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Immigration Blog

REGULAR POSTS FROM NEW ZEALAND & AUSTRALIA

Posts in category: Australia

Immigration 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 & New Zealand at a grass-roots level is paramount to your immigration survival, and to give you a realistic view of both countries, its people and how we see the world, as well as updates about any current or imminent policy changes, subscribe to our regular blog posts by entering your details below.

The accidental migrant - me

Posted by Iain on Jan. 21, 2022, 2:46 p.m. in Australia

In some respects, life is like trying to swim in a fast flowing river. There's only so much to be gained by swimming against it. And if you let it, it can take you on the wildest of rides to places you never planned or expected to end up.

I am an accidental immigrant. My clients are deliberate ones although sometimes they too end up not in the country of their choice but the country that would take them.

I haven't heard of too many people becoming accidental migrants where a country has chosen them rather than them choosing a country (except for UNHCR sponsored refugees). My family however as an interesting case study in becoming an accidental migrant. And how it doesn’t have to be a gloomy story. 

In July my wife and youngest son, Tom (25), travelled to Australia to spend two weeks with my eldest son, Jack, who had been in Brisbane for a little over 12 months while his partner completed her degree. We had booked tickets, cancelled, rebooked, cancelled and rebooked again through May and June - uncertain if we were mad and if we were as ‘crazy’ as at least one person told us we were. 

Only when we were as confident as we could be that the New Zealand border would not be closed and we would not have to go into managed isolation on our return did we travel. We knew it was a risk. The so-called "travel bubble" that had begun two months earlier for quarantine free travel between New Zealand and Australia was in full swing and there was no obvious evidence that would need to change. 

We arrived in Queensland on 15 July 2021. We are still here.

Ten days into our trip to the New Zealand Prime Minister called New Zealanders in Australia home because she was going to shut down the quarantine free travel given community outbreaks of Covid in New South Wales and Victoria. 

After much thought we opted not to return because the Prime Minister said that she would ‘review’ the travel bubble in September. There was no Covid in Queensland in August and given the state had shut itself off not only from the world but the rest of Australia, had successful protections in place that were highly effective in preventing spread and had no community transmission, it was inconceivable to us that the Prime Minister in September would not reopen travel at least from States like Queensland - even if it meant forcing us into MIQ on arrival. In establishing the quarantine free travel the Prime Minister had done so assessing the health risk on a state-by-state basis. Where there was an issue she could stop travel from that state, where there was not, there seemed no health reason for her to do so. 

Come September however she weirdly changed the risk assessment from treating each State by State on its individual merit and health risk to treating the whole country as one risk. She closed the travel bubble.

Shortly thereafter any New Zealanders who wished or needed to go home had to get in the weekly lottery for a MIQ room like the rest of the world where on average 16 people chase 1 room every week. Despite several attempts to return to our country of citizenship we have been unsuccessful.

Having no idea how long New Zealand would deny entry to us as citizens, enjoying the lack of lockdowns here and not the Covid hysteria that still pervades New Zealand we started to settle down. Not wanting to keep spending a small fortune on short-term rentals we bought a townhouse in Noosa Heads. We thought when we go home we could rent it out. Nice investment and nice place to spend winter.

In November as had been our plan for a few years we sold our Mount Eden home. 

I now feel quite content with being here even though Australia has chosen us as much as New Zealand has rejected us. 

Confession - I had studiously avoided ever travelling to Queensland because I always feared I’d fall in love with it. I hoped even after we got here that my relationship with it would be ‘Yeah it’s nice but I couldn’t live here.’ 

The longer I was here the more I liked it. It isn't a love affair, at least not yet, but we are happy in each other's company.

The people are friendly. Service levels are high. Within two minutes walk I have loads of cafes and restaurants, two supermarkets and other retail. Within 20 minutes I am in the country. I am surrounded by world class golf courses. They have Ikea! 

In an hour I am in the wilderness. No cars. No people. Warm ocean. Scuba diving. Forest walks. Camping. Fishing.  Whale watching. 

It has more than grown on me. It has become like the step child that came with the new partner that you never thought you could love. 

At the same time this 'ordeal' has given me a far greater appreciation and respect for all our clients who migrate and has made me a better immigration adviser for the experience. 

We knew no one at Noosa when we arrived. We had no real support network but obviously had Jack to point us in the right direction on many things. 

We have had to buy a car, register it and insure it. Also a camper trailer (our half way house when we had hoped to get home in January). We had to work out how to negotiate the Medicare public health registration process (the one hard part). Register with our local GP. Open bank accounts. Buy a house and understand the laws concerning that (once you buy a house you as purchaser are responsible for what happens to it before settlement date - so we had to take out insurance in case the vendor burned it down accidentally before we settled on it. A strange law indeed but limited I learned to Queensland). Furnish the house as we had no furniture. Ongoing. 

Selling a house in Auckland we were not living in. 

Getting the Auckland house packed up without being there. Trying to find a solution to the not so small matter of our two cats, one diabetic. We can’t fly them here because cats must be kept within the property (NZ could learn from that). And they have snakes here. And poisonous toads everywhere. The hunter cat would be dead in days! 

Running a business remotely and the importance of employing the best staff and looking after them. Running a business via Zoom and Teams. Servicing clients remotely rather than in person. Being thankful for my team and the fact we were smart enough to move our business into the cloud a few years before covid hit. Embracing that change. 

Knowing I can’t have a drink or meal with my friends or extended family is not easy. I miss my conservation work in our forest at home. 

Not knowing when or if we will ever be allowed home is the worst part. Being denied entry to one’s country even though a citizen is hard to get your head around until you are in the position. 

Knowing that I might need to get used to living in Australia because it could become home. 

At the same time the strange feeling that this is not really home and while much is familiar much is not. Not unpleasant, just different. 

Living a day at a time as we have all had to learn to do through covid. 

Knowing there are things that I can control but much that I cannot. Feeling like we are floating down a fast moving river. Not fighting it - enjoying the ride to see where we end up. 

Much like most immigrants really, even accidental ones. 

