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IMMagine Australia Blog

Migrating is more than just filling in forms and submitting paperwork, its a complex process that will test even the most resilient of people. 

Understanding Australia is paramount to your immigration survival and to give you a realistic view of the country, its people and how we see the world, read our regular blogs. Often humorous, sometimes challenging, but always food for thought.

What is driving more South Africans abroad?

Posted by Myer on March 13, 2015, 5:38 p.m. in Inspiration

I’ve recently come back from South Africa where I spent two weeks presenting a series of migration seminars. It is alleged that it was sunny while I was there - a fact I cannot confirm since I spent most of my time indoors meeting with a flood of South Africans who want out of their country. It was impossible to not have noticed the overwhelming interest in immigration on my most recent trip. 

February is usually a very busy month for IMMagine - as it turns out, migration is seasonal. December holidays give people a chance to reflect on their lives and make resolutions such as: lose weight, get fit, save money and...emigrate. However, this February was almost unprecedented. I was surprised by the mood of the country as there had been no major calamitous event precipitating my trip and thought I’d share some of my insights on the matter in this week’s blog post. 

Ever since the ANC gained office in April 1994, South Africans have faced a number of issues that have been driving immigration - declining education standards, less job opportunities, increased violence but nothing major; no huge jolt similar to that seen after Chris Hani’s assassination in 1993.

So what’s changed? South Africa as a migrant market for Australia and New Zealand has ebbed and flowed over the years. Certainly during the apartheid years, flashpoints such as Sharpville in the 60s, the Soweto riots in the 70s and the State of Emergency declared in the 80s have all been catalysts for mass immigration. These spikes are usually followed by extended periods of (if not optimism) then a sense of resignation on the part of South Africans by returning to the collective comfort zone that is made up of sunshine, weekend braais (barbecues), beaches and all there is to enjoy about the beautiful country. 

Eskom’s load shedding (or power blackouts – let’s call them what they really are) while increasingly severe is nothing new. The parastatal’s inability to supply power to South Africa through its incompetent management and inability to prepare for South Africa’s growing population has been going on for years. South Africa is often referred to as the rape/murder capital of the world and Whites, Indians and Coloureds have been subjected to BEE or affirmative action programs since 2003. Declining education standards are nothing new and foreigners from other African countries regularly experience violent xenophobic flare-ups while black South Africans have realised that whilst their political aspirations may have been realised, they’re not worth very much when one is still struggling to make ends meet and contending with life in an increasingly violent environment.

Whilst the debacle during the state of the nation address might have been embarrassing, South African Parliament is not the only in the world to suffer fools. Considering all of this, the only reason I can conclude for the increase in demand for migration services is the dawning realisation that South Africa has turned a corner towards a dissent to 3rd world status that is irreversible.

There seems to have been a tipping point in which the collective consciousness reached the conclusion that there is no longer any turning back. A good friend of mine in Cape Town explained that South Africa has always identified itself as a Western style economy with strong links to America and England. The latest antics and seemingly insurmountable issues are seen as representing a kind of “decoupling” from Western ideals and structure. An increasing number of South Africans consider the country as becoming “just another African country” beset by politics of corruption and mismanagement. 

In truth it seems that there may be an expiry date on hope and optimism that’s been reached - especially when reminded of the extent of the government’s dwindling management every evening as you read by candlelight.

Better off in Australia: Cost of living

Posted by Kane on March 6, 2015, 5:44 p.m. in Lifestyle

If you are living in Singapore and have been accused of being a whinger* (complainer) about the high cost of living in Singapore well you can feel vindicated because Singapore has been officially ranked as most expensive city in the world for the 2nd year in the row in a new survey by the economist intelligence unit.


I have been visiting Singapore for many years and I notice that Singapore seems like a very affluent society, with well-developed infrastructure, flash cars and well-dressed citizens. It is easy for a visitor to think that one has to be wealthy to actually live in Singapore. 


Singapore retained its position due to the high cost of buying cars, real estate, clothing and alcohol. Singaporeans have long loved their association with fine cut clothing from quality brands such as Gucci, Versace and Louis Vuitton. And if you decide to shop along Orchard Road, you can expect to pay 50% more than what you would in New York.


Another of the cities that we visit regularly, Hong Kong is ranked the 9th most expensive city in the world. The two countries have many similarities including name brand stores, expensive real estate and limited space.


Not surprisingly two Australian cities also made it to the top 10 with Sydney and Melbourne ranked at number 5 and 6 respectively. This has mainly been attributed to a vibrant property market. However, the recent devaluation of the Australian Dollar will result in the real cost of goods and services declining for people migrating to Australia. 


