Come July, and Australia changes Migration Programme
By Surani Punchihewa.

The change

Changes are so frequent, and we are very well accustomed to, when it comes to Australian Migration programme. From September 2007, we have seen changes to the General Skilled Migration (GSM) programme that are uncountable!

Nevertheless, the change we would experience this July gives a facelift to the programme, which can be seen as tightening of the entry requirements to Australia. From Australia's point of view, these changes are established as a "demand driven" approach to what was "supply driven".

The impact

We will see a large number of candidates not meeting the requirements. Currently, one must score 120 or 100 points to qualify under the GSM programme for an Independent visa or a state government visa. However, from July 65 becomes the pass mark. One would wonder…. wow, the pass mark is reduced to half! Not so! The entire point system has changed into a whole new system, where point allocation is primarily focused on qualification, work experience and IELTS scores. In the present system, one is allocated points for the profession, not the qualification. There are professions such as IT or senior Management where applicants will qualify without any formal qualification. This group will see the biggest impact.

Who does NOT qualify?

When points are awarded for the qualification and the majority of points count on that, it is natural for applicants without a qualification to face a hurdle. Currently a large number of IT professionals qualify for Australian migration without any formal qualification. This group will face difficulties in qualifying without a blood relative to sponsor and having superior IELTS scores, which is as high as 8 in each band. In my experience to have this combination is not very common. In addition, senior Managers, with extensive years of work experience not having a formal qualification did qualify to migrate, although a similar plight to IT professionals discussed earlier implies to this group as well. Trade is the area that will have the biggest impact. It is very rarely that a technical person will score 7 in each band in the IELTS test. Taking this fact into account, in an ideal situation, a tradesperson must be less than 33 years with 8 years experience having a valid apprenticeship to make it.

Impact on Australia

Clearly, Australia requires a consistent flow of skills into the country. That is to sustain its economy and for further development. A continent being the 6th largest nation in the world having a population of 22 million has limitation for growth. Therefore, the contribution of skilled professional from outside Australia becomes detrimental for future growth. Australia, having a clear vision about its future, has implemented strategies to overcome the issue of shortage of labour by new innovations in skills development.

However, the supply of skilled labour within the country has not met the demand and Australian businesses have faced an acute shortage of certain skills and the labour available within the country has not been capable of addressing the issue properly. The highest demand has been in construction, Engineering, Telecommunication, Information Technology, hospitality and service industries. There is a visible demand for tradespeople, but after July, unless new mechanisms are brought in, a majority of trade-workers will not meet the migration requirements.

In July 2009, migration legislations were amended to obtaining higher level of IELTS scores for trade occupations, and this change significantly reduced the intake. The July 2011 legislative change will have further implications on the trades market. It is believed the migration segment is now steered through to the temporary work permit scheme. This scheme widely known as 457 visas, are work permits that are heavily concentrated on employer sponsorships. However, it is questionable if Australia could attract similar skilled, quality and committed labour under this scheme. It is evident, other western developed nations are fiercely competing for skilled labour and in this situation if Australia is to impose restrictive measures, it is unavoidable that labour forces will drift to other markets.

Taking the advantage

If I say, it is too late to qualify under the current requirements I have not been fair by everyone. It is certainly too late for applicants who will be state/territory nominated; as an interim process of obtaining the state government nomination involves at least 8 weeks. Initially, an applicant's skills must be assessed and this process itself could take 3 months. If you want to have the application lodged prior to July, all the above processes together with the IELTS test must be completed. However, applicants aiming to lodge independent visas and who are blood relative sponsored could still qualify. Therefore, it is paramount to obtain correct legal advice and choose the right pathway.

Surani Punchihewa is a Registered Migration Consultant with the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA) 0426579, governed by the Department of Immigration, Australia.

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