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Australian Visa and Immigration Changes

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8 February 2010 - Australian Visa Changes

On 8 February, 2010, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, announced the following major Australian visa changes to the General Skilled Migration program:

Removal of the MODL

On 8 February 2010, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, announced the outcomes of a review of the Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL).

The review found that the existing MODL needed to be revoked and replaced by a more targeted skilled occupations list to better meet the demands of Australia’s labour market. The revocation of the current MODL will not affect those who at the date of announcement:

As this change has taken place immediately, the Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) has now been revoked and will no longer play a part in the Australian visa application process.

Therefore, anyone who has not already lodged their skilled Australian visa application will not receive additional points on the basis of their nominated occupation being on the MODL.

New Skilled Occupation List from mid-2010

"On 8 February 2010, the minister also announced the replacement of the current Skilled Occupation List (SOL) in the second half of 2010, with a new list of targeted occupations determined by the independent body, ‘Skills Australia’. As the new SOL will be a comprehensive, targeted list, the current Critical Skills List will be revoked.

The new SOL will come into effect from mid-2010 and will apply to all applicants lodging visa applications made on or after this date, except to GSM applicants who at the date of announcement ( 8 February 2010):

Full details regarding the new Skilled Occupation List (SOL) are yet to be given, but the intention for it seems to be to replace both the MODL and Critical Skills List (CSL), and act as one list to define both:

In this sense, it appears similar to the previously announced (but never introduced) Future Skills List. The new SOL will be introduced mid-2010, at which point the current CSL will be revoked.

GSM applications lodged before 1 September 2007

"Under section 39 of the Migration Act 1958, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship has the power to set a maximum number of visas of a class that may be granted in a particular financial year.

On 8 February 2010, the minister announced he would set a maximum number of offshore GSM visa applications made before 1 September 2007 that could be granted. Once this number is reached, any applications awaiting a decision will not be considered and the application returned to the applicant or their authorised recipient. These applications will be taken not to have been made.

Refunds of the visa application charge (VAC) will be made to the payer of these charges for affected visa applicants."

Through the introduction of this legislation, it is anticipated that approx. 20,000 backlogged visa applicants who lodged their application before 1 September 2007 will have their application returned and removed from the process, and their application fee refunded.

These were the major Australian visa changes that came about as the February 8 announcement, but further updates and initiatives were also mentioned or hinted at, including:

All these changes are set to define the Australian immigration landscape for the foreseeable future. Click here for the Australian immigration changes blog for further comment from our Australian Casework Department Manager.


1 September 2007 - Australian Visa Changes

 Australia's new Immigration Minister announced changes to the General Skilled Migration (GSM) programme which have come into effect since the 1st of September 2007.

The English language threshold requirement for all GSM visas will increase.

The points test will be adjusted to benefit applicants with advanced Australian tertiary qualifications, Australian skilled work experience and strong English language skills.

The changes also include major structural reforms 15 skilled migration visa subclasses will collapse into nine.

Subclasses:

Scheduled to come into action on 1 September 2007 the 15 subclasses will collapse in to nine.

Changes to Visa Subclasses
Old Sub-class structure New Sub-class structure
Skilled - State/Territory Nominated Independent (subclass 137) – as permanent visa pathway from SIR Skilled – Regional (subclass 887)
Graduate - Skilled (subclass 497) Skilled – Graduate (subclass 485)
Skilled – Independent Overseas Student (subclass 880) Skilled – Independent (subclass 885)
Skilled – Australian-sponsored Overseas Student (subclass 881) Skilled – Sponsored (subclass 886)
   
Skilled – Designated Area-sponsored Overseas Student (subclass 882) Skilled – Regional Sponsored (subclass 487)
Skilled – Independent Regional (subclass 495) ONSHORE Skilled – Regional Sponsored (subclass 487)
   
Skilled - Independent (subclass 136) Skilled – Independent (subclass 175)
Skilled – Onshore Independent New Zealand Citizen (subclass 861) Skilled – Independent (subclass 175)
   
Skilled - State/Territory Nominated Independent (subclass 137) Skilled – Sponsored (subclass 176)
Skilled - Australian-sponsored (subclass 138) Skilled – Sponsored (subclass 176)
Skilled – Onshore Australian sponsored New Zealand Citizen (subclass 862) Skilled – Sponsored (subclass 176)
   
Skilled – Independent Regional (subclass 495) OFFSHORE Skilled – Regional Sponsored (subclass 475)
Skilled – Designated Area-sponsored (subclass 496) Skilled – Regional Sponsored (subclass 475)
Skilled – Onshore Designated Area sponsored New Zealand citizen (subclass 863) Skilled – Regional Sponsored (subclass 475)

English Language

The points test has been adjusted to award more points to applicants with very strong English language skills

An applicant with proficient English scores 25 points, since September 1st.

An applicant with competent or vocational English (if applicant has trade occupation) or competent English (if the applicant applied for a Skilled Regional Sponsored visa) scores 15 points.

To gain the maximum of 25 points the applicant is required to score a minimum of 7.0 on the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) in each of the four components or an equivalent level in an OET exam (where sat as part of the skills assessment).