From a personal perspective, when living and working in Australia, it is in fact a very affordable country to live in. 


From a quick comparison between the cost of living in Singapore and Melbourne, we can quickly see where the biggest disparity in costs lies. In Singapore you will find the cost of public transport, bread, eggs and groceries to be cheaper, while petrol, coffee and, most tragically, beer will be more expensive. However, the biggest difference in a cost between the two countries comes in buying a motor vehicle and buying a property.


If you are to buy a property in Melbourne in an apartment in the city, you can expect to pay approximately AU$9200 per square metre. If you are to buy an apartment outside of the city centre, you can expect to pay approximately AU$7500 per square metre.


Compare this to Singapore, and I do understand that there are limitations due to a lack of sufficient space, an inner city apartment will cost you approximately AU$23,000 per square metre, and an apartment outside the city (if there is such a thing) approximately AU$12,000 per square metre.


Then there is the cost of cars. In Australia you would expect to pay approximately AU$30,000 for a brand-new sedan, the cost of buying the same car in Singapore would range between AU$100-$120,000. While the price of the actual vehicle would be relatively similar, in Singapore one must also pay for a Certificate of Entitlement which can be approximately between $70-$80,000, making this a very expensive luxury.


If we look at the average disposable salary, it doesn’t get much better for Singaporeans, with the average salary approximately AU$3700 compared to Melbourne with approximately AU$4200 per month. Sydney may be the most expensive city in Australia, but residents can expect to be paid the highest salaries with an average of AU$4550 per month.


It is important to note that only two Australian are in the top 10. Adelaide and Perth were ranked in the top 10 most liveable cities, and other cities such as Canberra, Brisbane and Darwin are popular destinations. 


For those of you are interested, the cheapest city to live in the world is Karachi in Pakistan. In fact seven of the top 10 cheapest cities to live in the world are in South Asia and the Middle East with four Indian cities being represented.


I currently live in the world’s 6th most expensive city (Melbourne), and while we do have the same financial pressures as anyone else around the world, most of my problems are 1st world problems such as having the toaster on too high, lawnmower running out of petrol and leaving the remote control in the kitchen. My wife and I eat out once or twice a week, we own a car, we can buy our groceries and pay our bills without any concerns. I own my own 3 bedroom home on 540 sqm which is 30 minute pushbike ride from Melbourne CBD.


In Australia we enjoy some of the best standards of living in the world and our welfare system allows those who are struggling to still make ends meet while seeking better employment.


If you are considering a move to Australia and would like to know more about the lifestyle and cost of living, you can attend one of our free seminars. Details are found at:


*verb gerund or present participle: whingeing complain persistently and in a peevish or irritating way.

"stop whingeing and get on with it!"

Socceroos: Kings of Asia

Posted by Anka on Feb. 12, 2015, 5:26 p.m. in Lifestyle

Between 9 January and 8 February this year, football fans around the world had a rollicking time as the latest editions of the AFC Asian Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations were played out with three weeks of overlap between them. We, in Australia, were extremely lucky to have the AFC Asian Cup right at our doorstep. The party was made even more fun with the Socceroos going on to win the title!

Looking back at my blog article of 10 July 2014, I see that it was eerily prophetic as it contained the following sentence:

“The fact that the next edition of the Asian Cup will be held in Australia between 9 and 31 January 2015 and the promising football played by the team in this World Cup gives me and other fans renewed hope that Australia may be able to clinch the title for the first time on home ground in 6 months’ time!”

Games were played exclusively on the East Coast of the country (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Newcastle) as Adelaide and Perth had refused to host any games for the AFC Asian Cup. We had the opening ceremony game in Melbourne in which Australia played and won 4-1 against Kuwait. We also had 5 other group games plus 1 quarter final in Melbourne. The final was played in Sydney.

Pre-tournament favourites included heavyweights Japan, South Korea and Iran along with Australia as the host nation with UAE, Iraq, Uzbekistan and China being seen as potential dark horses. The initial stages of the competition did not hold many surprises as it was these exact teams that made it out of the group stage and into the quarter finals. It is worth noting however that, after winning its first two games against Kuwait and Oman, Australia lost its final group game against South Korea thereby coming second in the group. This meant that Australia played its quarter final game in Brisbane rather than Melbourne so I got to see South Korea playing Uzbekistan instead. I also saw Japan vs. Jordan and Saudi Arabia vs. Uzbekistan here in Melbourne.

The quarter finals produced a couple of significant upsets with Iran losing to Iraq on penalties after a dubious red card reduced them to 10 men for most of the game and Japan losing to the UAE again on penalties after having dominated the game thoroughly but failing to score.

