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Posted by Myer on Aug. 28, 2020, 12:59 p.m. in Australia
On 20 August the Australian Government brought into effect the Migration Amendment (Hong Kong Passport Holders) Regulations 2020 in line with previous announcements regarding special consideration to be granted to Hong Kong students, graduates and skilled workers in Australia. But legislation and subsequent comments by the acting Minister of Immigration, Citizenship Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs is not really providing anything more than a longer stay period in Australia on temporary work and graduate (post-study) visas.
Under the new arrangements:
· Hong Kong passport holders who held a Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) or Temporary Skilled Shortage (subclass 482 or 457) visa on 9th July 2020 will automatically have that visa extended for five years.
· Current and future students from Hong Kong will be eligible for a five-year Temporary Graduate visa on the successful completion of their tertiary studies
· Hong Kong passport holders who apply for a temporary skilled visa will be eligible for a five-year visa if they have qualifications listed on the occupational skills lists and meet Labour Market Testing requirements.
Most importantly the legislation is silent on the pathway that these temporary visa holders will use to obtain permanent residence in Australia. And because of this, we expect that Hong Kong citizens will need to still meet the standard requirements for residence like every other person.
Under current policy there are two main pathways for skilled migrants to qualify for permanent residence, either under the general skilled migration visas (these visas don’t require offers of employment) or under an employer nominated residence visa (which as the name suggests requires one to have an Australian employer willing to act as a sponsor).
With the havoc that Covid 19 has wrought on the Australian economy (unemployment in the state of Victoria is forecast to increase to 10%) I cannot see Australia granting an exemption from normal residence requirements to those thinking of coming to study in Australia. Granting permanent residence to approximately 11,000 additional residents would not be politically palatable in times of high unemployment. The government has said immigration will play an important part to the repair of the economy, but Hong Kong citizens will need to meet one of the above categories, with the only benefit being that more time is given to enable one to meet the requirements.
Whilst this new policy might be useful to those people intending to study or work in Australia, I would personally think twice about uprooting my family to go to Australia on a student visa that could be extended for five years, or receive a five-year visa for completing two years of study in Australia as an alternative to the existing pathways available to all skilled migrants.
Studying in Australia is expensive and should be used as a Secondary option if one of the other categories cannot be met first. Course fees range from AU$20,000 - AU$40,000 per year plus living costs.
If you choose to study in Australia many students from Hong Kong have traditionally chosen to study in Melbourne or Sydney, but when it comes to progressing to permanent residence, there are usually better options that will help you gain state sponsored residence. State governments such as South Australia and Tasmania will nominate international students who complete two years of study in the region, can get a successful skills assessment and meet a points test, even if your occupation is not on their list. There are also certain bonus points that are awarded to those people studying in regional Australia (which excludes Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane) and you would need to pay careful attention to structuring your study in Australia in such a manner that takes into account future residence visa pathways.
The fact that the government in Australia hasn’t provided any guidance as to whether normal permanent residence eligibility criteria apply is significant in its absence. Before you consider bringing your families to travel to Australia to complete a course of study (such as a Masters degree) it would be prudent to first consider your permanent migration options. Too often we see people who have moved to Australia for study or work without thinking about their pathways to permanent residence, and the most important step in the entire migration process is indeed the initial eligibility and strategy assessment.
I don’t think that Australia has suddenly developed a social conscience which prompted the announcement of the special visa arrangements mentioned above, rather Australia is likely using the opportunity to encourage Hong Kong students, business people and skilled migrants to see Australia as a favourable destination, particularly at a time when it’s becoming increasingly difficult to attract foreign students.
The Australian Government is treading a fine line between wanting to show support for Hong Kong citizens but at the same time wary of public backlash if they decide to grant permanent residence to approximately 11,000 additional residents at a time when Australia is experiencing increasing unemployment due to the effects of Covid 19 on the economy.
To leap or not to leap?
Those people that qualify for skilled migrant category visas under present policy shouldn’t wait for greater clarity on the “pathway” that the government has in mind for those on five-year study and work visas in Australia. They should be leaping now.
Those that don’t have options under existing skilled migrant categories should be looking very carefully before they leap into student visas until such time as the “pathway” to permanent residence is clarified by the Australian government.
Posted by Myer on June 26, 2020, 1:51 p.m. in Australia
The silly season is fast approaching in Australia and I’m not referring to Christmas or New Year. I am referring to 1 July which is the beginning of our immigration year and demarcates the beginning of the “silly season” in which state governments produce lists of occupations that they intend to sponsor for the immigration year that commences on 1 July 2020 and ends 30 June 2021. We are all then consumed with furious energy trying to secure state sponsorship for our clients with the limited number of places that are available her occupation.
We never know in advance which occupations are going to appear on state sponsorship lists or how many of a particular occupation the eight states or territories will sponsor but before you can apply for state sponsorship you need to have the results of your skills assessment and English-language test.
To borrow from the Christmas analogy, there are many of you that will be reading this without having done your “shopping” (skills assessment and English-language test) early and will be waiting for your occupations to appear on state sponsorship lists before you commence your shopping but for anyone with insight into how the state sponsorship program works you can’t afford to wait until such time as your occupation appears on a state sponsorship list before you “shop” for your English-language test results and skills assessment.
Perhaps I should end the shopping analogy just in case anyone forms the incorrect impression that English-language test results and skills assessments can simply be bought online. They have to be earned by obtaining a positive skills assessment from the relevant skills assessing authority and English-language test results have to be acquired through sitting one of the five possible English-language tests. Some states sponsor such a limited number of places in a particular occupation that the occupation closes often within hours or days of the publication of the state sponsorship list, for other occupations they linger on state sponsorship lists for the better part of 12 months.
Covid 19 hasn’t changed Australia’s immigration quota, we still want approximately 160,000 migrants per year with a preference that a large percentage would want to immigrate to regional Australia (i.e. the whole of Australia excluding the metropolitan areas of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane).
