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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.

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.


Where has the year gone to?

Posted by Myer on Dec. 4, 2020, 11:05 a.m. in Australia

“It’s December already, where has the year gone to?” is a common comment at this time of year but this particular year we know where we spent much of our time – isolated in our homes. It’s a year demarcated by isolation and stagnation from an economic and social perspective and next year can only be better. This is also true in terms of immigration policy which left very little to cheer about in 2020 but the outlook for 2021 has to be brighter.

In terms of the year that’s been, things turned sour fairly early on with Australia calling Covid 19 a pandemic prior to the announcement by the World Trade Organisation and essentially closed its borders on 20 March 2020 with exemptions for only Australian citizens, permanent residence and their immediate family.

In May we would normally receive the Federal Government’s budget announcement including details relating to the annual migration quota however this decision was postponed until October. This delay is why state sponsorship lists, which are normally produced in July were postponed until such time as the government finalised the migration quota so that they could decide on the number of migrants each state could sponsor.

Many of our clients overseas applying for general skilled migration visas are dependent upon the production of state sponsorship lists but as I write this these state allocations have yet to be finalised. All indications are that it should happen soon and we expect state sponsorship list to be produced later this month.

Delays associated with state sponsorship lists have meant that many of our clients who had obtained English-language tests and positive skills assessment have had to essentially tread water for much of this year. Even those offshore applicants who had filed general skilled migration visa applications have had to wait as priority was given to those already in Australia. With 36,000 Australians stranded overseas the government hardly wanted to add to the number of permanent residents overseas wanting to gain access to Australia by approving offshore cases hence the focus on processing applications made while the candidate was in Australia.

I’m sure that 2021 will however be a brighter year in terms of migration to Australia. There are several Covid 19 vaccines in production and Australia has entered into five separate agreements for the supply of Covid 19 vaccines if they are proven to be safe and effective.

Our interstate borders have been relaxed and it is now possible to travel anywhere in Australia except Western Australia and that’s set to change next week. In terms of our national border Australia already has quarantine-free travel arrangements with New Zealand and is working towards establishing similar arrangements with other low-risk countries such as Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

Towards the middle of next year, we should see a gradual return of some of the 120,000 international students who remain stranded overseas and of course July of next year demarcates the beginning of another immigration year with the publication of more state sponsorship lists.

The number and variety of occupations appearing on state sponsorship lists usually mirror economic activity in a particular state and relevantly the federal government is providing $257 billion in direct economic support to cushion the blow and strengthen the recovery. The 2020 – 21 budget commits a further $98 billion including $25 billion in direct Covid 19 response measures and $74 billion in new measures to create jobs bringing the government’s overall support to $507 billion. Other stimulatory measures such as tax reform, quantitative easing, and record low interest rates will no doubt have the desired effect of stimulating the Australian economy and, as the economy grows, so too do skill shortages and the need to import skills from overseas.

Of course there is also the stimulatory measures of state governments to be added to Federal expenditure with Victoria alone spending $13 billion to combat the coronavirus crisis with more than $7.6 billion in direct economic support for business in Victoria.

It’s probably going to be several years before we see the high level of tourists, students and migrants returning to Australia and it is conceivable that those allowed to enter might have to have a health passport (no jab no entry) in addition to a national passport to gain entry to Australia but there is a general feeling of optimism in Australia that the worst is behind us.

Our message to those who feel that they have been treading water as far as migration to Australia is concerned is to hang in there. To those that have already filed applications that are as yet undecided we should see more decisions being made next year and to those who have completed English-language and skills assessments and are waiting on the state sponsorship lists, progress cannot be too far off with state sponsorship lists due to open up shortly as well as more updates in July of next year.

If 1992 was an “annus horribilis” according to Queen Elizabeth II, I wonder how she would describe 2020? Whilst I’m not going to predict 2021 to be annus mirabilis (wonderful year) it has to be an improvement on 2020 from a health, social, economic and migration perspective.


Global Talent Visa

Posted by Myer on Oct. 23, 2020, 3:55 p.m. in Australia

The Australian Government has publicly indicated that migration is central to their Covid recovery plan. Knowing there is State level politics that can impact on that goal the federal government has confirmed a threefold expansion in the number of ‘Talent Visas’ up for grabs, I think to deflect from the political risks associated with the other ‘skilled pathways’.