Before the tournament, the Australian edition of the soccer magazine FourFourTwo had predicted a final between Iran and Japan with the former to win. Instead the two teams predicted to lose at semi-final stage, i.e. South Korea and Australia made it to the final with Australia winning 2-1 at extra time to claim the title. That, I suppose, is the beauty of football. You never know beforehand what surprises and upsets lie ahead once a tournament is underway. 

In winning the title, Australia became the only team in history to win more than one continental title having triumphed at OFC Nations Cup a total of 4 times before leaving that confederation to join the AFC in 2006.

While soccer is not the most popular sport in Australia, AFC Asian Cup being hosted here has really raised the profile of the sport further and we can expect the sports-loving public to take a close interest in future Asian Cups as well as the FIFA World Cup. 

Australia is only a recent member of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) but in three showings at the AFC Asian Cup, it’s already managed one first place, one second place and one quarter final finish. That is not bad at all. 

Fondly known as the Socceroos, Australian national football team has historically included large numbers of players from migrant backgrounds. In particular, many players from Greek, Italian and Croatian communities have donned the green and gold jersey over the years. In more recent times, the Socceroos squad has had children of migrants from Croatia, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Turkey, the Netherlands, Japan, Indonesia, Samoa and the UK. The captain of the team, Mile Jedinak, is the son of Croatian migrants and coach Ange Postecoglou was born in Greece. This AFC Asian Cup may also have seen the last major international appearance of Tim Cahill, the star player of the Socceroos, who is of English and Samoan descent. 

It is worth remembering at this point that multiculturalism is the norm in Australia and not the exception. This is not really surprising given that more than a quarter of Australia's population was born outside the country and around half of the population has at least one parent born overseas. There is no shortage of talent here when it comes to sports but it also doesn’t hurt that Australia is a magnet for skilled people from all around the world whose children may one day wear the Socceroos colours and continue the team's tradition of diversity.

Australia's changing economy and what it means for you

Posted by Myer on Feb. 5, 2015, 4:38 p.m. in Immigration

Yesterday the Reserve Bank of Australia made the decision to cut interest rates by 25 basis points to 2.25%, the lowest level since 1990 when the Reserve Bank became independent. The intention was to devalue the Australian dollar to gain a competitive international advantage to stimulate a stagnant Australian economy. The result has been a fall in the value of the Australian dollar to 76 US cents. Amongst other flow-on effects, devaluation of the currency has made the move to Australia more affordable for migrants. As an exporter of services to the rest of the world, am not unhappy with a lower Australian dollar as it makes our services cheaper in international terms which is a benefit to you. My only wish is that I had transferred my money from New Zealand to Australia now rather than 6 years ago!

Although unemployment has remained relatively stable at 6%, worldwide commodity prices have been falling and this has impacted upon Australia’s economy. Yes, the cheaper oil prices we have all been enjoying of late will have some stimulatory effect on Australia’s economy. However, with the cooling in the Chinese economy and Japan and Europe in recession, the Reserve Bank of Australia decided to make the widely anticipated decision of cutting interest rates to decrease the value of the Australian dollar with a view to pricing our exports more competitively.

As inflation has consistently remained between 2 – 3%, the lower interest rates will have a positive impact on mortgage holders in Australia with the standard variable mortgage rate to be priced at approximately 5.7%, the lowest since 1968! With lower oil prices and a stable rate of inflation, the Reserve Bank was relaxed about the risk of inflationary pressure.

Australia has for the past 5 years been far too dependent upon its mineral exports to maintain economic stimulus and the cut in interest rates will lead to a more across-the-board contribution by other sectors of the Australian economy such as retailers, hospitality, tourism and construction to mention a few.

This is going to punish savers and reward borrowers, particularly those with mortgages. It will also punish young first-time homebuyers in Australia with housing prices expected to rise. Increased restrictions to lending criteria introduced since the GFC as well as the the conservative attitude to lending by Australia’s banks means that the Reserve Bank isn’t overly concerned about the prospect of mortgagees overextending themselves with a resulting housing bubble.