Until next week. 

Iain MacLeod

Southern Man

Tags: Noosa | Fishing | Camping

Enough Greek (language)!

Posted by Myer on Dec. 10, 2021, 7:27 a.m. in Australia

In the last few weeks the world learnt a new letter of the Greek alphabet, Omicron, and whilst I am in favour of classical learning I am not in favour of acquiring more knowledge about letters of the Greek alphabet when they are associated with new variants of the coronavirus. I was quite happy to stop my education in the classics at Delta. The new variant has caused quite a stir and most developed countries have (unfairly in my opinion) imposed travel bans on Southern African countries notwithstanding the fact that the variant is to be found in a vast array of countries.

Australia announced a closed border policy of restricting entry to the eight southern African countries but they have stressed that this is just a pause in the transition to opening of Australia’s borders until such time as they fully understand the virus, the transmissibility of it and the seriousness of the symptoms.

It comes at a time where Australia is suffering acute skill shortages across a number of sectors and skill shortages are felt across both skilled and unskilled workers. Articles and editorials on skill shortages tend to dominate the press in Australia and we frequently receive calls from employers inquiring as to whether we have workers in a vast array of industries.

Already we have received requests for roof plumbers and tilers, joiners, pharmacists, farmers, diesel mechanics, and electronics equipment professionals from employers who simply cannot find suitable skills in Australia. The shortages are most certainly not limited to the above occupations and anyone who works in a skilled occupation will have plenty of opportunities available to them when looking for work. In fact I don’t know if there is an industry in Australia that isn’t suffering acute skill shortages.

I read an article that the State of Victoria is suffering from a skills shortage of 4000 teachers. We had a shortage of teachers prior to Covid but it’s been exacerbated because not only have we not had the usual flow of migrants for the past two years but Australian students studying teaching haven’t been able to complete their teacher practical training because of lockdowns.

If skill shortages were not in themselves sufficient reason to encourage migrants, Australia relies upon migrants to build the economy, increase consumption, compensate for the low birthrate in Australia and provide a tax base for Australians wanting to retire.

Notwithstanding predictions regarding a baby-boom during the frequent lockdowns we endured, registered births fell by 3.7% in 2020 with the fertility rate at an all-time low of 1.58 babies per woman. It’s the first time in 14 years that registered births dropped below 300,000.

There are essentially two streams of skilled migrants entering Australia, those who acquire general skilled migration visas (points tested visas that don’t require offers of employment) and those that are sponsored by employers.

In the past employers have traditionally been reluctant to act as sponsors and for anyone who has been looking at recruitment related websites in the past you will notice how many employers have stipulated that workers must have “work rights”. They are essentially saying that there is a preference for those who hold general skilled migration visas because employers don’t have to sponsor these prospective employees as the general skilled migration visas give them work rights.

“Sponsorship” is an expensive option for an employer, as it involves guaranteeing the repatriation of the employee (and other members of the family unit) if the employee cannot afford return airfare, payment to an Australian industry training fund of between $ 1200 – $1800 per annum (in advance) for each year of the term of the work visa, and payment of some of the government fees associated with the work visa.

Whilst employers might not want to act as sponsors they often don’t have a choice. The processing time of general skilled migration visas is generally 12 months and often the lengthy processing time doesn’t suit employers. They don’t have a choice but to sponsor temporary workers. If the lack of sponsored migrant is going to cost the employer more in terms of lost productivity, operational inefficiency or an inability to service existing contracts and acquire new business, then it’s a bit of a no-brainer - employers have to act as sponsors.

Australia will open its borders to more than the handful of countries that are allowed to enter Australia at present (Japan, South Korea and Singapore) in the early months of next year and I’m sure that within time, those from Southern Africa will be welcomed again.

When this occurs I think that employers will have no option but to embrace sponsorship of workers that they want to employ as I don’t think that the limited numbers of general skilled migration visas (amounting to approximately 28,900 places) is going to sufficiently satisfy employers needs, and whilst many employers may find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to act as sponsor the needs of their businesses will dictate their actions in this regard.

All in all 2022 looks like being an interesting year for migration and a good one for our industry. With the dawn of a post pandemic migration era approaching, the opportunity for prospective migrants to consider a move to Australia has never been better.

It's about time, as after two years in the wilderness we were due for a bountiful harvest, and as for learning more Greek, Omnicron is as far as I would like to go, it's enough Greek for me.


It’s Go Time

Posted by Myer on Oct. 8, 2021, 3:16 p.m. in Australia

The Prime Minister of Australia recently announced lifting of travel restrictions and the ability for certain types of travellers (including Australian citizens and permanent residents) to quarantine at home from November. The next phase would focus on students and temporary workers with tourists only being able to travel to Australia next year. Australians will also be allowed to travel overseas, for the past 18 months Australians have had to apply to their government for permission to leave Australia. 

Prior to this announcement there was a loose promise to open borders when Australia had reached 70 or 80% Covid vaccination rate but the Prime Minister is keen to hammer home several messages to amongst others, Australians to get vaccinated to enjoy freedom to travel, and to state governments that are still indicating a reluctance to open their own borders that they will be left behind and to the rest of the world (including migrants) that Australia will be opening up.

Key elements of the announcement are:

1.       International travel will commence for fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents From November through NSW.

2.       Those Australian citizens and permanent residents who are fully vaccinated would be subject to a seven day home quarantine on return to Australia.

3.       Those who are unvaccinated will have to endure 14 days of managed quarantine, either in hotel quarantine or “managed quarantine”.

4.       Quarantine free travel is expected for countries with high vaccination rates and low infection rates.

5.       Covid tests will be required by international travellers.

The announcement is a clear carrot to Australians hesitant to obtain a vaccination with the promise of greater freedoms for those double vaccinated. It is also a clear signal to those states in Australia (such as Western Australia and Queensland) reluctant to open their borders because Covid case numbers are almost non-existent.

