"Leave your guns at the door": South Australia comments on immigration changes

South Australia recently held a
seminar at the Australian High

For South Australia's manager of General Skilled Migration (GSM), Ann Johnson, to open a seminar by requesting that everyone  "leave your guns at the door" is a fairly strong indication of the current mindset held by the many frustrated migration agents in attendance. It's also a reminder that it's not the Australian States and Territories who are responsible for the many changes made by the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC).

The seminar on 3 June, 2010 was the first we've attended since the suspension of the General Skilled Migration (GSM) program, so we were hoping that Ann Johnson might be able to provide some further information regarding the Australian immigration; specifically the State Migration Plans. As a reminder, the GSM program has been closed for the time being, with a scheduled reopening date of 1 July, 2010. Upon its reopening, Australian skilled visa applicants will be subject to a number of changes to visa legislation, including a much tighter Australian Skilled Occupation List (SOL).

As only applicants with a nominated occupation on the SOL will be able to proceed with an independent visa application, we've been trying to find more information on how the State Migration Plans will work, as these will be the new mechanisms to allow visa applicants to be sponsored by an Australian State or Territory under the GSM program and will be crucial to a large proportion of applicants in the future.

While the State Migration Plans are still only expected to be detailed and introduced on 1 July, 2010 at the earliest, we hoped that we might be privy to some more details as to how they will be structured and just how many additional occupations we can expect to feature on these replacements for the old sponsorship lists.

Unfortunately, there's little 'insider information' that I can report on, but it was still useful to have certain items confirmed or clarified. The main points that we received were:

  • The State Migration Plan's list of occupations can include additional occupations to what appears on the SOL;
  • As the list of occupations that will feature on the State Migration Plan needs to be approved by the Minister, the Cabinet and then DIAC, it's unlikely that it will be ready "until at least July";
  • Each occupation will have an attached 'planning level', but this number will not be disclosed and no indication will be given as to when the planning level is close to being reached for each occupation.
  • Ann Johnson said that the process for changing the State Migration Plan list of occupations is that while they will revise it every month, they will only change it every quarter, for the benefit of applicants.
  • Applicants who had previously been approved under South Australia's former state sponsorship method may need to reapply before they are approved under the new State Migration Plan (assuming their occupation is transferrable from the previous sponsorship list to an occupation on the new one);
  • No more than 100 'off-list' applicants can apply for sponsorship where they do NOT have an occupation on the State Migration Plan's list of occupations, with this being a reduction from 500 'off-list' applicants from the previous financial year (though Ann Johnson did say that South Australia "didn't get anywhere near to 100" in this last year). 

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