There is a general trend of world currencies devaluing against the American dollar as the American economy recovers, so perhaps it will provide more of a context if we examine the fall in the Australian dollar’s value against some other currencies:


Australian versus South African Rand

1.00 AUD 


8.87627 ZAR 


Australian versus Singapore Dollar

1.00 AUD 


1.04938 SGD 


Australian versus New Zealand Dollar

1.00 AUD 


1.05418 NZD 


Australian versus Hong Kong Dollar

1.00 AUD 


6.04592 HKD 


Australian versus Malaysian Ringgit

1.00 AUD 


2.77918 MYR 


Australian versus Botswana Pula

1.00 AUD 


7.38019 BWP 


Australian versus Indonesian Rupiah

1.00 AUD 


9,839.03 IDR 


If you are like me, sitting in Australia ruing the fact that you transferred your funds when the Australian dollar was appreciably higher in value - let me counsel you, as I counsel myself. No one ever immigrates for profit; no one can ever pick the perfect exchange rate and as for those of you overseas contemplating the move to Australia wondering whether the rate of exchange will get any better...perhaps you shouldn’t be too greedy. Having said that, it is anticipated that the rates are going to be cut by a further 25 basis points later on this year, but I haven’t seen exchange rates looking as good as they are now for the past 6.

Family and State Sponsorship

Posted by Kane on Jan. 28, 2015, 5:26 p.m. in Eligibility

There are many reasons that inspire one to make the move to Australia. Not only do the wonderful beaches, outdoor lifestyle, cultural diversity, economic opportunity and Australian way of life draw people to our shores, but also the pull of close family who have been nagging their brothers, sisters, parents, children and cousins to join them in one of the best countries in the world. While I’m sure that the prospect of joining your mother-in-law in Australia is not necessarily making you jump for joy, the thought of keeping your spouse and kids happy and being close to family will certainly provide enough motivation to consider making the move.

With a lot of changes in the recent migration program, family reunion is starting to become more difficult. Only last year the government announced that they were closing Visa classes for remaining relative, aged dependents, carers and normal parent visas. Although they have since reinstated these Visa classes, one is expected to wait for around 56 years before they actually get a Visa if they applied under some of these categories.

So for many of you the only advantage that family has had in helping you move is to either help you settle when you do arrive, or in some cases, obtain family sponsorship through the General Skilled Migration (GSM) program. Under GSM, family sponsorship has been limited to those who have a skilled occupation on the Skilled Occupations List (SOL). Those who have occupations on the Consolidated Skilled Occupations List (CSOL) have had to rely on sponsorship from one of the state governments. Still, with the many changes in the skilled occupations lists through the federal and the state governments, there are many who are in skilled occupations finding it increasingly difficult to qualify under a state-sponsored skilled Visa, causing much angst and frustration for those keen on moving to Australia.

There are however some States that will consider sponsoring you under an occupation that is not on the current state list if you have close family residing in that state. South Australia, ACT, Tasmania and Northern Territory will certainly consider sponsorship in an occupation that is not currently available on their list if you have close family living there.

In order to obtain state sponsorship, the state government will want you to demonstrate that you have a commitment and willingness to remain there for a minimum of two years and potentially beyond if you really like living there. Having a strong family presence in the particular state goes a long way towards demonstrating that commitment.

If you have recently made the move to one of the states and are looking to get your family over under the skilled migration program, and they can qualify through one of the skills on the CSOL, perhaps this is a good time to take advantage of these concessions provided by the above states. The same can be said for those who have family in Australia and are considering making a move. 

To find out more, we will be holding free seminars in a number of countries. To book your place, please visit:

Family holiday in Caloundra

Posted by Myer on Jan. 20, 2015, 5:11 p.m. in Lifestyle

Happy New Year to all of our readers and compliments of the season! I don’t know what “the season” is, or when it ends, but this seems like the right thing to say even though it doesn’t make much sense to me. It must just be traditional as so many things we say and do around this time of year are. I tend not to mull over these well-established customs, however, something did strike me this “season” which eventually and in a round-about way prompted this blog post. 

We took our family holiday this year in Caloundra which is approximately 2.5 hours flight from Melbourne with a population of about 88,000 lucky souls. And while I’m sure none of you thought about me - a middle aged man lathered in sun protection factor 50 (a requirement anywhere, but especially here in Australia – we even have sunscreen pumps at some bus stops close to the waterfront) on a sandy beach in Australia’s Sunshine Coast, I definitely thought about you.

As I pondered about what to write about for my first blog post of 2015 and turned a only a slightly darker shade of pale in the sun, I realised that some of our readers don’t have the luxury of a three-week long break at the end of the year. Never mind one spent on one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, something Australians tend to regard as a right rather than a privilege which is, in itself, newsworthy. But this year, nostalgia crept in as my dominant thought pattern. Caloundra is so similar to the South Coast in KwaZulu Natal and Durban that it’s no surprise 99% of my Durbanite clients immigrate to Queensland and also that I felt so compelled to think about the many holidays spent on the beach growing up in South Africa. 