It’s a message that Australia needs to live with Covid and the previous unofficial elimination policy needs to be replaced by a learning to live with Covid message. Even the Premier of the most locked down city in the world (Melbourne) has decided to follow suit and open up our state borders once we have achieved 80% vaccination rate notwithstanding rapidly escalating Covid case numbers in Victoria (Wednesday we had over 1400 new infections in Victoria and over 1700 on Tuesday).

Australia is sending a clear signal to the rest of the world that we are emerging from the self-created cocoon of the past 18 months and like Rip van Winkle after a long sleep, rubbing its eyes, stretching and yawning before welcoming returning Australians, migrants and travellers. We are shedding the mantle of the hermit country and extending a welcoming fist bump to those seeking to travel to Australia.

Of course much of the detail hasn’t yet been released but already we have seen changes to the way in which state governments are addressing skill shortages. South Australia (no surprise) was the first to commence sponsoring certain occupations for overseas-based applicants and to be fair to South Australia, their announcement to sponsor 70 new occupations (in addition to several others that they are already prepared to sponsor) preceded the Prime Minister’s announcement. South Australia has long been the most proactive state in terms of sponsoring migrants with the most dynamic migration program amongst any of the states. It’s little wonder that approximately 65% of our clients based overseas are headed to South Australia.

I expect other states to follow suit because skill shortages in Australia are at profound levels notwithstanding the fact that currently three states in Australia namely ACT, Victoria and New South Wales are experiencing degrees of lockdown.

When previous lockdowns ended, the Australian economy bounced back in a V shaped recovery, due to several factors including huge Federal and State government stimuli packages, ability to continue working from home, online purchases and the loosely applied term of essential services continuing to operate. The fact that approximately 500,000 temporary visa holders left Australia 18 months ago when Covid travel restrictions were announced and the fact that apart from a few occupations on the priority skilled occupation list, we haven’t been acquiring sufficient skills to satisfy the demands of industry.

The federal government has announced that fiscal stimuli packages are to be discontinued once Australia reaches an 80% vaccination rate and it is envisaged that the pent-up consumer demand that has accrued after months of lockdown will provide more than sufficient economic stimulus to the economy that government support is no longer required. Of course not all industries were affected uniformly by government closures and if you are ever naïve enough to believe that “we are all in this together”, the next 12 months will dispel that myth as different sectors of the economy grow at different rates.

We are frequently asked by clients which Covid vaccinations are recognised in Australia. The Therapeutic Goods Association in Australia (the equivalent of the FDA in the US) recognises the following and the Prime Minister announced two new vaccines that would be recognised for the purposes of international travellers namely Sinovac-and Covidshield:

Pfizer Australia Ltd (Comirnaty)

AstraZeneca Pty Ltd (Vaxzevria)

Janssen-Cilag Pty Ltd (COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen)

Moderna AUstralia PTY Ltd (Spikevax)

The federal government hasn't made it mandatory for migrants to get vaccinated but the message is fairly clear that the unvaccinated will constitute a new underclass in society with proprietors of restaurants, pubs, sporting facilities able to request proof of vaccination before entry will be granted. Some state governments such as Victoria have made it compulsory for workers in certain occupations to have a Covid vaccine to work. The 'no jab, no work' policy. The list of occupations is too long to mention but it's expected to account for at least 1.25 million Victorians.

I've received a number of emails from those thinking of migrating to Australia in the wake of the Prime Minister's announcement telling me that now that Australia is opening its borders they have decided to recommence their migration plans and whilst this is welcome, my message during the past 18 months has been consistent one i.e. don't wait until such time as a the borders open to have a consultation with us to determine the most appropriate visa options that apply in your particular case because the lead in time before you can apply for the visa takes several months to complete.

Before you can apply for state sponsorship you need to have completed skills assessments and English-language tests, and you really want to be in a position to have this in place when places open up, so that when states like South Australia fully recommence sponsoring occupations, you can be that "first cab off the rank" as one of my previous Singaporean clients put it to me.

It's time to be proactive as far as your migration plans to Australia are concerned, or to put it another way "it's go time".


When will the borders open in Australia?

Posted by Myer on Aug. 13, 2021, 2:59 p.m. in Australia

That’s probably one of the most frequently asked questions we receive and in truth, we don’t know. I suspect many of our politicians don’t know either. If that were the whole answer it would lead to a very short blog but we have a better idea of the factors that would determine when the borders are likely to open and it’s all linked to the speed with which we can get to jabbing (twice) 80% of Australians.

For those of you wondering how long it will take before you can visit Australia or obtain approval on your visa, it’s linked to the speed with which Australia can achieve this threshold. Currently 45% of Australians over 16 have had 1 dose, and 23% are fully vaccinated.

An updated four-phase plan for reducing the reliance on lockdowns and increasing freedoms including those of international travel have recently been released by our Prime Minister.

Phase 1

Where Australia is right now is “vaccinate, prepare and pilot” involves suppression (if you are in New South Wales, ‘elimination’ everywhere else – a source of increasing inter State tension) of the virus to minimise the spread in the community. It involves “early, stringent and short lockdowns if outbreaks occur”. Whilst this might still be possible in Victoria with daily cases of approximately 20 I fail to see how it can be implemented in New South Wales unless they are prepared to undergo the type of lockdown we endured last year in Victoria of about three months duration. The fact the virus is still spreading across NSW is all the evidence that not going fast and early is catastrophic.

Phase 2

This is supposed to occur when 70% of people 16 years and older have been vaccinated and with just 22% of Australians having both doses we are a long way from achieving the 70% threshold although the date of the end of 2021 has been mentioned as a likely timetable. Under phase 2, called the “vaccination transition phase”, the aim would be to minimise serious illness, hospitalisation and fatality as a result of Covid-19 “with low-level restrictions”.

Phase 2 would see increased international arrivals and the advent of lockdowns less likely to occur.

Phase 3

Would occur when 80% of over 16’s have been vaccinated. This would be known as the “vaccination consolidation phase”. Lockdowns would be rare and Australians would be receiving vaccine boosters. There would be no domestic travel restrictions and all outbound travel for vaccinated Australians would be permitted and all vaccinated Australians abroad could return to Australia.