15 points is awarded if the applicant:

Work Experience

From 1st of September 2007, GSM applicants who have completed at least 12 months skilled work experience in Australia in their nominated occupation or closely related occupation are awarded 10 points. Work undertaken before the completion of your degree, diploma or trade qualification will not be considered.

Recent work experience for offshore GSM visas is the same for all applicants. The two year study requirement in the past six months must be met and the applicant will have to demonstrate that he/she has been employed in a skilled occupation for at least 12 out of the past 24 months.

GSM applicants is only able to claim MODL points if they have been employed in that occupation or closely related occupation for at least 12 months in the past four years.

Skilled – Graduate Visa

This temporary visa has been introduced to give overseas students who have completed two years of studying Australia and do not qualify for a permanent GSM visa the opportunity to remain in Australia for a further 18 months to gain additional skills that they need.

This visa is not subjected to any restrictions on work and study.

In order to be eligible for Skilled – Graduate Visa (Subclass 485) the person must fulfill the following criteria:

After you have been granted the Skilled – Graduate Visa (Subclass 485) you may apply for a:

These may be applied for during the period when the Skilled – Graduate Visa is valid.  

Skilled – Recognised Graduate Visa

This temporary visa will be introduced to address 'niché' shortages in the labour market.

This visa is not subjected to any restrictions on work and study.

In order to be eligible for Skilled – Recognised Graduate Visa (Subclass 476) a person must fulfill the following criteria:

After you have been granted the Skilled – Graduate Visa (Subclass 485) you may apply for a:

These may be applied for during the period when the Skilled – Recognised Graduate Visa is valid.  

Points Test - New Pass Marks

Visa Subclasses and Pass marks
Visa Subclass Points
Skilled - Independent Visa (subclass 175) 120
Skilled - Sponsored (subclass 176) 100*
Skilled - Regional Sponsored (subclass 475) 100*
Skilled - Independent (subclass 885) 120
Skilled - Sponsored (subclass 886) 100*
Skilled - Regional Sponsored (subclass 487) 100*

*The amendments see a point concession for candidates seeking certain types of Sponsored Visas and an introduction of the points test for those seeking temporary family member Regional Sponsored Visas.

The previous process for gaining the Sponsored Visas affected required applicants obtaining a minimum of 110 points, while the temporary family member Regional Sponsored Visa was not included as part of the point-based system.

Changes to the scheme now result in applicants to both visas requiring 100 points to qualify since September 1st. Additionally, the pool mark for the affected Sponsored Visa has been adjusted accordingly, being reduced to 80 points.

New Visa Subclass Options

For those people in Australia who wish to migrate and who have an eligible visa, the following visas may be applied for from 1 September 2007:
Skilled - Independent (subclass 885) - Permanent visa instead of:
Skilled Independent Overseas Student (subclass 880) visa
Skilled - Sponsored (subclass 886) - Permanent visa instead of:
Skilled Australian Sponsored Overseas Student (subclass 881) visa
Skilled - Graduate (subclass 485) - 18 month temporary visa instead of:
Graduate – Skilled (subclass 497) visa
Skilled - Regional Sponsored (subclass 487) - 3 year provisional visa. (Holders of Skilled - Regional Sponsored may apply for a permanent Skilled – Regional visa when they have lived for 2 years and worked full-time for 1 year in regional Australia.) instead of:
Skilled – Independent Regional (subclass 495) visa
and
Skilled – Designated Area Sponsored (subclass 496) visa
Skilled - Regional (subclass 887) - Permanent visa
(The permanent visa for holders of Skilled – Regional Sponsored (subclass 487 and 475), Skilled – Independent Regional and Skilled – Designated Area-Sponsored visas
instead of:
Second stage Skilled – Designated Area Sponsored (subclass 883) visa
and
State Territory Nominated Independent (subclass 137) visa
For those people outside Australia who wish to migrate, the following visas may be applied for from 1 September 2007:
Skilled - Independent (subclass 175) - Permanent visa
(New Zealand citizens who apply for GSM can use this visa class regardless of whether they are inside or outside Australia)
instead of:
Skilled Independent (subclass 136) visa
and
Skilled Independent New Zealand Citizen (subclass 861) visa
Skilled - Sponsored (subclass 176) - Permanent visa
(New Zealand citizens who apply for GSM can use this visa class regardless of whether they are inside or outside Australia)
instead of:
State Territory Nominated Independent (subclass 137) visa
and
Skilled – Australian Sponsored (subclass 138) visa
and
Skilled – Australian Sponsored New Zealand Citizen (subclass 862) visa

Skilled - Regional Sponsored (subclass 475) - 3 year provisional visa

Holders of Skilled - Regional Sponsored may apply for a permanent Skilled – Regional visa when they have lived for 2 years and worked full-time for 1 year in regional Australia.

instead of:
Skilled – Independent Regional (subclass 495) visa
and
Skilled – Designated Area Sponsored (subclass 496) visa
and
Skilled – Designated Area New Zealand Citizen (subclass 863) visa.

Skilled - Recognised Graduate (subclass 476) - 18 month temporary visa

Recognised Graduate visa holder can apply for a permanent GSM or employer sponsored visa any time during the visa’s eligibility

for: Graduates of recognised overseas universities with skills in demand in Australia
Allows unrestricted work and study rights.