The Pumicestone Passage, an inlet on the border of Caloundra is known for its strong current flowing into the sea at low tide. We arrived here to find an adventurous father and son, huge grins on their faces, being swept along the rip and I marvelled at their positive attitudes; enjoying what would ordinarily be considered a near-death experience. During the holiday, if my kids complained (which they did), I reminded them to think of the boy and his dad and the “glass half full” attitude they displayed.

At times I felt a bit like the Chevy Chase character in National Lampoon’s Vacation, determined to get my children to experience and fully appreciate this kind of holiday in the hope it would be as fondly remembered as those traditional beach trips from my own youth. I was so determined to wean my children from their dependence on electronic media for entertainment that I didn’t even buy a Wi-Fi package at the hotel and we instead relied on “bored” games (as they called them) to foster that old-school December holiday feeling. 

Perhaps it was the prospect of a last family holiday that fuelled my nostalgia – my sons are 19, 17 and 15 and the middle one is already talking about travelling to Bali with his friends next holiday season. I went so far in my reminiscence that I found myself rummaging through boxes of CDs for sale at various summer flea markets looking for that perfect “holiday soundtrack”. (Don’t we all do that?) Thanks to Southpark (I’m cringing), my kids were familiar with the song “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” by The Animals and for the most part, this is the soundtrack that stuck. Take that as you will. Later in the trip, someone in a cabriolet drove past with speakers blaring Timmy Trumpet’s song ‘Freaks’ which then dislodged The Animals track from my mind my ears, and, even now a week back at work, all I hear is that electronic beat and the line ending “as the mighty trumpet brings the freaks out to the floor!”.

After all was said and done, I’m not sure whether my insistence upon a traditional family holiday (the irony isn’t lost on me...) fostered a closer family bond. The environment was perfect - however, I found myself spending more time in the sea than the kids, bought a boogie board and had to head out to the beach for that “last swim of the holidays” (another tradition...) on my own. Out in the water or boogying on the shore with my boogie board, I could sing the Freaks song to my heart’s content with the sun beating down on my well-protected middle-aged skin and not a single care in the world. 

‘tis "the season", after all. Or is it?

Victoria goes to the polls

Posted by Anka on Dec. 5, 2014, 5:07 p.m. in Lifestyle

How many parliaments does Australia have? This may sound like an easy one to answer. Most countries would have either one (unicameral) or two (bicameral). Now, brace for it. We have a total of 16 parliaments in Australia! We have two at federal level, two each in New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia and one each in the ACT, the Northern Territory, Queensland and Norfolk Island. Now, that’s a lot of parliaments.  


As you know, IMMagine Australia is based in Melbourne which is the state capital of Victoria. Last weekend, we had state-wide elections for the two houses of parliament in our state. By the way, in Australia, only citizens can vote (permanent residents cannot) and voting is compulsory, both at federal level and at state/territory level. After each election, the Australian Electoral Commission will send a letter to all apparent non-voters requesting that they either provide a valid and sufficient reason for failing to vote or pay a $20 penalty. The matter may be referred to court if you fail to reply, cannot provide a valid and sufficient reason or decline to pay the $20 penalty. In short, voting in this country is serious business!


This seriousness is further complicated by the fact that a different electoral system is used to determine the make-up of the lower and upper houses of parliament both federally and at state-level in Victoria. As a good citizen, I did my homework prior to the election day and tried my best to understand it all but I’m not sure if I succeeded. I won’t bore you with details but it can and does get complicated with preferences, ‘how to vote’ cards, voting above the line vs voting below the line etc. All I can say is that I’m not entirely convinced that the way the electoral system(s) work is fully accessible to the general public. I am a political science major and I struggle with it so I’m not sure how Joe Public handles it.


Out of the two houses of parliament in Victoria, the lower house is dominated by the two major parties which are Labor and the Liberal/National Coalition. As a result, the so-called minor parties do not generally field candidates for the single-member districts which make up the lower house. They do campaign for seats in the upper house though and in this election, we had a large number of single-issue parties in competition. These included Animal Justice Party, Australian Cyclists Party, Australian Sex Party, Family First Party, Shooters and Fishers Party and Voluntary Euthanasia Party. While the results for the upper house are not known yet, the preferential voting system means that one or more of these parties may well be represented there.


By this stage, you may have heard that the election was won by the Labor Party, which is the biggest win for the party since its win in the nationwide polls in 2007. In a two-party dominated system, a swing of 2-3% can make all the difference and actually did in this case. The swing to Labor was around 2%.