The number of international students would also increase and it would be a gradual reopening of inward and outward international travel with “safe” countries and reduced quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers to Australia.

Phase 4

The fourth phase would be the full opening of international borders with the proviso of quarantine for “high risk inbound travel”. All vaccinated people would be able to travel to Australia without being subject to quarantine and nonvaccinated travellers would still be allowed to travel to Australia albeit with Covid testing.

This phase would see Australia living with Covid 19 as it treats any other infectious disease such as the flu.

Unfortunately Covid 19, in particular the Delta variant doesn’t always play by the rules and doesn’t recognise the timelines of the four-phase plan outlined above.

The spread of the Delta variant in New South Wales has been a bit of a game changer, and with new cases of infection in New South Wales running at approximately 360 per day, the prospect of short sharp lockdowns isn’t practical.

I say that from experience because when we had cases of that magnitude in Victoria last year (with the less infectious Covid variant), we had to endure a three month lockdown. The New South Wales Premier has always shown a distinct lack of appetite for a protracted hard lockdown and it seems as if that genie is well and truly out of the bottle.

 In Victoria we have just entered our sixth lockdown with cases running at about 20 per day. If the seven day lockdown is extended for another couple of weeks we could possibly eliminate Covid from the state of Victoria. A colleague had reassured me that “the hardest part of a 7 day lockdown is the first three weeks” and that is such a beautiful quote because it sums up the mistrust Victorians have for these “snap lockdowns”.

The rest of Australia is largely Covid free but the economic consequences of enduring these short (ish) lockdowns in Victoria and New South Wales has dire consequences for the Australian economy, not to mention the mental anguish suffered by those in lockdown, especially parents trying to work from home and home schooling children and business people whose businesses have to close during these lockdowns. The cost to the economy is also considerable. Victoria’s lockdown costs about 100 million dollars per day in lost economic activity and New South Wales approximately 140 million dollars per day.

I realise that to those outside Australia these Covid figures might seem enviable but apart from the state of Victoria, the rest of Australia had largely not experienced prolonged lockdowns, so the number of Covid cases in New South Wales signals, in my opinion, the advent of a new chapter namely learning to live with Covid in Australian society.

Our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison acknowledged this when he said he wanted “to get Australia in a position where we are living with the virus” and acknowledged that “there will be deaths”.

 

That change in narrative is significant as our Prime Minister prepares us for a post pandemic Australia and whilst the slow and deliberate 4 phase plan looks good in theory the spread of the Delta variant has distorted the plan to the extent that everything has sped up to warp speed (Mr Solo). Short sharp lockdowns (at least in NSW) may not be practical and we may have already been propelled into living with Covid in the community. The narrative is starting to sound like Bugs Bunny and I would not be surprised if the Prime Minister ends the next press conference with “That’s all folks” and the Looney Tunes theme playing him out in the background.


The Divided States of Australia

Posted by Myer on July 30, 2021, 1:28 p.m. in Australia

The international public perception of Australia is one country speaking with one voice albeit a multi-ethnic voice but the Covid 19 pandemic has highlighted the schisms that exist between the various states and territories in Australia.

Prior to the pandemic we looked to Canberra, the seat of the federal government for direction and governance but since the pandemic we have a cacophony of voices with different directions, some federal and some State. It’s easy to feel a bit confused and disorientated living in Australia with so much government and so many authoritarian figures telling us which way to live our lives.

Pre-pandemic I was aware that each of the eight states and territories had their own Premier/Chief Minister but I certainly couldn’t have told you the names of more than one or two and they very rarely ever received much coverage in the national press but these days it seems as if every month the Premier of a different state is holding a press conference to do with either border closures, vaccine rollout and other Covid related issues.

A brief history lesson

Australia became a federation in 1901 entered into under the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, prior to this date Australia consisted of six separate British self-governing colonies of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia. The two territories of Northern Territory and ACT were added after Federation.

Why did the colonies decide to federate?

Each colony sought to protect its interests. New South Wales had competed with Victoria for influence, to the extent that the territory of ACT would be established so that the seat of federal government would be independent of Victoria and New South Wales. The smaller colonies had feared their interests would be ignored by the larger colonies in a system of centralised government such as in Great Britain or New Zealand where the national government holds all of the power.

Federation achieved an independence of sorts for Australia where the central or federal government exercised certain powers pertaining to the national interest (for example defence, national borders, federal tax et cetera) and other powers could be applied on a state level.

 It might come as a surprise to know that Australia does not have a national education curriculum for schoolchildren and each state has its own curriculum. The same applies to the road code, there is no federal law relating to road usage and each state and territory determines its rules for road users.

For immigration purposes the federal government divides the annual immigration quota or target of a 160,000 places into different visa types and allocates to each state or territory a certain number of places that they then divide into different occupations that are in demand in that particular state. These lists of occupations are published on or about 1 July of each year and if you are in an occupation on one of these lists you could apply for state sponsorship which is an integral part of certain skilled visa applications.

Each State also has their own Constitution, Parliament and legislation that give them additional special powers to deal with emergencies such as controlling the spread of COVID-19.

What makes border closures tricky is that each State has different laws and there does not appear to be any consistent, clear or transparent guides to help the States manage the public health risk in a unified manner.

Recently Victoria has been running ads warning those in New South Wales not to enter Australia because of the Delta variant that is running rampant in New South Wales because of their hesitancy in applying a hard lockdown.

We recently saw a request for additional vaccine doses to be supplied to New South Wales declined on both a Federal and State level.

It was the intent of the architects of the federal Constitution that Australia would not have any impediments to trade, commerce and intercourse amongst the different states and there wouldn’t be any duties or taxes imposed for this purpose.

Sir Henry Parkes, one of the architects of Australia’s federal Constitution outlined that “Australia shall be free- free on borders, free everywhere– in its trade and intercourse between its own people; that there shall be no impediment of any kind – that there shall be no barrier of any kind between one section of the Australian people and another; but that the trade and general communication of these people shall flow on from one end of the continent to the other, with no one to stay its progress or to call it to account.”

