Major Australian immigration changes: MODL axed, new SOL coming

Australian immigration

Major Australian immigration
changes were announced by Chris
Evans, Minister of Immigration.

Even though major Australian immigration changes have been in the pipeline since the announcement that the Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) was undergoing a review, the announcement made by the Minister of Immigration, Senator Chris Evans, on 8 February, 2010 still came as a shock.

It was the immediacy of some of the announced updates that took many Australia visa applicants unaware, leaving many people on the pathway to Australian immigration confused and concerned whether they would will still be eligible.

While not every aspect of the Minister's announcement has been fully clarified, I've tried to provide an explanation below of exactly what changes were introduced, as well as interpret how they will affect visa applicants:

What Australian immigration changes were made on 8 February?

  • The Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) has been revoked, effective immediately.

    Before 8 February, 2010, Australian skilled migration applicants with an occupation on the MODL could gain a minimum of 15 extra points. With the list now revoked, all MODL points that were able to be claimed by having an occupation featured on this list are now no longer available (unless the applicant has already lodged).

    One way around this for applicants is for them to reconsider the visa subclass they are applying under. For example, by receiving sponsorship from an Australian State or Territory, it is possible to pass the points test with a score of 100 and apply for the Skilled - Sponsored visa subclass, as opposed to a score of 120 required for the Skilled - Independent visa subclass.

    Alternatively, there are alternative ways to gain additional points towards the points test. One way to do so would be to achieve a band score of 7.0 in all categories of an International English Language Testing Scheme (IELTS) test, which would help you score the maximum of 25 points for English language ability.
  • The Skilled Occupation List (SOL) is to be replaced mid-2010, at which time the Critical Skills List (CSL) will also be revoked.

    At this time, the intention for the new SOL seems to be to have it act as a tool that determines both the occupations that Australia is in demand of and the order in which Australia visa applicants will be processed.

    This new list is going to be compiled by Skills Australia with a view to provisionally release it in April, 2010, but it is unlikely that the new SOL will be fully finalised until mid-2010. At this time, the Critical Skills List (CSL) will also be revoked.
  • The Australian visa points test used to assess skilled migrants will be reviewed.

    A discussion paper on a review of the Australian GSM Points Test is currently being prepared, with a released date of 12 February, 2010.
  • State Migration Plans are currently being agreed upon between the states and DIAC (Department of Immigration and Citizenship).

    As yet there has been no guidance into what methodology will be applied or exactly when these plans will be implemented.

Am I going to be affected by the changes?

If you have yet to lodge your visa application, you will be affected by the changes. However, many applicants will have alternative visa pathways available to them (i.e. through state sponsorship), so it's hopeful that the vast majority will not become ineligible for migration as a result of this announcement.

What still needs to be clarified?

There are a few details that remain uncertain, such as when the new SOL will come into action (as there is some contradictory information in the information released), when information on the state migration plans will be issued, and whether any state sponsorships will ‘transferred’ to the new State Migration Plans if all the (as yet unknown) criteria is met. For example, Western Australia have said it is 'unlikely' that their state migration plan will be released until 1 July, 2010.

Without this information, it is impossible to provide accurate advice on the best way forward. Once these key issues have been clarified, applicants caught by the changes can give some proper consideration towards alternative solutions. 

When will further information be provided by DIAC?

Hopefully, further news will come to light before the end of the week (i.e. 12 February). As a company, we will be systematically assessing all our clients and personally informing them of their options, but this will only happen once we feel we have the necessary information to advise with confidence.

What do affected visa applicants need to do now?

At this time, it's easy to feel despondent that DIAC have once again 'moved the goalposts' and made it harder for many visa applicants to reach the standards required to emigrate to Australia. However, my advice remains the same as always; to remain calm and research all alternative options before making a decision.

Further details need to be provided regarding some aspects of the changes (especially the state migration plans), but I will make sure to provide more information as and when I receive it.

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