The results were not surprising given the resurgence the Labor Party has enjoyed in Victoria recently and the unpopularity of Prime Minister Tony Abbott. In winning this election, the Labor Party became the first opposition party since 1955 to be returned to government after only one term. The Green Party also won a lower house seat (i.e. a district) for the first time in history.


As with any election, there is no single reason for Labor’s win or the Coalition’s defeat. However, several issues played a key role in the way this election turned out. These included the unpopular budget measures of the current federal government, the controversial East West Link (freeway), cuts made to vocational school (TAFE’s), concerns with ambulance response times, jobs, health, transport and infrastructure in general.


Immigration is the domain of the federal government so does not feature at all in a state election. That doesn't mean that state governments do not play a role in migration. The allocation of places to skilled migrants through occupational lists is the responsiblity of state governments. In some cases, the election of a new government may mean a revision of priority occupations and the selection criteria. At this stage, there is no update on whether this will happen in Victoria but we will be monitoring any developments and you can watch this space for updates.


Well, now that the people have spoken, it is up to the newly elected government of Victoria to deliver on its promises which include investing further in infrastructure and the creation of jobs. The latter is of key importance for our industry as well because Victoria is the most popular migration destination when we consider internal as well as external immigration.


With Melbourne being voted the most liveable city in the world several years in a row, it’s clear that governments in this state have a very high standard to aspire to.

New tests mean new hope

Posted by Anka on Nov. 26, 2014, 5:14 p.m. in Immigration

Some weeks ago, we did a blog article on what we called the dreaded five-letter word: IELTS. For years, IELTS was the only English language test a prospective skilled migrant to Australia could do unless they were in the medical field in which case they had the option of sitting the Occupational English Test (OET). The purpose of this article is to highly a very important development in this space. A significant change that had been flagged by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) and that we had also announced in the news section of our website has come into effect.


As of 23 November 2014, the Department has started accepting The Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic) and TOEFL internet-based test (TOEFL iBT) along with IELTS and OET for the purposes of General Skilled Migration as well as permanent employer sponsored and business visa applications. From 1 January 2015, Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) will also be accepted for migration purposes.


Notably though, IELTS remains the only English test accepted for the purposes of obtaining a work visa in Australia. This could, however, change as well very soon because a large-scale review of the work visa program is currently underway.


All English test results remain valid for 3 years and you can use a PTE Academic or TOEFL iBT score obtained before 23 November 2014 so long as it’s less than 3 years old at the time you use it.


Earlier this week, we at Immagine Australia had a meeting with representatives of Pearson here in Melbourne with a view to finding out more about PTE Academic and how it compares with IELTS. Over the years, our clients have always sat the IELTS test and we have developed an understanding of it as a result. Having said that, the availability of new tests is a welcome development both for us and for our clients as it means that they have other options if a particular test format or date or availability does not suit them.


Because of its greater acceptance for migration purposes, IELTS continues to be more widely available around the world but we understand that the recent decision of the Australian Department of Immigration has led to heightened awareness of the new tests and more centres and test locations are being launched all around the world.


The representatives from Pearson advised us that many of their tests are full but that they are equipped to increase capacity as required so that test takers do not need to wait for months to get a test date.


Some of the differences between IELTS and PTE Academic that we could observe based on our research and the information we received from Pearson staff are as follows:


- PTE aims to match availability with demand so if a test date is available, a place is almost guaranteed. IELTS tests can only sat on the scheduled days


For groups of 5 or more, PTE can organise a test on demand. It’s possible to do this with as little as 24 hours’ notice.


- IELTS is a written (i.e. paper-based) test. PTE Academic is done on a computer so it may suit those with touch-typing skills better. We were told that the spellchecker is turned off though so don’t think that you can misspell and get away with it!


- In the speaking test, you have a two-way conversation with an examiner if you are sitting IELTS. In PTE Academic, you speak into a microphone to complete the tasks.


- IELTS is marked by a person while PTE Academic is marked by an intelligent computer program.


- PTE Academic marks results over a narrower continuum resulting in a more precise outcome. In IELTS, the difference between a 6.5 and 7.0 for instance may be vast and the test taker doesn’t always know how close or far they are from the next band.


- PTE Academic results are often out in 48 hours although it may take up to 5 days. IELTS results take 14 days to be released.


All English tests for migration purposes mark applicants on Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening and a minimum score is required in each of the 4 bands (as opposed to an overall band score) in order to claim points in a migration application.


In the end, which test you end up taking is for you to decide. We are happy to provide guidance and support to you in this process and the availability of several tests is particularly good news for people who have taken IELTS before and were not able to get the results they wanted.


