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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.

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.


If You Lose It

Posted by Myer on Feb. 5, 2021, 2:34 p.m. in Australia

A significant number of people apply for permanent resident visas for Australia but fail to immigrate to Australia within the duration of the visa. These visas allow one to live in Australia indefinitely, however, they have a 5 year period in which to enter Australia, and there are many who are unable to immigrate within this five year duration. If you are one of them you should read this blog.

Despite the best of intentions residents are often unable to migrate to Australia within the first five years after obtaining residence, often because of circumstances beyond their control such as health issues of the applicant or extended family, inability to realise assets, unfavourable economic climate et cetera.

No matter what the reason, there are options of reinstating one’s status as a permanent resident of Australia.

Those people that migrate to Australia during the currency of their visa are able to reside indefinitely in Australia and ultimately become Australian citizens because they arrived on current residence visas.

Until such time as you become a citizen of Australia (and qualify for the right to travel in and out of Australia on an Australian passport) you are going to need a visa to enable you to travel abroad and return to Australia as a permanent resident. This visa is known as a resident return visa.

You can receive a new five year resident return visa if you reside in Australia for periods amounting to 2 years during the last 5 years or, if you don’t make up the two years, a resident return visa that gives you travel rights for one year at a time, providing you can prove that you have substantial ties to Australia that are of economic benefit.

These ties could be employment, business, community or family in nature, and often having a job offer or close family who are citizens living in Australia, the substantial ties requirement, can be met.

The intention of the substantial ties clause is to give immigration officers the discretion and flexibility to grant a visa with a 1 year travel facility to applicants who have substantial ties with Australia.

If you haven’t travelled to Australia for at least once in 5 consecutive years, you would have to show that you have compelling reasons for your absence, as well as the ties to Australia. So it is recommended that travelling to Australia at least once every five years (even on a visitor’s visa) since you last left Australia as a permanent resident be on your agenda.

A typical example of someone who may think their residence visa has been lost is a person in Singapore or Hong Kong that studied in Australia, obtained permanent residence after completing their studies in Australia 10 or 15 years ago and then had to return to Hong Kong or Singapore because of circumstances relating to overseas family members or perhaps better employment prospects. During this time, they had been visiting Australia once every five years on a visitor’s visa. Such a person could receive a resident return visa if they could prove substantial ties to Australia which means they could essentially have their residence visa status reinstated.

I’ve come across many South Africans who might have applied for permanent residence years ago intending to use the visa as an “insurance policy”, never collected on that policy and now regret their decision not to immigrate to Australia as the South African economy seems to continue in a downward spiral of lacklustre economic performance, increasing crime and violence and lack of employment opportunities.

You might be a parent, who applied for permanent residence many years ago because one or more of your children had moved to Australia but failed to immigrate because of your inability to realise assets or perhaps chose to be close to other children residing abroad in the hope that they would one day also immigrate to Australia.

Provided you have been visiting friends or family members or touring Australia as visitors at least once every five years it’s possible to reinstate your residence visa status by applying for a returning residence visa.

Generally it becomes increasingly difficult to demonstrate substantial ties of benefit over extended periods of absence because the longer the period of absence, the more difficult it is to continue to maintain ties of sufficint import to be considered 'substantial'. Having said this, we successfully obtained a resident return visa for a client whose visa expired 11 years ago, and wanted to move back to Australia.

They had visited Australia on a number of occasions as a visitor so had not been absent for more than 5 years. They managed to obtain a job offer, showed their intention to move to Australia by travelling and submitting the application while here, and we were able to reinstate their Resident Return Visa. This was valid for 1 year, but as they continue to live in Australia and accumulate time spent in the country, they will eventually meet the two years residence clause, and obtain a 5 year Resident Return Visa. And eventually citizenship.

Not many former permanent residents of Australia seem to know that a resident return visa can be obtained often many years after the original residence visa expired. They tend to view a residence visa as having a five year window of opportunity to migrate to Australia which is technically correct, the right to enter Australia does expire after five years, but the right to live in Australia as a permanent resident does not necessarily expire, provided you can prove your substantial ties.

It’s always preferable to use it and not to lose it but if you’ve lost it, we can always help you try and find it.

As migrants, you are confronted with many confusing and often downright odd rules that you either don’t understand, cannot interpret or wonder how the rule keepers will apply them. In this job we have learned to be creative, using strange and often confusing rules to our client’s advantage with great success.

What is an obvious opportunity building on past successes to us might well not be obvious to you. It is in these ways we add such value. 


First Day Back

Posted by Myer on Jan. 22, 2021, 10:34 a.m. in Australia

In summer I enjoy one of the benefits of living in Melbourne and cycle to the office along the waterfront. That’s why “summer Myer” is considerably thinner than “winter Myer”. Because Melbourne spent most of 2020 in lockdown my only exercise consisted of walking to and from the refrigerator and summer Myer is yet to emerge, but as I cycled to my office for the first time in a year I couldn’t help but notice how empty the city is and wondered whether it would ever return to pre-Covid levels of activity.

The Australian Government has been trying to encourage immigrants to move to regional Australia (regional Australia is anywhere outside metropolitan Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane) to alleviate increasing pressure on infrastructure, services, and congestion in the major cities. In previous immigration years, approximately 60 – 70% of migrants have immigrated to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane resulting in inflated property prices, increased traffic on roads and in the city, and putting pressure on the education and healthcare sectors within those cities. The government has always had a regional visa program that had some concessions that encouraged new residents to move to regional areas, with new changes implemented in November 2019 further promoting the regional scheme.

Some of our clients initially expressed resistance to the idea of embracing the concept of regional Australia even though there are several large cities considered to be regional most notably Perth (population approximately 2 million), Adelaide (population approximately 1.4 million), Canberra (population approximately 500,000), Hobart (population approximately 300,000) to name just a few. However, with more Australians migrating out of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to more regional locations I think that there will be a boost in economic activity in regional Australia as a result of both the greater number of migrants relocating to the cities, as well as Australians embracing regional Australia in greater numbers.

We were told by social commentators at various points during the lockdown, following the 2 waves of corona virus infections Melbourne endured, that the pandemic would change the world in many different ways, one of them being the way we work and live.

With many embracing the ability to work from home, the demand for bigger homes has translated to increases in property prices in regional Australia. After all, why work in a cramped apartment in Melbourne when you could buy a three bedroom home with land in regional Australia for a similar price.

With the rollout of high-speed broadband in regional Australia, one doesn't need to sacrifice productivuty by working in regional Australia and whilst I choose to cycle to work in summer, many commyters don't that that ability and face long trips to the city in cars or public transport.

It's not difficult to see the appeal of regional Australia and this has translated to increases in property prices.

Regional house prices in Australia have risen at a higher annual rate than in capital cities for the first time in more than 15 years, as COVID-19 increases people's desire to live outside the bigger cities of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

Regional prices grew almost 7 per cent compared to 2 per cent growth for capital cities during 2020. It’s been 17 years since regional property prices outperformed property prices in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane (Metropolitan Australia).

The regional areas that received most attention from buyers with those that were only a few hours’ drive from major capital cities, such as the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Geelong, Daylesford, Ballarat, Wollongong, and Newcastle.

By living in places located a few hours from the major cities people can almost have the best of both worlds by enjoying the lifestyle benefits and lower prices of regional Australia, as well is the ability to commute back to the office if they need to.

The challenge to regional cities past has been creating enough employment opportunities and quite unexpectedly the trend generated by Covid to more remote working may have presented a solution.

Suddenly, the potential of digital technology for working remotely is being embraced. Many people could live in regional cities while working remotely for employers elsewhere.

Increased house prices are just the first portent of increased economic activity in regional Australia. With greater demand for housing comes increased construction and all of the follow-on economic activity pertaining to hospitality, tourism (albeit domestic) education, healthcare et cetera all of which are creating increased employment opportunities for a far greater and more diverse skill set for migrants in regional Australia.

I would be suggesting to anyone considering migrating to Australia to strongly consider regional visa options which are generally easier than the visas aimed at metropolitan Australia. Generally more occupations are suitable for regional migration, and regional state sponsorship is worth more points.

In the unlikely event that you don’t enjoy life in regional Australia and want to move to Metropolitan Australia, the level of commitment to living in regional Australia is relatively short. Only three years of residence and work in regional Australia is required for you to be able to apply for a permanent resident visa which would allow you to live and work in Metropolitan Australia.

As many Australians have discovered there is much more to Australia than Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and there is growing trend on the part of Australians to embrace regional life. Perhaps you should too.


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