Australia doesn’t have a population policy. Our population is at present 25 million but there is no forecast figure with what our population might look like in 10 or 20 years time we have instead used our annual migration quota (currently 160,000) plus domestic growth to be a de facto population policy but many have been calling for a national debate as to formulating a population policy with the Covid 19 pandemic seen as an opportune time to have that debate.
The majority of politicians in Australia have been lamenting the fact that because of Covid 19 net migration numbers are expected to fall by 85% next year and they understand that migration does add to the economy in so many ways and that it’s a popular misconception that migrants take jobs from Australians. I should hasten to add that this drastic reduction in net migration isn’t as a result of a cut in quotas on the part of the Australian Government, rather a result of border closures in the wake of Covid 19.
On the other hand state sponsorship lists are supposed to be a representation of the skills needed by a particular state for the forthcoming immigration year and in the current economic climate with unemployment in Australia at 7.1% (from the pre-Covid rate of 5.2%) we would expect to see shorter state sponsorship lists evidencing fewer occupations in demand than when the last state sponsorship lists were produced on 1 July 2019.
It’s hard to justify the inclusion of many hospitality related occupations such as chef, Cook, restaurant manager, hotel and motel manager, hospitality manager not elsewhere classified et cetera when many of these businesses haven’t been able to trade and we just don’t know how many of them will actually continue to be in operation once government stimulus package such as Jobkeeper ends.
On the other hand Australia has traditionally always needed many of these occupations and they have always had a good representation on state sponsorship lists so if the lists are to mirror current demand for occupations they would be very short. If on the other hand state governments are forecasting what demand might be like in 8 – 11 months time we might see more generous state sponsorship lists.
Those migrants obtaining state sponsorship would probably only be factoring in a move to Australia towards the end of 2021 given current processing times and it’s going to be interesting to see whether the state sponsorship lists focus on the current economic climate or the forecasted improved economic conditions for 2021 or simply use the lists to boost migration numbers to compensate for the lost economic benefit of certain temporary visa holders such as students, working holiday visa holders and temporary workers.
Net migration also includes long-term student visa holders and as many of them can’t return to Australia to complete their courses because of border closures we may see shorter lists of occupations but more opportunity to acquire state sponsorship by those overseas who haven’t studied in Australia.
The silly season usually involves close scrutiny of state sponsorship lists and their publication (not all appear on one July) followed by frantic lodgement of state sponsorship applications and supporting documentation but given the factors mentioned above it’s perhaps going to be sillier than usual this year. I for one will be wearing my silly hat and looking forward to seeing what occupations Santa has put into my Christmas stocking this year.
Posted by Myer on April 17, 2020, 2:01 p.m. in Australia
My business partner Iain Macleod (the Southern Man) has in recent blogs been gazing at his crystal ball and looking at his tea leaves to see what the future holds for New Zealand and it is now my turn to speculate what the next few months hold in store for most of our clients. I would have done it sooner but the last time I used my crystal ball was in the global financial crisis and I had packed it in storage mistakenly thinking it would be some time before I would need it again. How wrong I was.
The vast majority of our clients intending to immigrate to Australia are overseas and intending to apply for general skilled migration visas. Most of our clients require, amongst other things, a state government to sponsor them. The chances of securing state sponsorship very much depend upon whether their occupations appear on a state sponsorship list.
These state sponsorship lists are produced on or about one July of each year which is when our immigration year commences and the occupations that appear on state sponsorship lists are largely a reflection of the skills required by any one of the eight states or territories in Australia.
A decrease in economic activity in a particular state will presumably mean that state sponsorship lists will be populated with fewer occupations which means less chance of securing state sponsorship.
The International Monetary Fund produced a report yesterday forecasting a contraction in Australia’s economy by 6.7% for the 2020 year but rebounding by 5.8% for the 2021 year. The average country’s economy was forecast to contract by 3% and the figure of 6.7% contraction in the economy sent shockwaves through Australia yesterday. Our Treasurer Josh Frydenberg countered by saying that these predictions did not take into account Australia’s recently announced $130 billion Jobkeeper package which is a fortnightly payment of AU$1500 to Australian workers for a period of six months. The IMF said they had!
Whatever economic modelling you are using the next year isn’t going to be fun in Australia. New Treasury figures forecast the jobless rate will double in the June quarter from 5.1 per cent to 10 per cent, all but confirming Australia will enter a recession as it deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.
It will be the first time the unemployment rate has hit double digits since April 1994 and the figure is a fraction below Australia's peak unemployment rate of 11.2 per cent in 1992.
But Treasury's estimates show the unemployment rate would be much higher, and peak at 15 per cent, had the Government not intervened with the $130 billion wage subsidy program known as Jobkeeper.
As such I would expect state sponsorship lists that are going to be produced on one July of this year to have much fewer occupations than in previous years.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, the general skilled migration visa program which has an annual quota of 41,620 requires one to obtain a positive skills assessment and certain English language test and attain a certain level of English-language ability and these initial steps can take 6 to 8 months for the average client.
Whilst I can see that the state sponsorship lists for the immigration year commencing 1 July 2020 will be significantly shorter I can foresee much longer lists in the immigration year commencing 1 July 2021.
Even on conservative estimates we would have a covid 19 vaccine by then and while a rebounding Australian economy will initially re-employ unemployed Australians I think that these lists will incorporate a number of occupations for several reasons.
International students – the Australian economy is heavily reliant upon international students to support the tertiary education sector in Australia. It represents a $38 billion boost to the economy and many of the state governments offer state sponsorship programs to those studying in Australia and obtaining tertiary qualifications. As such occupations appearing on state sponsorship lists act as an inducement or carrot to those choosing to study in Australia because they don’t need to rely upon employers to nominate them for visas.
Many of those in Australia on temporary visas such as work visas would have left Australia and returned to their home countries as a consequence of losing their jobs and as our economy expands in 2021 not all Australians will be able to fill these jobs.
The nature of the Australian economy is going to be different. I don’t think that Australia will ever return to an economy of government subsidised mass production (the days of automobile assembly in Australia are well and truly gone) but at the same time I think that the government does foresee a need for an Australia that is more self-reliant in certain key areas. I can see occupations relating to life sciences, research and development, technology, manufacture of pharmaceuticals and medical related products, farm production and food technologists all receiving increased government funding and it would be nice to see start-ups in these areas perhaps enjoying tax breaks in other words governments picking winners and supporting them.
There are going to be massive government infrastructure projects that flow on to stimulate the economy and the scope and scale of these infrastructure projects will mean that certain skill sets will need to be imported from overseas.
As to when economic activity picks up in Australia very much depends upon whether you adopt a managed return to work along the lines that schools reopen end of April, work constraints relaxed in May and certain community activities resume fully in September. This model accepts that you will have some covid 19 flare-ups and as a consequence a higher mortality rate but the cost to the economy is substantially less than the alternative model of eradicating the virus entirely which seems to be New Zealand’s model.
New Zealand’s model seems to be eradication of the virus entirely, presumably once a vaccine has been developed and adopting a closed border approach and severe restrictions on the type of economic activity until such time as the virus is eradicated. The number of lives saved is much higher but the economic consequences more dire.
We also have a federation of states in Australia and whilst there are certain decisions that are in the domain of the federal government such as the opening of national borders our state premiers do have a large role to play in the type of economic and social activity permitted in each state and as different states in Australia have different rates of infection we may see some states with lower rates of infection adopting a more rapid return to normal economic activity sooner than others.
My crystal ball wasn’t that effective during the global financial crisis and I don’t know how effective is going to be through the Covid 19 crisis (perhaps it would have been more reliable if made in Australia) but I am of the opinion that if you don’t foresee things getting better in your home country and you do intend to immigrate to Australia you need to pursue a strategy that will ultimately secure permanent residence in this country.
General skilled migration visas still represent a very useful immigration strategy and because of the lead in time before you can apply for state sponsorship is in the region of six – eight months and because the economy in Australia is forecast to rebound in a v shaped way (sharp brief drop but sharp expansion) I believe you need to undertake the foundation phases now so that when the economy does rebound next year you will be in a better position to take advantage of the increased opportunities for state sponsorship.
Posted by Myer on April 8, 2020, 11:07 a.m. in Australia
21 September -
Concessions for meeting the requirements for subclass 887, 888 and 485 visas.
Some concessions have now been made for subclass 887 applications. These relate to a concession period, which is from 1 Feb 2020 until such time the minister decides it ends. We expect this to be when the borders reopen.
These concessions include:
There are also some concessions for the business skills 188 visa holders:
And finally some concessions for 485 graduate visas:
Depending on how long the borders remain closed, the concessions could change. But this is welcome news to many who were affected by the border closures.
10 September -
A small number of places have been allocated to the States and Territories for Subclasses 190 and 491 nominations and the Business Innovation and Investment classes up until the Federal Budget on 6 October 2020.
The specific number of interim allocated places for each State and Territory for subclasses 190, 491 and the Business Innovation and Investment program are below:
State & Territory
sc 491 & 489
Australia is now allowing Business Innovation and Investment subclass 188 visa holders to enter Australia.
Currently those who are exempt from requiring individual exemptions are:
3 September -
Victoria will be opening the skilled visa nomination program (subclass 190 and 491) on Tuesday 8 September, 2020.
The program will be an interim measure until the budget is released on 6 October, much the same with the other state governments. To be eligible to apply for Victorian nomination, you must:
2 September -
The Government has announced a new Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) of 17 occupations that will allow people with these skills to enter Australia to assist in the country's COVID recovery.
It is expected that businesses who are sponsoring these occupations will be able to do so under the TSS 482 or the ENS 186 visa classes.
Visa holders, who have been sponsored by an Australia business in a PMSOL occupation can request an exemption from Australia’s travel restrictions, but will be subject to a strict 14 days quarantine on arrival at their own expense.”
The 17 occupations (ANZSCO code) are:
• Chief Executive or Managing Director (111111)
• Construction Project Manager (133111)
• Mechanical Engineer (233512)
• General Practitioner (253111)
• Resident Medical Officer (253112)
• Psychiatrist (253411)
• Medical Practitioner nec (253999)
• Midwife (254111)
• Registered Nurse (Aged Care) (254412)
• Registered Nurse (Critical Care and Emergency) (254415)
• Registered Nurse (Medical) (254418)
• Registered Nurse (Mental Health) (254422)
• Registered Nurse (Perioperative) (254423)
• Registered Nurses nec (254499)
• Developer Programmer (261312)
• Software Engineer (261313)
• Maintenance Planner (312911)
1 September -
NSW has just made an announcement regarding their interim program. As with other states, NSW has been provided a limited number of interim nomination places for the 2020–21 financial year.
Business and investor visas
Potential business and investor applicants will be selected by invitation only.
Invitation rounds will commence shortly for subclass 190 visa nomination. In line with Home Affairs' direction, applicants in selected health, ICT and engineering occupations, and who currently reside in NSW will be invited.
20 August -
The ACT has finally opened their skilled migration program. As promised, it is very compromised and they are limiting invitations to those whose occupation is on the critical skills list and living in the ACT.
If you don’t live in the ACT, they you need to wait until October when the budget is announced and a far greater number of allocations are issued to the state governments. The ACT has finally opened their skilled migration program. As promised, it is very compromised and they are limiting invitations to those whose occupation is on the critical skills list and living in the ACT.
If you don’t live in the ACT, they you need to wait until October when the budget is announced and a far greater number of allocations are issued to the state governments.
17 August -
Victoria has posted an update on their skilled program. They too have been provided with a limited number of visa nomination places until the Federal Budget is delivered on 6 October 2020.
