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by Mark Webster

by Mark Webster, Acacia Immigration Australia, 8 February 2010

For our article on how these changes effect international students please click here

The Australian Minister for Immigration today announced significant changes to the General Skilled Migration (GSM) program.

These changes represent an effort to more closely target the skills required in the Australian community and are a precursor to further changes to be implemented this year.


The "cap and cease" provision will only apply to offshore GSM visas received before 1 September 2007 - namely subclass 495, 134, 136, 137, 138 and 139 visas. It does not apply to onshore GSM visas (subclasses 485, 487, 885 and 886) or the current offshore subclasses (475, 476, 175 and 176 visas). At present, there is little indication how many, if any, of the old applications currently in the pipeline will be granted.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) estimates that some 20,000 applicants will be affected. There are some serious consequences of this change:

A new Skilled Occupations List (SOL) is to be introduced by mid 2010. The list will be compiled by Skills Australia, an independent body which has been set up by the Department of Employment, Education and Training. The list should be available by 30 April 2010, and will come into effect by mid 2010.

The new SOL will include occupations that require a long lead time of formal education and training and where the economic impact of not having the skills is significant. The result will most likely be a much shorter list. If your occupation is not on the new SOL, you will only be able to apply for a state or territory nominated GSM visa.

However, there are generous transitional provisions for international students studying in Australia. In particular, you will not be affected by the changes if:

  • You have already applied for a permanent or provisional GSM visa prior to 8 February 2010; or
  • You have already applied for or been granted a subclass 485 Graduate Skilled visa prior to 8 February 2010, and lodge your permanent or provisional GSM visa application prior to 31 December 2012.

If you are in Australia on a student visa as of 8 February 2010, then you can apply for a skilled graduate visa in any occupation on the current SOL, but must then apply for a permanent or provisional skilled visa in an occupation on the new SOL.

Because the new SOL is not available, this change will create a significant amount of uncertainty and anxiety. When the list is published, it is likely that:

  1. Many applicants will seek to lodge GSM applications ahead of the changeover date; and
  2. International students not studying in an SOL occupation will seek to change to courses which are on the SOL

The new SOL will effectively replace the current MODL as the "beacon" for people wishing to complete studies in Australia which will then qualify them for permanent residence.

The new arrangements also inherit other problems associated with the MODL - namely that the process of creating the list is to be handled by an agency external to the Department of Immigration with all the delays and communication issues associated with this.

It is hoped that the new SOL will be relatively static, and that issues of the skill level appropriate to actually work in the occupation in Australia will be taken into account. Many felt that the skill level for occupations on the MODL such as cookery and hairdressing were too low and led to the remarkable growth in student numbers in these occupations.

Abolition of Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL)
The Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) currently allows for up to 20 points for people who have work experience in particular occupations.

The MODL currently has occupations such as hairdresser and cook, which has led to significant distortions in the education and migration programs as thousands of international students sought to study in MODL occupations to better their chances of qualifying for migration after completion of their studies in Australia.

The MODL is to be abolished, but this process will be staged so that the impact on applicants. In particular, if you have applied for your permanent or provisional GSM visa prior to 8 February 2010, you will not be affected.

International students who have applied for or been granted their skilled graduate subclass 485 visas will not be affected either, providing they lodge their permanent or provisional GSM application by 31 December 2012

The changes are unlikely to affect eligibility of students completing vocational courses such as cookery or hairdressing in Australia. Such applicants would in general look at completing work experience in Australia after completion of their studies in any case, and this would generally mean that they would have sufficient points to qualify.

The main group affected by the removal of the MODL points will be offshore applicants, many of whom are older but have significantly more work experience in their field. Such applicants would typically be engineers, doctors, nurses and accountants - skills which are all desperately needed in Australia. Previous studies of the employability of GSM applicants have shown again and again that the more work experience an applicant has, the more employable they are in their field in Australia. The current change makes it very difficult for applicants aged over 34 to qualify for GSM, unless they are sponsored by a state or territory government or a relative.

Revocation of Critical Skills List (CSL)
The Critical Skills List (CSL) is a list of occupations in short supply which receive priority processing in the GSM program. Applicants who have occupations on the CSL are processed ahead of applicants in any other occupation. Unless you have an occupation on the CSL it will take a minimum of 2-3 years for the application to be processed. The list was introduced in January 2009, and now is to be revoked. The date of this change coming into effect is likely to be mid 2010, when the new SOL comes into effect.
Changes to Processing Priorities
Processing priorities for GSM applications remain essentially unchanged, except that applications which have been lodged under an approved "State Migration Plan" will have the highest priority of any GSM application.

This is the first time we have come across the concept of a "State Migration Plan", and at present there are no approved State Migration Plans. Presumably State Migration Plans will be similar to the current lists of occupations in demand for the Skilled Sponsored and Skilled Regional Sponsored visas, but will have an additional layer of oversight by DIAC. This change may be a response to DIAC concerns about the occupations being sponsored by state and territory governments previously.

