Off-list state nomination - get a 'free kick' at an Australian skilled visa

Earlier this year, the Australian Government released 4,000 off-list nominations nationwide, which are informally known as 'free kicks'. The off-list nominations are divided equally between the six states and two territories that make up Australia, with each state and territory given 500 of these places to help provide Australian skilled visas and fill gaps in the skilled workforce.

What are 'free kicks'?

Each Australian state and territory has a list of occupations that they can nominate for an Australian Skilled Sponsored Visa (subclass 176) or a Regional Sponsored Visa (subclass 475). Previously, the states and territories were restricted to only being able to nominate occupations on these lists, but with the introduction of off-list state sponsorship, they now have the freedom to nominate 500 'off-list' skilled workers a year.

These 'free kicks' give every state and territory the ability to nominate a certain number of off-list skilled workers for an Australian skilled worker, although the worker must still have an occupation listed on the Skilled Occupations List (SOL).

How are these 'free kicks' allocated?

Applications for the 500 free kicks are assessed on an individual basis, and each state is free to set their own criteria. The 100 point pass-mark on the Australian visa points test still has to be reached for the permanent visa, but it is now possible to be nominated in an occupation that is not listed as in demand.

Importantly for the Australian skilled visa applicant, the state or territory nomination means a quicker route through the immigration process at a time when many migrants have had their general skilled migration applications pushed to the bottom of the pile.

What is the attitude of the various Australian states and territories to 'free kicks' and off-list state sponsorship?

Each state and territory has approached the off-list state sponsorship differently. Western Australia is one state that has a proactive policy towards the off-list nomination initiative, being enthusiastic and transparent in its approach.

Visa Bureau spoke recently to Genelle Surace, a senior migration officer from the Western Australian Government, who helped answer some questions about their policies towards off-list nomination.

Australian skilled visa

Western Australia is one state which is embracing
off-list state nomination as a "fantastic tool".

What has been Western Australia’s policy towards the 500 off-list nomination initiative?

Genelle Surace: "Western Australia has always had a very open policy towards migration, and this is reflected in our attitude towards the off-list nomination. The off-list nominations are a fantastic tool to attract people to Western Australia, who may not be on our list for State Sponsorship, yet still have skills and experience that are sought after by Western Australian employers. It also allows people who have family in Western Australia to apply for State Sponsorship, and under the current guidelines for priority processing from DIAC, have their visa applications processed."

WA has the fastest growing population than any other state – could this be a result from a more aggressive approach to skilled migration?

Genelle Surace: "Part of the answer to this is attributed to our migration promotions, but with an enviable climate, great job opportunities and long term prospects, Western Australia is a great all-round choice for people to start their new lives in Australia."

Has WA had a good response to the off-list nomination, and has it been encouraged to nominate skills that are not found on the Critical Skills List to give other skilled migrant hopefuls a chance?

Genelle Surace: "Western Australia has had a good response to the off-list nomination, and is nominating occupations that are not on the Critical Skills List (CSL). When assessing an application for off-list nomination, greater consideration is given to applicants who:

  • Have a job or offer of employment in Western Australia in a SOL occupation (must be related to the nominated occupation);
  • Have established links to the State – having lived, studied or have support in Western Australia;
  • Demonstrate that their occupation is in demand in Western Australia; OR
  • Are prepared to live and work in a regional area of the State.

Off-list nominations will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and the ability of the applicant to meet Western Australia’s workforce skill shortages."

However, while Western Australia have taken a very open, positive attitude towards off-list state nomination, the case isn't the same for all states and territories.  Look out for a follow-up blog in the next few days where we discuss the attitudes of the other states and territories and the reasons why some choose not to use their 500 'free kicks' at all.

- Stephanie Bradley is Content and Communications Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau