How to Migrate Series - Accountants

By Surani Punchihewa Registered Migration Consultant MARN 0426579

The Demand for Accountants in Australia

Accounting is a profession that has been always in demand in Australia. In fact accounting as a professional category is the largest single occupational category under the Australian skilled migration programme. It is evident of an actual accountant's shortage in Australia as the Australian government has set accounting in the migration occupations in demand (MODL) since 2004 and to date it remains the same.

The impact of the Australian skilled migration policy on the accounting profession has been significant. There has been a rapid annual increase in the number of international students selected to study accounting since 2001.

This was directly correlated to the Skilled Independent Visa category introduced in 2001 which allowed additional points for Australian education and exempted applicants from the requirement to have one year of work experience in the relevant profession.

This meant that international students who graduated from Australian universities could stay in Australia and apply for a Permanent Residence visa without needing a job offer or sponsorship of a relative. This policy change has had a defining impact. The visas issued for onshore accountants rose ten folds from 927 visas to 6506 visas in a three year period between 2002 and 2006. Offshore visas issuance reveals a similar increasing pattern and this trend continues to be the same after 3 years.

Recognition of Sri Lankan qualifications in Australia

Australia has shown a high regard for accounting qualifications awarded in Sri Lanka. Almost all degree level qualifications awarded by Sri Lankan universities have the comparable recognition in Australia.
ICASL has been accepted in recent years as meeting Australian standards for the purpose of migration and CIMA has been successful in reaching a reciprocal agreement with CPA Australia. In summary, degree-level qualifications awarded in Sri Lanka have a high regard in Australia, not only for the purpose of migration, but as professionally recognized qualifications.

Meeting the migration requirements

As a rule of thumb, every one who is a potential migrant to Australia under the General Skilled Migration (GSM) must be less than 45 years of age, must nominate an occupation from the Skills Occupations List (SOL), must have been employed in the nominated occupation for 12 months of last 24 months and must demonstrate English proficiency.

Having met the requirements, the migration process will begin from assessing the skills for this purpose.

Skills assessment of accounts

Accounting is the only profession that has three nominated assessment authorities. Namely, The National Institute of Accountants (NIA), The Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia (ICAA) and the Certified Professional Accountants (CPA). Theoretically speaking, all authorities have similar requirements for skills assessments.

Nevertheless, in reality, it has proven some authorities view the applications in a different perspective from the other. To qualify for migration, more than the experience in the profession, Australia seeks professionals with the technical knowledge and this is demonstrated essentially through the subjects that are offered in the qualification. All applicants must demonstrate that the qualification comprises of:

Basic Accounting, Financial and Corporate Accounting, Current Accounting Issues (standards and theory), Cost and Management Accounting, Business Finance, Auditing, Introductory Law (including Contracts), Economics, Statistics, Computer Information Systems, Taxation Law, Company Law.
If your qualification is a university degree, you must pay careful attention in analyzing the subjects in your degree. I have encountered many applicants making fatal errors in making this decision. What the Australian authorities require here is the depth of knowledge acquired in the subject, also authorities can pay attention to the grade obtained.

Professional advice from registered practitioners (MARA) is highly recommended to avoid unnecessary failures in skills assessments. Members of CIMA are fortunate since the agreement between the CPA and CIMA was signed recently.

Obstacles in the skills assessment process

I have sighted many accounting qualifications to be a combination of few recognized qualifications. Elaborating on this point, it is common for candidates with degrees in non specialized accounting qualifications to complete certain parts of ICASL or CIMA. The question arises, in this instance could the applicant fulfill the migration requirement?

A definitive answer can only be given in analyzing the subjects completed in part qualifications as well as the degree. This is indeed a scenario to be watchful, as not meeting the required level of knowledge in the subject can lead to refusal.

Some assessment authorities may request detailed transcripts for assessments. This includes each individual transcripts issued annually and a consolidated transcript, which contains the grading for each subject. In addition, GCE O/L and A/L certificates are needed with certain bodies to identify the foundation accounting knowledge.

Identifying the correct assessment authority is the key in obtaining successful skills assessment. It is highly recommended that all supporting documents are submitted to avoid unnecessary delays in processing. (Await more details on Lodgment of skills assessment and Visa application in the future articles).

Send your questions on migration to: with the Subject line of "Migration Help-Desk"

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