It is our understanding that PTE Academic and TOEFL iBT tests may suit computer savvy invidviduals who are fast typists and totally at home in front of a computer. On the hand, IELTS may be better for those who are not as technologically strong and those who may have special needs. We are led to believe that special needs cannot be easily accommodated in a compute or internet-based exam situation.


You can find out more about each of the tests at:

A Singaporean in Australia

Posted by Myer on Nov. 13, 2014, 3:32 p.m. in Lifestyle

Migrants choose to leave Singapore for Australia for a number of reasons however lifestyle and education for children tend to be two of the most popular reasons.

My son David (19) has a Singaporean girlfriend. He met her in high school in Melbourne and although she had to return to Singapore for tertiary studies for financial reasons (she was studying in Australia on a student visa, not a resident visa), I took the opportunity of interviewing her on one of her frequent visits to Melbourne with the purpose of giving Singaporeans some insight into the differences between the education systems of Singapore and Australia and settlement issues facing a young teenage Singaporean relocating to Melbourne.

Here is a transcript of the interview I had with her:


Where were you born?

I was born in Singapore.                               


When did you move to Australia and how old are you?

I moved to Australia at the end of 2008 where I just finished year 7 back there. I was around 14 at that time. At that moment, I felt scared yet excited simultaneously because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make any friends, but also excited because I have lived in Australia prior to this and I absolutely loved it.


Why did you move to Australia?

I moved to Australia due to personal reasons I had in Singapore but also because of the love my parents and I had for the different education system in Australia.


Who accompanied you to Australia?

Initially I was accompanied by my parents. A few weeks after we’ve settled in, my dad left because he works overseas. However about 2 years later my sister joined my mum and I.


Did you know anyone in Australia? Why did you choose Australia?

I had family in Melbourne. It was my mum’s brother but they were of little help as the communication between them and us wasn’t that strong, hence it was a bit of a challenge in terms of finding a house. However my mum’s brother did help me find an appropriate school for my education and it was convenient at that time because my cousin also attended that school. Why I chose Australia? As I previously mentioned before, I did have issues in my old school which did have an impact on the move but this move was also planned years ago and it was the perfect opportunity to do it, so why not? I also remembered from earlier years that I had an amazing time when I was in Australia previously.


Did you find it easy to make friends at school did you find it easy to settle into life in Australia?

I reckon from my perspective or as a general thing, it’s never easy being the new girl especially if everyone knew each other already. I mean going to a new school would always be hard for anyone really. But personally for me I don’t have any difficulties making new friends because I’m a talkative person and it’s simple for me to communicate with people. However, making new friends is also one of those situations where you have to get it over with because for me I think you won’t go as far in life if you’re scared to make new friends and connections. Easy settling into life here? I guess you can say that because I have moved countries before so I am used to it and it isn’t something I’m unfamiliar with. I think the downfall for moving countries for me would be saying goodbye to the friends you’ve made. Especially if you’ve developed a close and intimate relationship with them because you don’t know if you’ll ever see them again. And social media isn’t as effective because you’re just communicating with them through a screen and I feel like that isn’t a proper relationship because words are just words, especially if you’re just reading them


How long did it take you to feel settled?

There was no exact time frame as to when I felt settled In but I felt settled in the most when I made a few friends.


Any difficulties when first arriving? For example racism/support/funding facilities, orientation etc.

Not many difficulties. The only challenge was finding a suitable home to live in.


What percentage of the schoolkids were of Asian ethnicity and was it important to your parents in choosing your school to have a good ethnic mix?

Cultural diversity wasn’t overly important in their consideration however the school that I moved to was very diverse.


In comparison to Singapore how did you find schooling in Australia? What were the main differences in education, cultural differences etc.

I find that the education in Australia is more laid back and enjoyable than Singapore in terms of the discipline, the pressure to do well and the work load. At my old school in Singapore I would start school at 8am and wouldn’t even finish till about 6pm most times because we were forced to do extra curricular activities. And on top of that, the difficulty in the subjects required a tutor for most students so if I happen to end school early, I would have to go home and do another 2 hours of tutoring which also includes my tutorial homework and school homework.

The main difference would be the pressure and level of education which is much higher in Singapore


How did you find Australians? What are some of the differences between Australians and Singaporeans?

I found Australians to be very hospitable and friendly. Differences would be that Australians are nicer people and more laid back while Singaporeans are more focused.


Do you find that alcohol/drugs are widely used in schools?

It’s rarely seen in schools but there are cases outside of school of underage drinking.


What age did you finish school in Australia?

I finished school at 19.