They are preparing to re-open with new policies and nomination criteria to support Victoria’s economic recovery and the public health response.
As with the other state governments, the nominations will be restricted to occupations in the critical care sectors:
12 August -
We have received an update on the current state allocations for the General Skilled Migration program.
The government has allocated a small number of places to each state and territory, and the focus will be on occupations in critical sectors. They haven’t stated which occupations will be available and the individual state and territory governments will be arranging their lists within the following guidelines:
The small number will be in place until the government announces the budget in October, where they will release the immigration program numbers for the follow year. We expect that all occupations on the skills list will be made available to the state and territory governments, as well as a greater number of places allocated by the government.
None of this will likely impact on the strategy we have devised for you as this is just an interim measure put in place until October when we expect a greater number of places to be made available under the state sponsorship program.
9 July -
The Director, Migration Assistance Policy Section, Immigration Policy Framework Branch, Immigration and Community Protection Policy Division, Immigration and Settlement Services Group from the Department of Home Affairs has provided this update surrounding the immigration program:
The State and Territory nominated visa programs will play an important part in Australia’s economic recovery and continue to be a part of the Migration Program. The Australian Government is considering how best to shape the Migration Program into the future to drive economic growth and support job creation. Nominations will be made available to States and Territories in line with these considerations, in the following categories:
· Skilled – Nominated (subclass 190).
· Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) (subclass 491).
· Business Innovation and Investment Program.
With regard to the invitation rounds for Skilled Independent (subclass 189) and Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) (Family Sponsored) (subclass 491), the Government is closely monitoring migration and visa settings to ensure they are consistent with public health measures, are flexible and do not displace job opportunities for Australians so that Australia can deal with the immediate and post recovery impacts of COVID-19. Targeted invitation rounds have continued each month and prioritise skills which are in critical need and will aid Australia’s economic recovery.
7 April - COVID-19 (Coronavirus) - First entry to Australia
The Department has made some allowances with regards to the subclasses below under the General skilled migration category, namely those who have been approved visas and are yet to make their first entry into Australia.
Once your visa is approved, you are given a date by which you must make your first entry. Given the current travel bans, it may not be possible for some of you to make the first entry.
If you can't make the entry to Australia before the expiry of the first entry date, you will need to take the attached information sheet with you when you travel to Australia. The Department can cancel visas if you don't make your first entry date, however they won't seek to do this if you hold one of the visas below.
We don't know how long after the first entry date expires the Department will allow you to enter, so we strongly suggest that once the travel ban has been lifted , and your first entry date has expired, and that you make your trip to Australia as soon as you can.
? Skilled Independent (subclass 189)
? Skilled Nominated (subclass 190)
? Skilled Regional (subclass 489)
? Skilled Work Regional (subclass 491)
This information applies to visa holders who were outside of Australia when their visa was granted.
Requests for information
Some services relating to the visa application process may be impacted by COVID-19 and a range of services we rely on are increasingly unavailable.
This includes overseas panel doctors and visa medical appointments, English language testing facilities, and biometric collection.
You will be given additional time to complete checks and provide requested information.
Processing and allocation times – Subclass 887 visa
7 April - QLD Nomination Criteria
BSMQ has made following announcement for the Bridging Visa holders: s48 bar unable to lodge due to entry ban. These are applicants who have had a visa refused or cancelled since our last entry into Australia.
If an applicant is currently on a bridging visa and has been invited to lodge documents with BSMQ for a subclass 491 visa, they must notify Business and Skilled Migration Queensland of any past visa refusals or cancellations.
If an applicant has received a visa refusal or cancellation whilst on a bridging visa, they are likely to be subject to a section 48 bar which means they are unable to lodge a state nominated visa (and most other visas) onshore.
Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it not possible to go offshore to lodge a visa application, and then return to Australia.
This is because there is an entry ban on temporary visa holders returning to Australia at this time. If you are section 48 barred, BSMQ is unable to nominate for a subclass s491 visa and request that the application be withdrawn.
It may be possible to submit an EOI again at a later date once the entry ban is lifted if Queensland criteria continues to be met.
6 April - Temporary Skilled Visa Holders
There are around 139,000 temporary skilled visa holders, on either a 2 year or 4 year visa. They were provided the visa to fill a skills shortage - a shortage that may still be present when the crisis has passed.
Consequently, those visa holders who have been stood down, but not laid off, will maintain their visa validity and businesses will have the opportunity to extend their visa as per normal arrangements. Businesses will also be able to reduce the hours of the visa holder without the person being in breach of their visa conditions.
These visa holders will also be able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation this financial year. Those visa holders who have been laid off due to the coronavirus should leave the country in line with their existing visa conditions if they are unable to secure a new sponsor. However, should a 4-year visa holder re-employed after the coronavirus pandemic their time already spent in Australia will count towards their permanent residence skilled work experience requirements.
2 April - PTE Academic COVID-19 update and Free childcare for Australian essential workforce
The Pearsons testing centres have announced a suspension if testing centres until future notice due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Some centres are still open but restrict the number of test takers for each session. A full list of locations and information about testing is avaliable here.
The Prime minister announced free childcare for Australian parents to ensure essential workers can continue their roles.
From next week, childcare centres will be able to access Commonwealth funding equal to 50 per cent of their pre-COVID-19 revenue (up the existin hourly rate cap) in addition to JobKeeper payments to retain employees, where eligible.
30 March - Wage Subsidy Announced By Australian Government
The Federal Government announced an AU$1,500 fortnightly wage subsidy.The subsidy is an integral part of the $130 billion economic stimulus package announced by the Australian Government in response to the coronavirus.
Although the payment is to be made to employers there is a legal obligation on employers to ensure they pass on the full wage subsidy to employees.
It will be backdated to include anyone who has been stood down due to coronavirus. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the JobKeeper scheme would benefit the hardest-hit sectors.
