Report on the Migration Agents Forum at the Australian High Commission

The Australian High Commission
hosted the Migration Agents Forum
on 30 March, 2010.

With the world of Australian immigration so tumultuous as of late, the opportunity to communicate directly with the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) is always one we're happy to take advantage of.

That's why we welcomed the invitation to the Migration Agents Forum held yesterday, the 30 March, 2010, at the Australian High Commission in London. It was an event held to give registered migration agents in the UK the chance to engage with senior members of DIAC.

As DIAC's Regional Director for Europe, David Wilden presided over the forum. He began by reiterating the reasons behind 2010's Australian immigration changes, citing the pressure placed on the Australian government to focus on border control and a need to "get the balance right" as the primary drives for change.

However, despite Mr Wilden's willingness to provide an open and honest insight into the inner workings of DIAC, the underlying theme of the forum was that there simply wasn't any vital new information to be divulged. This is due to the fact that the changes which have raised the most questions and remain unclarified are also the ones which remain out of DIAC's hands at this time, making it very difficult for Mr Wilden to provide any new insights.

For example, even though a draft version of the new Skilled Occupation List (SOL) was recently released, we still remain unsure of exactly which occupations will appear on it. As this new list of targeted occupations is still to be determined by the independent body 'Skills Australia' though, there was little Mr Wilden could do other than reiterate what we've already heard and that the announcement date of the new SOL remains 30 April, 2010.

Another important change that agents were keen to discuss was the introduction of the new State Migration Plans. When asked whether applicants who had previously been approved for nomination by an Australian State or Territory would be transferred to that State or Territory's new State Migration Plan, Mr Wilden responded "I don't believe [the applicants] will have to reapply".

Unfortunately though, as the State Migration Plans are still in the process of being developed by the individual Australian State and Territory governments, I find it hard to lend too much credence to Mr Wilden's response. Given the huge numbers of applications made for State/Territory nomination that were made when priority processing was first introduced, it seems unlikely that everyone granted nomination then will still be eligible under the new State Migration Plans.

I do appreciate Mr Wilden's open approach though, and he seemed open to criticism and guidance on where DIAC could improve. For example, he acknowledged that the review of panel doctors (which saw the number of eligible panel doctors in the UK slashed from 250 to just 8) received a mixed reaction from migration agents and visa applicants, and indicated that this situation may be addressed in the future.

So, despite an element of frustration in still not knowing exactly what to expect going forward, I still hope that these forums will become a regular event. The ability to discuss the most current migration issues with senior members of DIAC will always provide some useful insights into their working processes, even though they might not always have the answers for the questions that most deserve them.

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