the Australian visa changes and looking ahead at what's to come.

by Matt 28/04/2010 15:11:00

More Australian immigration
changes are on the horizon

The last twelve months have been a turbulent time for Australian immigration policy. We've seen change upon change announced by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), as the Australian government continues to restructure its Australian visa legislation and processing structure to best reflect its economic needs and skill shortages.

While some policies, schemes and lists are phased out, and other new policies are considered and introduced, the effect on individual applicants can often be confusing and frustrating.

That's why I'd like to clarify the upcoming changes that are most pressing for anyone preparing to lodge an Australian skilled visa application. It's vital that any Australian visa applicant be aware of what they need to do right well and the timeframe within which they have to do it, in order to avoid being caught out by policy changes that might affect their skilled visa eligibility.

While you may already be aware of much of this, I would still encourage that you read through and remind yourself of what you need to be getting on with right now.

What is happening with Australian immigration?

2010 is shaping up to be another year of substantial visa changes. DIAC have already removed the Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) from the skilled migration process, resulting in the elimination of any additional points granted to applicants in MODL occupations.

DIAC has also announced that they are preparing to introduce a new Skilled Occupation List (SOL) in 'mid 2010'. Currently, we are anticipating full details of the SOL to be released very soon, with a predicted date of 1 July, 2010 for its introduction (as this has typically been the case in previous years).

We are also awaiting the introduction of State Migration Plans, which are currently being drawn up between each individual Australian state and territory, DIAC, and the immigration minister. Beyond these specific changes, consultations continue to take place concerning a review of the points-based system.

In the midst of all this, states, territories and skills assessment bodies continue to adjust and tweak their policies and procedures. In a nutshell, as regular readers of the Visa Bureau blog will be all too aware, this is be a disconcerting time for those invested in the process.

Will I be affected by the changes?

Any change to legislation that affects your eligibility could have a direct and unavoidable impact on your ability to apply for an Australian skilled visa until your central visa application is submitted to DIAC.

There is a silver lining, however; in the recent past, DIAC have implemented changes with immediate effect and without any warning. On this occasion though, they have announced their intentions before introducing them.

As a result, applicants now have a window of opportunity in which to finalise any remaining elements of the application that need to be completed before lodging the main visa application itself.  Provided the application is then lodged before the changes are implemented, you should stand a better chance of avoiding any negative impact from legislation changes.

What should I do now?

Even though 1 July, 2010 is the time when we expect more changes to be implemented, it should not be treated as a definitive deadline by which to lodge your application. However, I would still advise all visa applicants to keep this date in mind and work quickly towards lodging their visa application.

Once you have received a positive skills assessment result and state sponsorship (if applicable), your focus should then be on completing and lodging your application as soon as possible.

- 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.