However having just emerged from our fifth lockdown in Victoria (but who is counting) to our “freedoms” and the exciting opportunities for interstate 'intercourse' the country is deeply divided country and I wonder with some sadness what the architects of the federal Constitution would make of the discordant voices of the different state premiers. 


The Business of Australia is also Business

Posted by Myer on July 16, 2021, 1:52 p.m. in Australia

Former president Calvin Coolidge of the United States of America is reported to have said “that the business of America is business.” Well Australia means business too as far as recent changes to the business/investor visa program is concerned.

Earlier this month Australia implemented significant changes to its business migration program raising the eligibility threshold for two of the more popular visas namely the business innovation visa and the business investor visa. The reason why they made the changes was simply because they could.

Australia has an annual quota of 13,500 places under its business innovation and investment program and because of oversubscription on the part of applicants the program usually ends well in advance of the end of the immigration year which occurs on one July.

The government has said that the purpose for the change is to support Australia’s post Covid 19 economic recovery but I think that the majority of changes were made to curb the number of applicants.

The number of business and investment categories has been slashed from nine to four, greatly simplifying the choice of visas available. This blog isn’t meant to be a comprehensive summary of all of the changes but focused on the more significant changes as far as our markets are concerned.

Business innovation visa.

This is a five year provisional business visa for certain types of business people who want to buy or establish businesses in Australia. Once your business in Australia reaches certain thresholds you can then apply for permanent residence.

Essentially you need to prepare a business plan and if a state government sees merit in your business proposal they would sponsor you which is one of the prerequisites in order to apply for this visa.

Prior to 1 July you had to be at least a 30% shareholder of a business with a turnover of at least AU$500,000 in two of the last four financial years and net business and personal assets of AU$800,000. This has increased to an annual turnover of AU$750,000 and net business and personal assets of AU$1.25 million.

Certain criteria have to be satisfied before you can apply for permanent residence namely the business has to have been managed for a period of two years and achieved an annual turnover of at least AU$300,000 before you can apply for permanent residence. You would also have to satisfy two of the following three criteria:

  • assets of AUD200,000 net value in your main business (or 2 main businesses) in Australia
  • personal and business assets in Australia of AUD600,000 net value
  • equivalent of at least 2 full-time eligible employees in your main business

If you can’t achieve this in the first five years you could apply for a two year extension to your provisional visa.

Most of our clients operating in markets with stronger currencies (such as Singapore and Hong Kong) wouldn’t be that affected by the increase in the requirements, it’s going to have a more profound effect on some of the markets with weaker currencies such as South Africa.

Investor visa

If you are looking for a more passive business category perhaps the investor category is for you. This is a five year visa for those prepared to invest money in income producing investments in Australia.

Not just anyone can apply, it’s for certain types of business owners or investors managing an investment of AU$2.5 million willing to invest funds in income producing assets in Australia.

Prior to 1 July you had to invest AU$1.5 million over 4 years, but this amount has now increased to AU$2.5 million, although the good news is that the investment now only needs to be held for the duration of the visa – and it’s possible now to apply for permanent residence after 3 years instead of 4 years.

The range of investments has changed from only state government bonds to now:

  • at least AUD500,000 in venture capital and growth private equity funds which invest in start-ups and small private companies
  • at least AUD750,000 in approved managed funds. The managed funds must invest in emerging companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange
  • a ‘balancing investment’ of at least AUD1.25 million in managed funds

This visa also requires state sponsorship and most states want more than just your investment, they want to be satisfied that you will have further business/investment activity in that state. In other words in part they want your investor acumen.

Entrepreneur visa

Perhaps one of the most innovative changes to the business visa program relates to the entrepreneur stream. This is a visa for those start-up and innovative entrepreneurs who have been sponsored by state governments to develop their businesses within the sponsoring state. Prior to 1 July you needed to have obtained funding from an approved entity for at least AU$200,000 but this requirement has been abolished from 1 July this year.

You must be undertaking, or proposing to undertake, a complying entrepreneur activity in Australia which will lead to the commercialisation of a product or service in Australia, or the development of an enterprise or busines in Australia.

You can apply for permanent residence based upon the success of your entrepreneurial activities in Australia and before you ask the question let me hasten to add that investments in residential real estate are not a criteria for this type of visa.

The business visa/investor landscape has been greatly simplified by these 1 July changes and we think that they have been introduced to try and improve the profile of applicant. When you have a product as desirable as Australia and there is an oversupply of applicants you don't need the pretext of a post Covid lead recovery to increase prices and that is simply what Australia has done.

The majority of our clients and markets in which we operate are not going to be significantly disadvantaged by these changes, to the contrary it provides a more simple and transparent process of qualifying for permanent residence because of business/investory ability.


Back to the Past

Posted by Myer on July 2, 2021, 11:15 a.m. in Australia

When I heard our Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg delivering the Intergenerational Report last night on TV I could have sworn he was telling our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison “Great, Scott. Let’s get back to the DeLorean and go back to the past to avoid the Covid break in the space-time continuum”. Of course I live in Melbourne and have been subjected to 144 days of lockdown and have only reemerged from the fourth lockdown and could quite possibly be delirious.

The intergenerational report is produced every five years and is a prediction as to what the country and economy will look like in four years’ time.

Clearly the fact that we have had closed borders for the last 18 months and a decline in net migration of 71% for the last year will have an impact upon the demographics of Australia’s population as well as the economy for many years to come.

The last report produced in 2015 predicted a population of 40 million in 2054 but now projected to be just 38.8M by 2060/61.

As a consequence the economy will be smaller and the population will be older because Australians are living longer.

Fertility rates are predicted to continue to be low (as is the case in most Western countries) meaning that overseas migration would continue to be the main source of population increase.

There will be a greater burden placed upon the shoulders of a smaller working population to fund retirement and healthcare costs of an ever-increasing ageing population.

They would also have to bear the burden of paying for the economic stimulus package that the government splurged on economic relief projected to be 342 billion over the next four years - after all someone has to pick up the tab at the end of the day.