"This $1,500 payment is a flat payment and is the equivalent of around 70 per cent of the median wage and represents about 100 per cent of of the median wage in those sectors most heavily impacted by the coronavirus like retail, like hospitality and tourism," he said.
To be eligible, an employee must be an Australian citizen, the holder of a permanent visa or a Special Category (Subclass 444) Visa Holder. It's not extended to those on temporary visas such as subclass 482 work visas
27 MARCH - Vetassess Trades - alternative interview assessments
VETASSESS is to conduct Technical Interview assessments by online video conferencing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak commencing 1 April.
This applies to assessments for non-licensed occupations as opposed to licensed occupations. It means the Technical Interviews can be conducted outside a VETASSESS-approved venue such as in the applicant’s workplace or home.
26 MARCH - COVID-19
Australia has chosen not to go into total lockdown to flatten our curve. Most state borders have been closed and of course our national borders as well.
We are thankful though that the Department of Home Affairs is still processing visas as are skills assessing authorities. State Governments are also still processing state sponsorship applications.
We are fortunate that some time ago we put into place systems that enable us to work remotely and even though my colleagues and I have, for the past week, been working from home we are able to still effectively process applications as they are filed electronically.
When people used to ask why I don’t have branch offices abroad I used to joke that I could do my job from Mars if I had a good Internet connection. I never thought that I might have to test that theory one day :-)
The vast majority of our clients are overseas and don’t need to travel to Australia for the purposes of securing employment to process their General Skilled Migration Visas.
The Prime Minister has tried to limit the damage to the economy by implementing a range of policies aimed at socially distancing Australians without going into total lockdown. It’s a controversial decision and many Australians (myself included) believe that the economic fallout would be sharper but of shorter duration were we to go into total lockdown.
The Government’s thinking is that the vast majority of Covid 19 cases in Australia are as a result of international travellers arriving in Australia and the closure of our borders and the social distancing measures will help to flatten the curve whilst at the same time causing minimum damage to the economy.
Only time will tell whether this is the correct strategy but given the length of time it takes to process a General Skilled Migration Visa application (approximately 18 months) and given that migrants are given 12 months to then visit Australia most of our clients are thinking longer term.
We will continue to use this blog to update you on developments.
Posted by Myer on Jan. 24, 2020, 9:31 a.m. in Australia
Posted by Myer on Nov. 29, 2019, 2:39 p.m. in Australia
We always explain to clients when we meet them that the eligibility we describe in that initial assessment is not in fact a description of their eligibility today but a snapshot of their future eligibility. Why? Because there are generally months of work, English exams and third party applications that must be completed before any Visa can be filed for Australia. And it is only when an application is filed that the clock stops. Changes from that day forward should not impact them.
The past two weeks have served to illustrate that specific point with the advent of a new range of points for those seeking to live permanently in Australia.
As we have written about before the Federal Government is increasingly devolving the power to decide which skilled migrants get residence of Australia to the State and Territorial Government.
Applicants are left then having to please two masters.
Each State has its own list of occupations it wishes to support, its own quotas of each occupation and its own criteria for each occupation.
Whilst the pass mark to secure a general skilled migration visa is set to remain at 65 points (according to the Federal Government) it’s clear that many more people are going to be meeting that general pass mark and to quote John F. Kennedy, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’. Most applicants will now be able to score between 5 and 25 more points than before the recent changes.
What isn’t changing is national (federal) quotas but there sure as heck is going to be an awful lot more people going scoring more than 65 points than was previously the case.
In an environment where the Federal Government is seeking to cut levels of migration it leads to only one conclusion, which is paradoxical - if you give more people more points how do you cut numbers when you don’t increase the pass mark?
Answer? The State Governments will be forced to change their own criteria. We are already seeing some evidence of that.
State governments have, even prior these changes, been feeling the pressure under the State nomination program (too many applicants, not enough places).
We are in no doubt that this pressure will increase notwithstanding the additional 14,000 extra places available for the newly created 491 (5-year work to residence) regional Visa. These additional places aren’t, in my opinion, sufficient to cope with what will be many more applicants capable of scoring more than 65 points.
Prior to the November 16 changes we often saw State governments open and close State nomination programs within 24 hours of the new immigration year beginning on 1 July.
Just this past week we saw Queensland open and fill (then close) their entire annual quota for the 190 (permanent resident visa) within 24 hours. You snooze you lose.
Clearly States are under pressure with a limited number of places available and an almost insatiable demand on the part of migrants for these places as they are pushed in the direction of the States by the Federal Government.
States then find themselves in a difficult situation. They have to balance the needs of the local economy by making sure that the migrants they are sponsoring are satisfying the skills needed by employers in their State whilst still providing pathways for some international students to use the State nomination system to obtain permanent residence.
As to how States achieve this balancing act is yet to be seen but we fully expect, and are starting to see evidence of additional and new requirements being added (or planned) for specific occupations.
For example, Tradesmen are in demand in most locations but most Tradesmen cannot score even 65 points let alone more. We predict that those sorts of occupations will not have to satisfy other criteria and the States will keep things relatively simply for this group.
Other occupations however might, as an example, have a minimum number of years of work experience in that occupation added (we saw at least one State recently add, as a minimum, three years of work whereas previously they did not), or demand a higher than ‘standard’ English.
So it is clear that some occupations that are heavily oversubscribed such as ICT occupations will face higher thresholds to secure state support
Whilst our challenge as consultants is to try and anticipate which occupations might appear on State lists with our clients in mind, so too do State governments have to balance a range of competing interests in drafting their own lists.
We are in close contact with most of the decision makers in the more popular States and we have a good handle on the direction the process is heading, even if they themselves have not yet worked out all the details.
It is our job to keep our clients at the front of the pack chasing state nomination given it is increasingly the only of securing visas for most people and the relationships we have built up with the state decision makers is critical in maintaining that advantage.
Boris Johnson has repeatedly expressed admiration for Australia’s points test in his UK election campaign and one can only hope that he designs a point system that is more transparent than Australia’s system unless of course he enjoys playing chess.
