New Australian skilled visa points test introduced and changes to priority processing

As of today, 1 July, 2011, the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has implemented a number of changes to the General Skilled Migration (GSM) program, chief of which is the new Australian skilled visa points test.  However, the changes will also see an update made to Australian visa priority processing.

New Australian visa points test  

The changes to the points test have been made in order to target what the Australian government describes as the "best and the brightest", with more emphasis placed on work experience, high-level educational qualifications and English language proficiency.

The new points test is a critical part of the process involved when applying for an Australia visa, as in order to lodge an application, applicants must be able to demonstrate that they both meet the basic skilled migration requirements and are also able to pass the points test at the time of lodging their visa.

Skilled visa applicants will now have to score 65 points on the points test. The points test awards points for:

  • Age;
  • English Language Ability;
  • Australian Work Experience;
  • Overseas Work Experience;
  • Qualifications;
  • Recognition of Australian Study;
  • Designated Language;
  • Partner Skills;
  • Professional Year;
  • Sponsorship by State or Territory Government;
  • Regional Sponsorship by Family or State or Territory Government; and
  • Study in a Regional Area  

While the implementation of a new Australia visa points test is the change that will have an immediate effect on who qualifies for an Australian skilled visa, today's update will also result in an update to the priority processing arrangements for skilled migration visas.

Updated priority processing arrangements

The Australian Government prioritises the order in which skilled migration applications are processed, with the government stating that priority will go to applicants who will "bring the most benefit to Australia and are most likely to be successful".

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship has set new priority processing arrangements for certain skilled migration visas, to come into effect on 1 July 2011.

As of 1 July 2011, processing priorities (with highest priority listed first) are:

Current Australian Visa Processing Priorities - Updated 01/07/2011
Processing Priority Group Group Criteria Processing timeframe
Priority Group 1

Applications from people who are employer sponsored under the Regional Skilled Migration Scheme (RSMS) program or who have applied for a Skilled – Regional (subclass 887) visa.

Approx. 5 - 8 months.
Priority Group 2 Applications from people who are applying under the Employer Nominated Scheme (ENS) program. Approx. 5 - 8 months.
Priority Group 3

Applications from people who are nominated by a state or territory government agency for an occupation specified on that agency's State Migration Plan.

Approx. 12 - 24 months.

Priority Group 4

Applications from people who have nominated an occupation on the Skilled Occupation List (SOL)- Schedule 1 in effect from 1 July, 2011.

All other applications are to be processed in the order in which they are received.

Approx. 18 months.

Priority Group 5

All other applications are to be processed in the order in which they are received.

Assessment will commence when all cases in priority groups 1-4 are finalised.

I will continue looking at all these changes over the next few days, and provide an update as I find more aspects of this major update which require clarification.

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