The number of places available was increased from 5000 last immigration year to 15,000 this year. Called a global talent visa it sounds very fancy but take the shiny bow off the packaging it is potentially going to apply to a lot more people than one might imagine. The benchmark for qualifying for this visa might not be as high as you think as one of our clients recently discovered.

So what is the global talent visa and how might it present as a different pathway to residence in Australia?

It’s essentially a visa that grants permanent residence for the “brightest and best talent”, designed to help grow Australia’s innovation and technology sectors.

There are essentially two types of global talent visa programs, those sponsored by employers and a second, independent program and this blog focuses on the independent program because for most of our potential clients, this represents the better of those two options.

The Australian Government has appointed a legion of bureaucrats around the world to try and encourage this new pathway. However applicants are not required to wait for one of these states officials to nominate someone for this visa but it can be done through a 'recognised organisation' or individual in Australia 'prominent' in the same field.

As with all thes rules be careful how you interpret words like 'prominent'.

An applicant must be 'prominent' in one of seven targeted areas namely

- agriculutural technology,

- space and advanced manufacturing,

- financial technology

- energy and mining technology,

- medical technology,

- cyber security; and

- quantum information, advanced digital, data science and ICT

This does not mean you need to be Bills Gates or Elon Must or a Nobel Prize winning Quantum Physicist, only that you are really good at what you do.

And even if you a 'prominent' in your field it doesn't mean you'll qualify because it is limited to those broad categories above. For example, a world renowned film director would not be suitable for the Global Talent visa because he or she doesn't operate in the seven areas mentioned above. However, they could qualify for a distinguished talent visa, another category designed for the elites.

To qualify for this talent visa you must demonstrate that you are internationally recognised with evidence of outstanding achievements and have a recognised organisation or individual in Australia endorse you as a global talent, in the same field as you.

Apart from the Australian Computer Society, I am unaware of any other industry association that has agreed to be a nominator so if you are not in an ICT field and haven’t been identified by one of the global talent officers mentioned above, you will have to rely upon an individual in Australia prominent in the same field to nominate you.

Unlike the nomination process for work visas there are no financial implications upon the nominator but finding such an individual is going to prove to be challenging for most people oversees simply because they might not have an extensive network of like-minded colleagues in Australia.

One of the possible ways of overcoming this potential hurdle would be for those people working for multinational companies with an Australian branch to approach a senior representative of the Australian company to act as nominator.

It is also a requirement to prove an exceptional track record of professional achievement. This may include senior roles, patents, professional awards and international publications, memberships, participation in national or international conference in your field.

Applicants also must have the ability to attract a salary of AUD $153,600 plus superannuation but you don’t have to actually be earning this level of remuneration when an application is filed, applicants just need to be capable of earning this level of remuneration.

There is no age limit for this visa which is attractive when one considers that the age limit for other forms of skilled visas is 45 years of age. INterestingly given how important English language ability is to skilled migrants under this policy the level of English-language required is much lower i.e functional English. The other benefit is priority processing with only 1-2 weeks visa processing times (currently), compared to at least 9 months of other permanent residence visas. And no need to apply for travel exemptions to come to Australia.

In the opening paragraph I mentioned a client of ours who was sceptical of whether he would meet the benchmarks of this particular visa. He did have a certain profile in the IT industry with media exposure and had worked for high profile clients and whilst he rather modestly thought that his achievements would fall shot of the benchmark required, the Australian Computer Society had a different opinion and approved his nomination. In other words, you don't need to be Steven Hawking or Bill Gates of your industry in order to be successful.

On paper this type of visa looks like a winner for both Australia and for many talented people overseas wanting a slice of Australia's lifestryle but there are clearly some flaws in the program, such as the lack of prominent industry associations willing to act as nominators and it's hoped that more of the organisations like the Australian Computer Society that provide skills assessments for general skille migration visas would act as nominators.

Typically not all criteria is well defined but it appears that the bar is lower than the fancy title suggests.

At the end of the day, 15,000 places is considerable and the quota needs to be filled otherwise Australia would be tactily admitting that the best and brightest don't want to immigrate here and I suspect that Australia will keep the bar relatively lower than the rules might infer, in order to ensure that the 15,000 places is filled.