Over the medium term it doesn’t look particularly rosy either with budget deficits predicted over the next 40 years and with net debt still at approximately 34% of GDP in 2061.

Australia has had a debate over the size of the migration intake for the last 14 years. The last Prime Minister in favour of a “big” Australia was Kevin Rudd but successive prime ministers have adopted a fairly restrictive immigration policy. Clearly there is no debate any longer, Australia needs migrants not only to satisfy skill shortages that Australia is now experiencing but also because a greater burden is going to be shouldered by a smaller percentage of the Australian population to provide retirement and healthcare for Australia’s ageing population.

This does however present an opportunity for the government to rewrite immigration policy without the usual arguments about the benefits of migration to Australia. Clearly every political party in Australia recognises that increased migration is required to address long-term demographic changes brought about by the Covid warp to the space-time continuum.

Most of the suggestions relating to the skilled migration program seem to shy away from lists of occupations to be considered to be in short demand for specific visa types. Some have suggested an alternative model of letting market forces decide as to whether skills are required by focusing on the highest-paid occupations and granting residence to these occupations. The only problem with this is that there are certain occupations that are needed but by virtue of the industry they are working in, not the most highly paid. I’m thinking of occupations such as carers, nurses and teachers.

I actually quite like Australia’s skilled migration program and all it needs is some “tweaks”. I like the fact that you have two distinct streams, one for people that qualify on a points system that don’t need offers of skilled employment and the other for migrants who do obtain offers of employment and rely upon the employer’s to nominate them for permanent residence.

There are some “risk-takers” that are prepared to quit jobs, hop on planes and come to Australia to obtain offers of employment and rely upon the employer to then nominate them for permanent residence but there is a more cautious type of migrant that is looking for certainty of outcome and wants to qualify for permanent residence (or at least a visa that leads to permanent residence) whilst abroad. Countries like New Zealand that adopt this approach miss out on a whole class of incredibly skilled migrant and Australia has a precious advantage in the marketplace for adopting this approach.

My suggested tweaks would be as follows:

 1. I agree that the current lists don’t accurately mirror current labour market shortages, they never have. Recruitment websites should instead be monitored for significant increases in job ads in the types of occupations advertised and lists compiled from this data. 

       2. International students should never have to compete with skilled migrants for places in the program because of competing interests. States want students because tertiary education needs student dollars. Skilled migrants are desired because of their skills.

       The post study work visas provide sufficient incentive to attract foreign students with pathways for them to proceed to employer sponsored residence visas.

       3. State governments should have the power to determine which skills are required for the purposes of state and there should be a larger independent program (they don’t require state sponsorship) for applicants who skills are in demand across Australia.

I’m skeptical whether Australia will seize the opportunity to adopt a change in immigration policy. I think it will probably be more of the same with an increased immigration program aimed at attracting more migrants to address the demographic imbalance caused by Australia’s closed border policy these last 18 months.

For the time being the DeLorean will have to remain in the garage, gathering dust neither capable of travelling backwards nor forwards in time.


Recognition of prior learning

Posted by Myer on April 9, 2021, 11:49 a.m. in Australia

I’m often asked whether one needs a qualification for the purposes of securing permanent residence in Australia as a skilled migrant and the short answer in typically cryptical fashion is in most cases you do, but sometimes you don’t. This will mainly depend on your occupation and type of visa you are applying for.

If you do need a qualification and don’t have one, the process of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is proving to be a very cost-effective, efficient method of getting formally qualified.

RPL is the process of acquiring a qualification that credits you with the skills and abilities that you’ve built up via prior study, which includes both formal and non—formal learning, along with work experience and volunteering. Through RPL on specific units, you can receive your qualification without having to repeat the same knowledge that you’ve already gained. It makes it shorter and cheaper to obtain the necessary qualification.

The qualification can either be obtained in the applicant’s home country or in Australia through a Registered Training Organisation (RTO). The advantage of obtaining an Australian qualification is certainty that it will be recognised in Australia at an appropriate level, whereas obtaining a qualification outside of Australia is often risky and can be expensive and ultimately a waste of time if the qualification isn’t recognised in Australia.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been told by people overseas that they obtained qualifications and were reassured by the academic institution that the qualification is “internationally recognised” only to find out that they aren’t recognised in Australia.

One either needs a qualification for the purposes of obtaining a positive skills assessment or for claiming points towards your visa application and you first need to ascertain the requirements of the type of visa you are applying for.

A typical scenario where a RPL might be applicable would be perhaps someone who leaves school and doesn’t have the financial backing to complete a trade certificate. That person might complete an informal apprenticeship or might be employed in a family business and often learns their skills through on-the-job training. They may progress in their careers or perhaps establish businesses of their own without the need for any qualifications, but when they consider immigrating to Australia as a skilled migrant where a qualification would be required the RPL is definitely the cheapest and most cost-effective form of obtaining this.

When applying for short term work visas (temporary skill shortages visas) most occupations (apart from certain trades) don’t need a skills assessment as part of the application process, but a work visa is just a short term visa to enable you to satisfy a skills shortage in Australia. It doesn’t in itself grant you permanent residence. Only a permanent resident visa grants you the right to live in Australia indefinitely and ultimately become an Australian citizen. This is the chief objective of most applicants.

For the permanent residence visa options, a qualification is important for a number of reasons. The general skilled migration visas work on a points system with points being awarded for qualifications and some applicants need the points for a qualification in order to meet the pass mark for that particular visa. Trade qualifications and diplomas are typically worth 10 points whereas bachelor degrees are worth 15 points.

Other types of visas may require you to have a qualification in order to obtain a positive skills assessment which might be a compulsory criterion that needs to be satisfied for that visa. General skilled migration visas require a positive skills assessment, so too do employer sponsored regional (provisional) visas.

Not all occupations however require qualifications to obtain a positive skills assessments. Notable exceptions could be IT occupations, senior management occupations and certain trades.