Posted by Myer on Sept. 27, 2019, 3:28 p.m. in Australia
Tradesmen or Tradies as they are known in Australia are going to be one of the types of occupations to be major beneficiaries from some of the changes to be made to general skilled migration visa policy on 16 November. Three weeks of consultations in South Africa have made it abundantly clear that it will be easier for Tradies to qualify for state-sponsored regional (work to residence) visas in Australia.
On 16 November the Australian government will introduce a new general skilled migration visa called the subclass 491 visa. It replaces the 489 visa and is essentially a state-sponsored provisional regional visa that does not require one to have a job offer. It’s not a permanent residence visa but leads to permanent residence when you satisfy the conditions of the 491 visa. It is essentially a work to residence visa where one is sponsored by a state government as opposed to an employer.
One needs to score 65 points for a general skilled migration visa and it has traditionally been difficult for tradesmen to reach this score. That, our analysis suggests, will change in November.
That’s principally because their qualifications, unlike degrees are only worth 10 points and not 15 and also because the English language test is academic in nature and not technical and most of the tradesmen are blessed with technical expertise. The point being we all have different strengths.
I once went on a golfing trip with some of my friends. We all had different occupations including lawyer, plumber, cardiologist and accountant. The external putter sleeve popped out of it’s mooring on my golf bag and the accountant, cardiologist and I tried for about 15 minutes to reconnect the sleeve at which point I had resigned myself to having to buy another golf bag when the plumber walked up, bent the putter tube and popped it into it’s mooring. We looked at him as if he had just walked on water.
I offer the example above as to how different occupations have different skill sets and ways to solve problems.
From November state sponsorship for the state-sponsored provisional (work to residence) regional visa is going to be worth 15 points as opposed to the current 10 points.
To give you a practical example if you use the example of a 35 year old plumber with at least 11 years of experience in the trade with average English-language ability he would, under current policy score the following points:
Age – 25 points
Trade qualification – 10 points
Work experience in the nominated trade occupation – 15 for eight or more years of work experience after considered suitably skilled
English-language – 0 points for competent English, 10 points for proficient English and 20 points for superior English. It’s not particularly easy to get 10 points for proficient English because points are given for the lowest of the four bands (reading, writing, listening and speaking) and not the overall score.
State sponsorship/support – 10 points for the state-sponsored provisional regional visa.
Total potential score = is 60 points which is 5 short of the current pass mark of 65 required to secure the visa.
Unless the electrician obtained 10 points for their English-language ability - a high bar which most cannot achieve - it’s not that common for tradesmen to reach this score because of the reasons mentioned above.
From November of this year however state sponsorship for this type of visa is worth 15 points and not 10 which means that our electrician could still obtain 0 points for English-language but reach the threshold of 65 points.
Australia is looking for tradies and that’s why their occupations appear on so many of the state government occupation ‘wish lists’, it’s just until now the government hasn’t been able to draft an immigration policy capable of providing them with a pathway to residence.
The biggest benefit of a general skilled migration visa is that it gives the holder full work rights as well as his spouse or partner if he has one and children can attend government schools without paying international student fees. With fewer employers wanting to “sponsor” workers for work visas the general skilled migration visa greatly improves employability. Tradesmen only have to search on recruitment related websites such as seek.com.au to see the vast number of jobs available for tradies. The ’chicken and egg’ still exists (no work visa no job but no job without the visa) - most employers and recruiters want applicants to have visas with work rights such as general skilled migration visas. This can really only be broken by being prepared to travel to Australia and stay till that one employer willing to play the visa game is found.
This type of general skilled migration visa isn’t a permanent residence visa but leads to permanent residence once our electrician lives in “regional” Australia for a period of three years (of a five year period) and earns an annual salary of AUD53,900 for each of those three years which isn’t a very high salary in Australia.
On this type of visa you can’t live and work in metropolitan areas of Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Gold Coast but the rest of Australia from November will be regarded as regional including many state capitals including Adelaide, Hobart, Canberra and Darwin (if you’re brave enough). Many of the tradesmen that I consulted with in South Africa are living in regional parts of South Africa and many of them wouldn’t want to live in the Metropolitan areas mentioned above and face higher property prices, higher cost of living and increased congestion and they wouldn’t see living in regional Australia as a hardship.
One of the most frequent comments I get from people is that they don’t want to immigrate on a “risky” visa where they might face the prospect of having to return home if things don’t work out. The type of general skilled migration visa I’m referring to isn’t particularly “risky” because of the very few requirements that have to be satisfied to progress to permanent residence. It might be somewhat restrictive as to where you can live and work until you acquire permanent residence but it’s not particularly risky.
Ever since the November changes were announced earlier on this year I felt that these changes were largely implemented to benefit occupations such as Tradies, overrepresented in terms of occupations appearing on state sponsorship lists but largely underrepresented in terms of visa approvals for general skilled migration visas. This imbalance is going to be corrected with the November changes.
Posted by Myer on July 13, 2019, 12:09 a.m. in Australia
Last week South Australia released their new state sponsorship list and what ensued can only be described as a visa lolly scramble.
Most people in Australia and New Zealand know what a lolly scramble is but in order to explain it I turned to the fountain of all (web-based) knowledge Wikipedia and they described it as “a children’s party game in Australia and New Zealand, in which candies are scattered on the floor and children scramble to get their share.” They also described the phrase used outside of New Zealand to be uttered when hitting one's friend in the testicles. With friends like these who needs enemies, right?
For the record I’m very pro-South Australia both as an immigration destination as well as a state sponsorship program. They sponsor the most diverse range of occupations, the criteria for state sponsorship are transparent and they have some interesting and innovative pathways to obtaining state sponsorship that most other states don’t have.
So it pains me to write a blog that might be critical of their State migration program but last week’s events would have been worthy of a Quentin Tarantino script.