Why did you return to Singapore?

I returned to Singapore due to financial difficulties due to the university fees here for non-permanent residents.


Would you study in Australia again given the chance and possibly live in Australia again?

In a heartbeat.


Was it difficult living in Australia for so many years to readjust to life in Singapore and if so what are the major challenges you face?

I found it very difficult because personally I’m not a particular fan of the country and the general environment as opposed to that of Australia. Second, since I’ve spent 6 years in Australia I’ve made so many friends especially a few which I grew really close to and it is difficult not being able to hang out or see them anymore. Third, I’ve started university in Singapore and again the ‘new girl’ issues start to arise. Fourth, it is also really really hot in Singapore.

How do you know what occupation to nominate?

Posted by Anka on Oct. 10, 2014, 3:49 p.m. in Eligibility

The title of this article may come across as a rhetorical question but it actually isn’t meant that way. It is a genuine question and one whose answer may appear obvious at first glance until you start considering how complicated the requirements of the skills assessing authorities in Australia can be. After all, strictly from an Australian immigration perspective, you are not an Engineer/ Bricklayer/Nurse/Teacher/Senior Manager etc until the relevant skills assessing authority says so. Without a positive skills assessment, there is no case for a skilled migration application. Consequently, nominating the correct occupation, one that both aligns with your qualifications and work experience and in which you will be able to obtain a positive skills assessment, is of utmost importance.


The Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA) in Australia which regulates our industry recently released their quarterly report which included an interesting statistic. It stated that between April and June of this year, 36% of applicants for a general skilled migration (GSM) visa used a migration agent to represent them in their application. Personally, I wasn’t surprised by this number for reasons which I’ll go on to explain below but I did feel that it only told part of the story as we don’t have the figures on what percentage of applications get declined due to self-lodging applicants getting things wrong along the way. I suspect that it would be a significant number. Here’s why.


I am not sure if you’ll agree but there is a perception out there that it’s ‘easy’ to apply for a GSM visa, that the Department’s website has all the information that a person would need and that it’s just a matter of scores sufficient points in the points test and then it’s a guaranteed outcome. I don’t quite know where this comes from but, as a professional who has been in this industry for almost a decade, I can say with some authority that it can’t be any further from the truth.


Firstly, very limited information is available on the Department’s website and there is almost no information on skills assessment and the associated requirements even though this is such a key aspect of a GSM application. Another thing to keep in mind with regard to the information on the Department’s website is that it can be misleading or plain wrong. Most importantly, the information on the Department’s website is not the actual legislation so you can’t fall back on it if something goes wrong.


Secondly, the points test may look simple but it’s anything but. There are a large number of variables that determine how many points can be claimed for qualifications and work experience in particular which is where applicants not using an agent regularly get it wrong and end up being refused.


To illustrate some of the complexities, I invite you ponder the questions below and make up your own mind as to how confident you would feel going into this on your own with no professional support.


1) Do you know what occupation you could nominate? This will depend not only on what you are actually doing but what you have done in the past, the qualifications you hold and when these were gained.


2) Do you know what level qualifications would need to be to nominate the occupation you have in mind? Some occupations require a degree, some require a diploma and others require a trade qualification. How do you know which applies to you?


3) Some occupations can be nominated and a positive skills assessment obtained even if you have no formal qualifications. Do you know what these are?


4) There are 37 different skills assessing authorities. Do you know which one assesses your occupation? Assuming you do, how familiar are you with their particular requirements?


5) Do you know how points for English language ability can be claimed? Which tests are accepted? Are there any exemptions? How old do the test results need to be?


6) How many years of work experience do you need? How much of your work experience can be counted in the points test? In some occupations, all work experience can be claimed, even pre-qualification. In others, you may be able to claim work experience only post-qualification or even after a few years has elapsed following the qualification.


Some of the above points get so complicated that even junior agents may call upon the assistance of a more senior collages in many instances.


Building a successful case for migration to Australia as a skilled individual is like building a house from the foundation up. Among other things, that foundation consists of nominating the correct occupation. If the foundation is not sound, the house will collapse. Getting the foundation right is absolutely critical in order to achieve the desired objective of obtaining permanent residence in Australia.


It therefore scares me to think that some applicants believe that all the answers to the above and more can be found on forums which are full of posters with no formal qualifications in giving migration advice. Going it alone is nothing less than a gamble, one that could mean that you end up losing more than $10,000 in government application fees, depending on the size of your family. Like all wagers, you could of course win but wouldn’t you rather have an experienced agent taking you through the process making sure that each step is being completed correctly and the way it needs to be?