We have a wide range of people considering migrating to Australia, many of whom are well established in their careers, notwithstanding a lack of qualifications. They also might have young children and don’t have the time nor inclination to attend a full-time academic institution for the purposes of obtaining a qualification purely to satisfy immigration requirements.

This is where RPL comes into play, where your previous skills, experience or qualifications can shorten the time it takes to undergo a course and allow you to become eligible for qualifications you may not otherwise be able to do.

Under the Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) which regulates education in Australia, all students are entitled to have their previous skills, experience and training recognised to enhance their progression into and between qualifications.

Every Registered Training Organisation (RTO) has different policies and procedures for assessing your eligibility for RPL, but the basis of the procedure stays the same. The experience and skills that you’ve gained throughout your work or school life can fast track you towards completing a qualification earlier, and lessen the time burden of having to undergo a course to get you closer to obtaining the qualification.

Lack of qualifications might not necessarily impact upon your employability in Australia but that’s a separate matter from satisfying immigration requirements so please don’t make the mistake of thinking that immigration requirements are a true reflection of the needs of employers, many of whom won’t care if you don’t have any qualifications.

We are not an education provider i.e. we don’t provide qualifications but will advise you whether you need a particular qualification to migrate to Australia as a skilled migrant and will give you a thorough explanation of the requirements of the most appropriate visas in your particular case and can make suggestions regarding the types of qualifications available in Australia that would be appropriate in your particular case.

Tags: Australia

What makes a Skilled Migrant?

Posted by Myer on March 19, 2021, 10:25 a.m. in Australia

If we accept that Covid 19 and the resulting Australian and New Zealand border closures are an aberration, we accept that both countries will rely upon the importation of skills to satisfy skill shortages, facilitate population and economic growth. But both countries have a different philosophy on what constitutes a quality skilled migrant with different perspectives as to the weight to attach to factors such as family, qualifications, work experience, age, English-language ability, employability etc.

I was prompted to write this blog as a result of a Zoom consultation with a current client of mine who is feeling frustrated that state governments in Australia are not sponsoring migrants from overseas and had, for the last 12 months, focused on sponsoring onshore applicants in Australia. I explained to him that this was a Covid induced aberration and once the Australian population had been vaccinated, the country would return to importing skills from abroad. I reassured him that his occupation (civil engineer) was a good one as far as Australia is concerned although I never know which occupations will appear on state sponsorship lists in advance.

I made this comment because there has always been a shortage of civil engineers in Australia and this occupation nearly always appears on several of the eight state and territory sponsorship lists that are published annually. In other words, there are “good” occupations as far as Australia is concerned that have a history of appearing on state sponsorship lists. Whilst there is no guarantee that any occupation will appear on one of these lists, I do find that history tends to repeat itself and if an occupation has been sponsored in the past, it will tend to appear on future state sponsorship lists.

I am of course referring to the Australian visa process known as general skilled migration where skilled migrants can obtain permanent residence without needing an offer of employment. There is an alternative pathway for those people relying upon obtaining an offer of employment in Australia and relying upon the employer to nominate them for permanent residence.

There are lists of occupations that are suitable for both pathways and these lists of occupations are obtained from a large online directory known as ANZSCO (Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations).

South Africans often tell me that they are so desperate to leave South Africa that they will sweep streets in Australia if need be, and I respond by telling them that this is a very noble sentiment but unfortunately the occupation of street sweeper does not appear on any list of occupations. I make this comment tongue in cheek but it does demonstrate that the Australian skilled visa system is all about occupations on various lists that are suitable for different visa types.

State governments then utilise the list of general skilled migration visa occupations to populate their state sponsorship lists depending upon the occupations deemed to be required in the various states and territories. If you are suitably skilled in one of these occupations you could approach a state government for sponsorship which forms an integral part of your general skilled migration visa application.

The main attraction of a general skilled migration visa is that employers don’t have to act as your sponsor for a work visa because general skilled migration visas provide full work rights for both the main applicant and their partner. The government in Australia has made it bureaucratically complex, expensive and onerous to sponsor workers for temporary work visas who don’t have general skilled migration visas.

It’s not a bad system in theory but there are numerous flaws:

1.       Some of these general skilled migration visas are valid for a period of five years and if coupled with the lengthy processing time it can be several years before migrants arrive in the sponsoring state and by then their skills might not be in short supply.

2.       We find that state governments tend to have a history of sponsoring the same occupations year upon year with minor variations. Logic dictates that this should never be the case because the state economy will evolve over time as skills are added and as the nature of the economy changes which indicates that there is a disconnect between economic reality and public sector perception. I have never found any list of occupations produced by a government whether federal or state to be truly representative of the needs of an economy.

3.       There is no requirement to actually work in the nominated occupation. Australia is banking upon a significant proportion of migrants working in the nominated occupation when they arrive in Australia but this often isn’t the case.

4.       In return for state sponsorship migrants sign an undertaking to live in the sponsoring state for two years but many move interstate within the two year timeframe thus defeating the purpose of state governments determining skill sets required by a particular state. The fact that their visa does not legally bind them to that state even for two years if their circumstances change post being granted their visa is another short coming in the process in our view.

 

New Zealand immigration policy also refers to ANZSCO but they have largely shied away from lists of occupations and instead place heavy emphasis upon employability, with an offer of skilled employment being the ultimate testament to a skilled migrant’s ability to settle well and contribute to the economy and skills base by securing an offer of skilled employment. They rely upon factors such as the level of skill required to perform the tasks of the particular occupation as well as salary as determining factors rather than lists of occupations.

New Zealand still has lists of occupations but those that are in long-term skills shortage can contribute certain bonus points and of course there are lists of occupations that facilitate temporary work visas by avoiding the need for employers to advertise positions.

Lists, lists, lists and more lists.

The skilled migration policies of Australia and New Zealand reveal philosophical differences between the countries. Australia has two pathways, those where employers are prepared to assume the onerous undertakings and sponsor workers in occupations that appear on lists and a pathway where state governments pick “winners” i.e. those in occupations deemed to be in demand in a particular state.

New Zealand’s approach is to allow the migrant to demonstrate contribution of skills by way of employability in New Zealand.