South Australia is generally amongst the first states to produce their state sponsorship list at the commencement of the immigration year (1 July) and we received notification that the list would be open mid-afternoon on Tuesday 2 July.
Before one can submit a state sponsorship application on behalf of a client you need a positive skills assessment and English-language tests and to make sure that the applicant scores sufficient points for the visa type applied for and some occupations face higher point scores in order to obtain state sponsorship than others.
In the weeks prior to 1 July we obtained all the relevant documentation from clients of ours interested in migrating to South Australia and made sure that we had all of this documentation on hand in preparation for the release of the state sponsorship lists because no state government (including South Australia) ever releases the annual quota of a particular occupation that they will sponsor. As soon as that quota is filled the occupation is closed and one has to wait for the next immigration year or alternatively see if another state would sponsor your occupation.
We were are all acutely aware of the importance of being first to submit a client’s state sponsorship application and compete with applicants and agents all around the world because in previous years some occupations appeared as unavailable for state sponsorship within minutes of the lists publication so in that heightened mood of anticipation we eagerly awaited the publication of the list.
The list of occupations did not disappoint, loaded with a wide variety of occupations but within minutes of the portal becoming live the website crashed. At regular intervals over the next 24 hours we attempted to submit state sponsorship applications and I even took the precaution of sleeping with my phone next to my bed and asked a client in South Africa to check throughout our Melbourne night (South African day) and call me if the site became live again.
At approximately 4:30 PM Melbourne time the next afternoon, without any warning the portal for submitting state sponsorship applications became available and we spent the next four hours submitting as many state sponsorship applications as possible, especially for those occupations at risk of not appearing on other state sponsorship lists.
The submission of a state sponsorship application requires one to complete a six page online application (that cannot be pre-populated with information) and uploading various supporting documents. A good organized consultant can submit an application in 20 to 30 minutes.
We managed to submit 11 out of 12 potential applications which was an exceptionally good effort under the circumstances.
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this process of accepting state sponsorship applications and it is preferable to the New South Wales “black hole” system of ranking expressions of interest in terms of points and inviting the highest scoring (without releasing any other information about time frames, point scores of competing applicants et cetera) or Victoria’s system of sponsoring the most employable (in their opinion) of applicants or the ACT points matrix (and no this doesn’t involve Keanu Reeves).
Perhaps South Australia just needs a more robust IT infrastructure (I have several excellent clients I could refer them to that just need state sponsorship) but some of my newer staff that haven’t experienced the great South Australia lolly scramble were looking for some reassurance that this type of thing only happens once a year.
Given the fact that the federal government has as its stated immigration plan to encourage regional migration and as Adelaide is the largest regional city South Australia has much to gain through the changes to the general skilled migration visa program to be implemented on 16 November.
Hopefully by one July of next year they won’t have a system that feels like a game of lolly scramble outside of New Zealand.
- Myer Lipschitz, Melbourne Office
Posted by Myer on May 26, 2019, 9:21 p.m. in Australia
It was supposed to be the “unloseable” election, so how did the Labor party manage to wake up on Sunday morning nursing an almighty hangover from Saturday’s general election in Australia? Already the memes are out with perhaps the cruelest one being “losing the “unloseable” election Bill Shorten (leader of the opposition) shall forever be known as Billary”.
The ruling Coalition government (a coalition of Liberal and National parties) went into this election as rank underdogs, extremely unpopular in the polls partly as a result of the electorate being fed up with the party had changed prime ministers twice, resulting in 3 leaders in the last 6 years, as well as allegations of bullying female party members. This coupled with an environmental policy (a commitment to meet its global emissions target (of 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030) relatively was pauce compared to the Labor policy (commitment to reducing Australia’s pollution by 45 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero pollution by 2050) meant that Labor were clear frontrunners in the buildup to the election.
Labor’s election platform incorporated wide-ranging economic policies aimed at redistribution of wealth but ended up alienating much of its traditional base such as retirees as well as those reliant on the mining industry to provide job security, particularly in Queensland.
The number one concern for Labor voters was the environment, the number one concern for Coalition voters was the economy and it is ironic that Labor enjoyed some of its strongest support in wealthier electorates and were hammered in some of the poorer electorates proving that concern about the environment is considered a luxury when you are concerned about losing your job and providing for your family.
Perhaps the starkest example of how this played out was in the relatively affluent electorate of Warringah where our ex prime minister, Tony Abbott who held a seat for 25 years lost to an independent Zali Steggall who campaigned largely on the basis of climate change. Contrast this result to many of the Queensland electorates, particularly those reliant upon dirty energy for jobs. The proposed Adani coal mine has been seen as a symbol of Labor’s failure in Queensland. Whilst nationally a majority of Australians think the multi-billion-dollar project should be scrapped 61 versus 20 per cent, in rural Queensland 48 per cent of people want the coal mine built, with 38 per cent against.
The project has been a lightning rod for climate change activists and a source of tension within both Labor and the Coalition.
It was an election in which the economy played a part as well, after years of budget deficits, the Coalition reported a budget surplus in the current year and promised to return some of this surplus to the electorate by way of delayed tax cuts. Labor on the other hand spoke about economic redistribution of wealth making those “in the top end of town” pay more by way of increased taxes and the Coalition portrayed Labor as fiscally irresponsible and raised the prospect of future generations having to pay for Labor’s largess. Labor raised the prospect of future generations having to pay for the Coalition’s irresponsible environmental policies.
In the end voters in Australia chose greater economic stability over environmental issues. Of course this is a gross oversimplification and analysts are still trying to ascertain the reason for Labor’s loss but it would seem to me that a good message of climate change got lost in a complex set of policies aimed at wealth redistribution alienating many of Labor’s traditional grassroots supporters.
At the date of writing this blog only 76% of votes have been tallied but if a party or coalition of parties wins 77 seats in the House of Representatives, it can govern in its own right, rather than relying upon the support of crossbenchers (or independents) to form a government. Five seats are still in doubt but the Coalition is forecast to win 77 seats.
