Major news regarding new Australian skilled migration points test

Today saw some important news released regarding the the new Australian skilled migration points test that is set to be released on 1 July, 2011.

The points test is what will determine which skilled workers will be eligible to emigrate to Australia on a skilled Australia visa and is set to be radically different to the current points test. You can find the original information regarding the points test changes here, but in this blog, I've identified the following major points of news regarding the new points test:

Major points of news regarding the new Australian skilled migration points test 

Qualification points awarded where the qualification is recognised by the assessing authority in the skills assessment.

This is potentially the best news of all, as it looks like 10 points will be awarded when an applicant has passed a skills assessment where qualifications form part of the assessment. This is excellent for the following applicants whose assessing bodies assess their level of qualification as part of the assessment:

  • Accountants (who are applying for their skills assessment on the basis of holding membership with CIMA, ACCA and ICAEW);
  • Nurses who are diploma-qualified;
  • IT professionals with vendor qualifications applying for their skills assessment with ACS; AND
  • Tradespeople applying for their skills assessment under TRA pathways B, C and E.

It's still unclear how this will apply to VETASSESS Trades applicants who don’t require qualifications and are currently not given an indication as to the comparability of their qualifications to an Australian standard.

In order to know exactly how this new criteria will be applied in practice, more information on how it will work in operation is needed.

Schedule 3 of the Skilled Occupation List (SOL) has been changed, with a number of key occupations added

You can find a PDF for the full list of Skilled Occupation List (SOL) changes here. However, the key occupations added are pharmacists, fitters and metal machinists.

The real benefit of these occupations being added to Schedule 3 is that it now opens up the possibility of applicants in these occupations qualifying for the Skilled - Independent (subclass 175) visa.

Unfortunately, other occupations have now been removed from Schedule 3 of the SOL, including panel beaters and vehicle painters. It is our belief though that these occupations will remain on Schedule 4, meaning that the Skilled - State Sponsored (subclass 176) visa may remain as a possible alternative. However, we are still awaiting formal confirmation that this will be the case.

Work experience points have changed

There will no longer be limited brackets applied to points awarded for work experience (i.e. '3 years overseas work in the last 5 years', '8 years overseas work in the past 10 years', '1 year of Australian work in the last 3 years' etc.), as the new points test will instead simply look at an applicant's last 10 years of work history. This is a positive change to the new points test, as it now allows people with a combination of Australian and overseas work experience to potentially claim significant points.

To explain, in the previous draft of the points test, there was a prejudice against applicants who had worked in the UK, and then spent a few years working in Australia before returning to work in the UK for several more years, as these applicants would not fit neatly within the work experience points brackets. In fact, some individuals in this position would not have been awarded any points, despite working consistently in their occupation in both Australia and overseas.

As this final draft of the points test now allows individuals to claim the points they deserve, DIAC have remedied this potentially unfair situation. However, applicants should remember that an applicant can only claim a maximum of 20 points for their work experience.

If an IELTS (International English Language Testing System) test is required, it must be provided at the time of lodgement

You will no longer be able to submit a visa application and then sit an IELTS test afterwards to claim proficient or superior English. This makes it very important that anyone in need of an IELTS test sit it early, just in case they ever need to lodge their visa application in a hurry (e.g. due to age deadline, state migration sponsorship validity).

Unrelated degrees will be recognised

Any applicant holding a degree that doesn't form part of the skills assessment process for their nominated occupation can still seek assessment for this qualification level and potentially receive points for it. For example, a nurse that studied English Literature at university could still have this degree assessed and receive additional points as a result.

Unfortunately, we're still unsure as to how exactly such qualifications will be assessed (or if it's possible to bypass the assessment process if the skill level of the qualification is easily determined by Country Education Profiles) but we hope to receive further clarity on this point shortly.

The Skilled - Family Sponsored (subclass 176) visa has not been abolished

While the initial draft of the points test (which you can find online here) explicitly states that the Skilled - Family Sponsored (subclass 176) visa would be abolished, it appears that this is not the case.

It is true that applicants will not receive any points for permanent family sponsorship, meaning there is technically no benefit in applying for the Skilled - Family Sponsored (subclass 176) visa over the Skilled - Independent (subclass 175) visa in terms of the points test

However, there are some rare cases where individuals with medical or character issues might prefer to apply for the Family Sponsored subclass 176 visa, to allow for appeal rights in the event that the application is refused.

I will continue looking at all these changes over the next few days, and provide an update as I find more major points of new from this release and there are still a few points which need clarification. However, for the most part, this is great news and I don't think we could have expected anything better!

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