Neither country places much emphasis upon family reunification and whether skilled migrants have family in either country is largely irrelevant to resident visa opportunities. New Zealand is more generous with regard to age limits (56 is the cut-off age limit for skilled migration) whereas Australia has an age limit of 45 for the main applicant. Both countries give higher weight to academic qualifications as opposed to trade qualifications which is ironic because trades are some of the most in demand occupations across both countries. English language ability tends to play a more significant role in the Australian visa process than in New Zealand.

As to which is the better system, one could argue the merits of both, however one of the immigration programs that proved to be the most effective was perhaps the American system where large waves of immigrants moved to America in the early 1900s in the absence of any sophisticated selection criteria. The system’s success was in accepting those people prepared to endure the hardships of migration who would be inherently risktakers and made of the “right stuff”.

I’m not advocating adopting a similar program in Australia and New Zealand (I would soon be out of a job) but knowing the immigration policy of both countries and having offices in both is certainly a distinct advantage because, whilst applicants might have preferences in terms of country they intend to migrate to, both are more similar than they would like to admit, and often it’s the ease of obtaining a residence visa that is the determining factor in which country you should migrate to.


The States Should Be Sponsoring Offshore Applicants

Posted by Myer on March 5, 2021, 9:42 a.m. in Australia

Australia seems to be shrugging off the shackles of the Covid 19 pandemic faster than most expected. During the depths of the Covid 19 induced recession there was much speculation as to what Australia’s economic recovery might be like but I don’t think that anyone foresaw the V shaped recovery would have happened so quickly and so dramatically. Given the fact that the economy is expected to grow 4.5% for 2021/2022 shouldn’t the Federal and State governments be implementing some forward planning to ward off the inevitable skill shortages that will arise in the months to come?

Given the reluctance on the part of most employers to sponsor applicants, and the relatively lengthy period of time it takes to secure the residence visa (at least 18 months – two years), you would think that the Federal and State government would be looking beyond the Covid related unemployment figures (many of whom are rapidly being reabsorbed into the Australian economy) and urging State and Territorial Governments to get on with producing state sponsorship occupation lists aimed at attracting overseas skills.

Unlike ‘normal times’, at present the vast majority of States are only sponsoring applicants working in Australia and don’t allow those resident overseas to apply. The States are also working from reduced state quotas effectively imposed by the Federal Government and the range of occupations available for state sponsorship has been dramatically curtailed from pre-Covid levels.

All the signs of a rapidly growing economy are there to be seen and with the rate of economic expansion, skill shortages are inevitable. For example:

1. Retail sales figures for January recorded their strongest growth since 2015 and this came on top of almost 30,000 new jobs being added to payrolls in February. The current unemployment rate is 6.4% only 1.1% higher than pre-covid rates.

2. A 0.9 per cent rise in house prices last month has taken Australian housing values to a record high, exceeding the peak reached in 2017. Home prices are 0.7 per cent above their previous September 2017 peak and whilst prices are still below pre-Covid levels for most capital cities, regional house prices are well in excess of pre-Covid levels. The national average property prices are now 1 per cent higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic and 0.7 per cent above the previous September 2017 peak.

3. Some of the biggest banks have been factoring in increased interest rates notwithstanding the fact that the reserve bank governor has indicated that he intends to keep interest rates at historical lows for at least the next three years through bond buying.

4. Several large companies have returned the Jobkeeper payments the government paid employers as an inducement not to retrench workers as their profits were unexpectedly resilient and reflected the strong turnaround in business activity in the second half of last year with strong earnings reports. The government has spent about AU$1 trillion in supplement packages largely aimed at retaining high levels of employment.

 I do understand that it’s politically unpalatable for the federal government to be seen to be encouraging migrants to enter Australia today, especially whilst we still have a Covid hangover of increased unemployment. There are also something like 40,000 Australians still stranded overseas and this week the government confirmed an extension of the restrictions on the numbers of people allowed to enter the country each week (and indeed the numbers allowed to leave Australia – exemptions are required to leave the country). However last week Australia commenced its Covid vaccine rollout and by October, approximately 70% of the population will expected to be vaccinated.

Most applicants overseas are reluctant to even think about migration until such time as borders reopen and occupations appear on state lists. By the time that applicants then do English-language tests, obtain skills assessments and are in a position to apply for state sponsorship, there is already a long lead in time and perversely the limited places available through state sponsorship programmes may well be full for the year. Those that wait will likely end up chasing their tails.

This coupled with a long processing time of 12 months for most general skilled migration residence visas we are looking at delays of at least 18 – 24 months before someone overseas could be expected to be in Australia, and the forecast skill shortages are going to have a real impact in constraining growth of the Australian economy. The shortages can be somewhat alleviated if the Federal and State governments act decisively by now producing state sponsorship lists aimed at attracting migrants based abroad in the skills that the economy will need in two years’ time.

There’s an inevitable long lead in time before migrants can arrive in Australia with general skilled migration visas and the vast majority of Covid unemployed will have been reabsorbed into the economy. Australians stranded abroad would have returned to Australia and the federal government wouldn’t necessarily face any uncomfortable questions as to why migrants were being let into the country. The Australian government has emphasised the economic benefits of migration to Australia in the course of the Covid pandemic and is committed to its annual quota of 160,000 migrants per year.

It needs migrants to support the tertiary education system, satisfy skill shortages and provide a growing tax base for our ageing population.

The current approach of denying offshore applicants from applying for state sponsorship is going to have far-reaching ramifications for the Australian economy. 1 July is the commencement of the new immigration year and this would be an opportune time to act decisively by allowing skilled migrants overseas to apply for state sponsorship.

Whilst it’s a mistake not to sponsor more migrants from overseas it’s also a mistake on the part of migrants to delay acting on their intentions. States will sponsor limited numbers of particular occupations and competition is fierce so migrants overseas should use the time constructively by having a detailed assessment to understand the visa process in more detail and then undertaking the preparatory steps that can take many months in anticipation of new state sponsorship lists.


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