Of course it’s all going to be tricky for the coalition government to pass legislation because they don’t hold a majority in the Senate but that’s a story for another blog.
So where does this all leave us in terms of immigration policy, particularly as far as the types of visas that our offshore clients are particularly interested in namely skilled visas and parent visas?
As far as parents are concerned, it seems as if the cap of 15,000 Sponsored Parent (Temporary) visas may be granted each year will hold. This was Coalition policy going into the election whereas Labor was in support of an unlimited quota of these visas. This visa doesn’t grant parents permanent residence (it’s not to be confused with the contributory parent visa) but because processing times of the contributory parent visa application are so long, the sponsored parent temporary visa was seen as a means to reunite parents with families (albeit temporarily) for periods of 5 or 10 years depending upon the amount of money they wish to pay.
As for a skilled visas concerned there will be a greater emphasis upon regional growth with an additional 23,000 extra regional visas, which will have the condition of requiring migrants to live and work in regional Australia for three years before they can apply for permanent residency. If this seems generous bear in mind that most of these visa places were appropriated from the independent visas that don’t require state nor family sponsorship.
The amendments introduce a revised points system including:
In short it’s going to be easier to relocate to regional Australia but more difficult to immigrate to non-regional areas. People often struggle with the concept as to what is regional Australia. It is often perceived as having to live in the outback, surrounded by wild dingoes and kangaroos but from November the definition will include all of Australia except for Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
As a general rule of thumb if you were to drive for approximately 1.5 hours from the centre of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and the Gold Coast you would be in regional Australia. In other words some relatively large cities such as Adelaide and Canberra will be included in the definition of regional and whilst you might find a few wild politicians running around Canberra, it’s highly unlikely that you will find any dingoes.
- Myer Lipschitz, Melbourne Office
Posted by Myer on March 29, 2019, 8:43 p.m. in Australia
Earlier this week our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, made the announcement of a 15% reduction in the annual migration quota from 190,000 to 160,000 ostensibly to reduce infrastructure pressure in the major cities of Melbourne and Sydney with the introduction of two new visa subclasses that encourage regional migration. When you examine the detail the announcement it should be seen for what it is, electioneering for the upcoming general election in May.
The coalition government is behind in the polls and needs to appease voters, particularly in Sydney (where 63% of those polled feel levels of migration are too high) and Melbourne as the growth in infrastructure cannot keep pace with the net migration levels. It was in the context of this background that the Prime Minister made his recent announcement.
“The roads are clogged, the buses and trains are full, the schools are taking no more enrolments. I hear what you are saying, I hear you loud and clear. That’s why we need to improve how we manage population growth in this country.”
The cut to migration levels wasn’t really a cut at all. Last year Australia approved 162,000 permanent residence visas (notwithstanding the fact that the annual quota was 190,000 for last year) so in practical terms there hasn’t been a reduction or cut at all.
One also has to bear in mind that if you add students, work visa holders, those on working holidays and long-term visitors net migration is actually approximately 236,000. If we just look at international students last year, there were nearly 700,000 international students in the country. This was an increase of 11 per cent from the previous year, or some 76,000 extra students living in Australia and I’m sure a fair few of them would be clogging up buses and trains in Sydney and Melbourne.
The government is proposing granting students an extra year of post study work rights if they study in regional Australia as an added inducement not to study in the major cities and this is tantamount to obtaining a three-year post study work visa compared to the two-year post study work visa available to those completing degrees in major cities and this may result in a short term trend to divert students away from Sydney and Melbourne but ultimately students will gravitate to where the jobs are and if those jobs are in the major cities students will ultimately relocate to those areas.
Further to the reduction and to help with the ‘congestion busting’ policy, two new visas were announced earlier this week to come into effect in November 2019 namely:
Under these new visas, migrants will be required to live and work in a regional area of Australia for at least three years before they are eligible to apply for permanent residence and will have up to 5 years in which to meet these requirements.
The definition of regional Australia seems to be expanded to include anywhere in Australia apart from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and the Gold Coast.
Simply put, the government has extended the required length of time needed to spend in regional Australia by one year, and have now allowed the ACT, Wollongong and Newcastle to be called regional areas.
Apart from wanting to ease the congestion that migrants cause to the major metropolitan cities we are told that there are 40,000 jobs in regional Australia that employers cannot fill and the government is aiming to fill regional skill shortages through the development and implementation of these 2 visas as well as signing designated area migration agreements with state governments aimed at filling skill shortages in occupations that might not otherwise be available for other types of visas such as work visas because the skill level of these jobs might be lower.
I’m sure that there are many positions that Australians might not be willing to fill in regional Australia, perhaps because they are lower skilled or have lower wages but many of the occupations on general skilled migration visa lists will not be suitable for jobs in regional Australia. I’m referring to occupation such as marketing manager, organisation and methods analyst, many IT occupations to name a few and I’m not sure that the type of industry in regional Australia can accommodate these skills. While I’m sure that many trades are needed in regional Australia together with agriculture and horticultural occupations I’m not sure that the size and complexity of industry in regional Australia can accommodate many of the skills listed on the list of occupations suitable for general skilled migration visas.
If the Australian government was sincere about creating regional development schemes they would reward employers for creating jobs in regional Australia and would consider incentives such as tax holidays for employers relocating to regional Australia. Migrants will generally follow jobs and if there are sufficient jobs in decent occupations in regional Australia the scheme will work however no amount of menial jobs in regional Australia would attract and retain sufficient number of migrants beyond the grant of permanent residence.
So in essence what we are getting is the same number of resident visa approvals as last year (no cut it all) and 2 new visas which require applicants to live in regional Australia for three years as opposed to two. Sounds like much ado about nothing to me and I think that the cynical electorate will see this for what it is, more political posturing and smoke and mirrors aimed at restoring voter confidence in a disillusioned political environment.
- Myer Lipschitz, Director
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