Now is not the time for modesty. You might not have considered yourself to be the sort of migrant that this policy is designed to attract but you might be. Make your voice heard because we think this is one of the best visa offerings for 2020-2021.

Tags: australia

A shot in the arm

Posted by Myer on Oct. 8, 2020, 10:47 a.m. in Australia

If we ever needed reminding that 2020 was a strange year last night we saw a liberal treasurer reading a budget that would have in previous years embarrassed a labor government by the scale of spending contemplated by the government to stimulate an economy that has flat lined in the wake of Covid 19. With unemployment forecast to increase to 7.25% and the economy to shrink by 1.5% this year and the machine that goes “ping” silent, the government charged the defibrillators, shouted “clear” and applied contact. Hopefully with a sharp intake of breath the economy will react to give the government the 4.75% growth forecast for 2021-22 to reduce unemployment to 6.5 percent for that period.

As to how immigration factors into all of this can best perhaps be summed up by the media release published by the Department of Home Affairs entitled “Securing and Uniting Australia as Part of the Government’s Economic Recovery Plan”.

Whilst the government has maintained the same annual ceiling or limit of 160,000 migrants per year, it’s changed the quotas of the different visa types with an emphasis upon partner applications and onshore visas. This is probably because we still don’t have a vaccine for Covid 19 but provision has been retained for a healthy quota of skilled migration.

The budget was predicated upon a vaccine being available for release in Australia towards the latter part of 2021 and whilst it seems likely, it would be catastrophic if a vaccine isn’t available. With a budget deficit estimated to reach 1.7 trillion over the next few years and interest rates at record lows, there isn’t much else at the government’s disposal to provide added stimulus if we don’t have a vaccine.

It was however rewarding to see that the government did acknowledge the financial contribution of migration to the economy and hopefully once we do obtain a vaccine, the government will adopt a more expansive immigration program allowing more foreign students back into Australia.

It was forecast that net migration would fall to -71,000 for the current year which contrasts to the positive gain of 154,000 in last year. Whilst shocking it’s not particularly surprising because long-term students and temporary workers are included in these figures, and with border closures and local state lockdowns, many had to leave Australia. As borders are only likely to reopen mid next year, many won’t be returning before the next immigration year begins in July.

Perhaps more significantly for most of our clients (many of whom are overseas relying on obtaining state sponsorship) is how much of the quota would be allocated to skilled migrants. The Government announced figures for the following categories:

Global talent independent visa – 15,000

Business and investment – 13,500

Family - 77,300 (72,300 to be partner/spouse applications)

Skilled - 54 200

The media release also included the rather ambiguous sentence “While overall the government has placed greater emphasis on the family stream, most of these are people already in Australia. Of the new permanent residents coming into the country, we still anticipate that approximately two thirds will be in the skilled stream and one third from the family stream.”

Clearly the government is still anticipating a skilled migration from overseas but the detail as to how this will be divided under the different types of skilled migration such as employer sponsored, state-sponsored, or independent visas hasn’t yet been released.

It’s clearly looking at filling a larger quota than in previous years with safe and easy applications for partners/spouses, many of whom will be in Australia without having to consider difficult issues such as when borders will reopen as well as the contentious issue of skilled migrants competing with Australians for jobs with rising unemployment.

Traditionally the government has used the state-sponsored visa program to entice foreign students to Australia to provide an incentive to studying in Australia but with fewer students more of the state-sponsored visa places would be available to many of our skilled clients who are based overseas.

The government is not only picking sectors of the economy that it wants to succeed namely resources and critical minerals, food and beverages, medical products, recycling and clean energy, defence and space but also intends picking winners with an increase in the global talent independent program to 15,000 places as well as business innovation and investment programs will be increased to 13,500 places.

The budget also covered a range of major government infrastructure spending for States, local councils, and regional Australians with a significant boost to roads, bridges, rail, and community works and whilst the government has announced programs aimed at training and creating new skill sets in Australia it’s doubtful whether all of the expertise required for these programs will be found within Australia’s borders.

As with most government announcements the devil is in the detail but clearly migration remains an important aspect of government policy as it is still seen as a means of delivering economic stimulus, population growth, skill shortages a base for taxation, it’s just that for this particular immigration year spouses and partners of Australian citizens and permanent residents appear to be the big winners.

Tags: Australia

Look before you Leap

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.


The Silly Season

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.


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