Australian accountant skills assessing bodies changes: ICAA, CPA and NIA

Australian accountant skills
assessing bodies will be making a
number of changes on 1 July

I recently learned that the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (ICAA), Certified Public Accountants (CPA) Australia and the Australian National Institute of Accountants (NIA), are all changing their assessing policies on 1 July, 2010. These are the three bodies that are responsible for assessing the skills of accountants, finance managers, corporate treasurers and external auditors applying to emigrate to Australia.

Each body is implementing an almost identical set of changes, which you can read for yourself by clicking here for the ICAA, here for the CPA or here for the NIA. Alternatively, read on for my interpretation of some of the key changes.

Changes to assessment pathways

One of the main changes is that there will no longer be two distinct pathways (i.e. either through membership of a recognised body or holding a qualifying degree). Instead, should an applicant hold membership of a recognised body, it will now need to be considered comparable to an Australian degree. That comparability is set by the Australian Education International National Office for Overseas Skills Recognition (AEI-NOOSR).

Having checked the Country Education Profiles on the AEI-NOOSR website, members of the ACCA, CIMA and ICAEW are all listed as comparable to an Australian degree, which is positive news for UK applicants. However, it also has the following note:

"Qualifications are assessed on a case-by-case basis if the holder earned the qualification by means other than a program of study (e.g. work experience), or was granted several subject exemptions in the program."

Therefore, on the basis of the above, it seems that people who are members of an accounting body but DO NOT have a degree and received exemptions from studying the full course to gain membership may have issues.

For example, we have seen some of our clients have gained membership with CIMA through receiving some exemption on units needed, should they have worked for many years in the industry beforehand. Under these new changes, it's possible that these same applicants may have difficulty qualifying.

Changes to units studied

Previously, applicants would need to study 9 out of the 12 units that the assessing body sets, with the applicant free to evidence which 9 of the 12 units they had studied in.

From 1 July, 2010, applicants will still need to study 9 out of the 12 units, but the assessing bodies will set 4 mandatory units, and then the applicant must choose 5 from the remaining 8 optional units. The assessing bodies break down (by occupation) which units are mandatory and which are optional in order to make the 9 out of 12 units.

Changes to IELTS requirements

It also appears that a score of at least 7.0 in all four core units of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test will be required for accountant assessing body applicants from 1 July, 2010. Currently, there is no news on whether there will be any exemptions for UK applicants.

Please understand that all these observations are made without a full, detailed explanation of all the changes being provided by the accounting assessing bodies, and also that much of my comments only relate to Australia visa applicants from the UK. Some parts of the changes still remain unclear as it appears there will be a much higher level of subjectivity applied to the accounting bodies' assessment process from 1 July, 2010.

Therefore, I do advise people to complete and lodge their skills assessments as soon as possible, in order to avoid any potential negative changes.

- Lauren Mennie is Casework Department Manager for the Australian Visa Bureau.