New Australian visa points test to be introduced on 1 July, 2011

DIAC have set a date for the
introduction of the new Australian
skilled migration points test.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has released preliminary information of the new points test which is currently scheduled to be implemented on 1 July, 2011.

The points test is a critical part of the Australian General Skilled Migration (GSM) process, as in order to lodge an Australian visa application, applicants must be able to demonstrate that they both meet the basic requirements and are able to pass the points test at the time of lodging their visa.

Please note: If you have already lodged your Australian visa application, the introduction of a new points test will not affect your application whatsoever.

What does this mean for Australian visa applicants?

You can see the introduction of the new points test PDF on the DIAC site by clicking here. Our initial impression is that while many professionals stand a good chance of meeting the new points test criteria, it will be less favourable for certain tradespeople (e.g. individuals who haven't completed a formal apprenticeship).

It's important to understand that there is still some degree of uncertainty attached to this announcement, as DIAC have yet to commit to certain aspects of the points test. For example, they say that "it is expected that the pass mark will be set at 65 points" but have not committed to this as the pass mark.

Addtionally, they say that applicants with a Bachelor's degree will be awarded a specific number of points, but it isn't yet clear whether individuals with equivalent professional membership qualifications will also be awarded these points (as they are currently deemed comparable to a Bachelor's according to the country education profiles) or if it will be very strict that only applicants with a Bachelor's degree will be eligible to receive these points.

Therefore, without having these and other aspects of the new points test clarified, we are unable to definitively say what the exact rules will be and who will qualify upon its implementation on 1 July, 2011.

What other options are available to visa applicants?

As we still need to confirm who will still be able to lodge after 1 July, 2010, we are taking the precautionary measure of advising that all applicants ensure they are aware of any current state sponsored, family sponsored or independent migration options that they are eligible for.

In terms of available state sponsored options, these are dependent on the State Migration Plans (or SMPs). These been developed by State/Territory governments to essentially determine which applicants will be eligible for state sponsorship on the basis of their occupation. However, the only states and territories to have released their State Migration Plans (SMPs) are Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

There is no set timeframe for the other states and territories to release their plans, but DIAC have expressed that they should be finalised by the end of the year. This was reinforced by the Minister of Immigration, who confirmed in a speech yesterday that he has signed the SMPs for Western Australia and the Northern Territory, so hopefully these will be released shortly.

What should visa applicants do now?

Without knowing a visa applicant's specific details, it's very difficult to provide any guidance as what the best steps to take will be. For the timebeing though, we are advising that visa applicants continue to work on their application as normal, taking into consideration that all applications lodged before 1 July, 2011 will be accepted under the current points test.

To help applicants get a better understanding of the potential impact of the new points test though, I'll look at it in greater depth in an upcoming blog and provide some examples of how it could affect applicants in specific occupations and situations.

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