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Australian immigration changes update: Points test discussion paper released

by Lauren 19/02/2010 10:57:00

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.

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