Pre 1 Jan 2010 Trade Skills Assessments to be Accepted by DIAC
The Minister has also announced that people who had their skills assessed in a trade occupation prior to 1 January 2010 will be able to use these skills assessments in applying for skilled migration.

This reverses previous legislation which came into effect only on 1 January 2010. The previous legislation requires all onshore permanent and skilled regional general skilled applicants in trade occupations to have a skills assessment dated after 1 January 2010. The intention of this legislation was to force people to undertake the new TRA Job Ready Program which requires at least 12 months of work experience in the trade.

The new legislation is due to come into effect in the first quarter of 2010. The result of the change is that people who have had their skills assessed in a trade under the previous requirements (for TRA - a certificate III and 900 hours of work experience in the trade) will now be able to lodge for permanent residence without needing to go through the Job Ready Program. This is a great outcome for students who have already applied for their skilled graduate subclass 485 visas.

However, given that the change to the Job Ready Test was intended to address issues of fraud and inadequate skill level of graduates from Australian vocational institutions, this change represents a significant backflip in policy. A better solution might have been to allow for extensions of skilled graduate visas for people who would have had insufficient time to go through the job ready program.

Upcoming Review of GSM Points Test
The Minister also announced that the GSM points test is under review. A discussion paper will be released shortly, and the review should be completed in the first half of 2010. The intention of the review is to ensure selection of "high calibre applicants" so we could see some further significant changes when it is introduced in mid 2010.

Changes to the program may also mean that quotas apply to certain occupations on the SOL.

The changes announced today are very significant. It is somewhat surprising that some of the changes which have been introduced quite recently are now being revised and reversed.

Constant changes to the criteria and the fact that exact details of some of the changes are not yet available reduces public confidence in the GSM program. Many applicants will understandably be confused and find it difficult to determine where they stand in the migration process. Some of these applicants will be the high calibre applicants Australia is seeking to attract, and they may seek to migrate to a country with a more transparent and stable migration system.

Acacia Immigration has a significant amount of expertise in handling GSM applicants - feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss how the changes may affect you.

Posted in migration | Acacia Immigration Australia
Posted by Mark Webster
04 Nov 2009

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hi, its glad to touch u through e-mail. I am carrying a job a hotel belongs to ACCOR group SINCE LAST 4.5 YEARS in SAUDI ARABIA. if i come australia to study in hotel management 2 years course, then get a job in my company , (as there is more than 100 hotels in australia of my company) what could be my P.R. Application status when i apply , please let me know according to new rules 2010 october. Tkanks& regards from Golap
Rating: 5 / 5
by golap on 26 Oct 2010

HELP! I am an international student studying the Bachelor of Business (Tourism, Leisure and Events management). I will be graduating November 2010. I really want to stay in Australia and planned to apply for either permanent residency or a graduate working visa. Unfortunately I found out that Australia took Hotel/Motel manager out of the SOL list! I am very upsat because that was the only one I could realte to my studies....! A friend told me now, that I can still do my skill assessment to Hotel/Motel Manager even if it is not on the SOL list anymore, because when I applied at the University 3 years ago I couldnt know that they will take it off the list. CAN SOMEONE please help me out if my friend is right? Or what my next chances are to be able to get another visa! I dont know who else to ask... Thank you so much!!!!!!Anna
Rating: 4 / 5
by Anna on 05 Oct 2010

To Won, Currently, your application has not been affected by any of the new rules. However, if the minister is able to pass the new cap and cease bill ALL applications will be vulnerable – not just old SOL ones. The new bill will allow the minister to cap and cease ANY application by ANY category. Unfortunately, if your application is then capped and ceased your application will be considered as ‘never been made’.
Rating: 5 / 5
by Sarah K on 05 Jul 2010

Hi, I applied for 885 visa in December 2010, with the skill assessment as Hotel/Motel Manager which is not on the new SOL list. I had my 485 visa in Jan 2009 and still not had a case officer for my 885 application. I don't have any government, employer, or family sponsor. I am currently so worried my application will be cased or capped due to the bill that may be passed in August 2010. So just wondering how the applicants whose occupation is not on the new SOL (especially Hotel/Motel Manager) will be affected in the coming financial year. Very much appreciated!
Rating: 4 / 5
by Won on 24 Jun 2010

technically, the "chemist" occupation is still on the new SOL announced by Minister Chris Evans. So, theoretically, assuming every thing is in order, you shouldn't have any problems in relation to your 176 visa application.
Rating: 1 / 5
by kumar on 23 May 2010

I have applied for skilled sponsored 176 visa on 24 April 2010. I am a chemist with a victorian govt state sponsorship got in feb 2010. When i applied for my PR visa my occupation was in the SOL. since i applied in April 2010, will my application get affected due to this new SOL which will be effect from mid 2010 if my occupation chemist is not in new SOL. Does this new SOL will affect my already lodged application...plz clarify.. thanks..
Rating: 5 / 5
by lavanya on 04 May 2010

Thank you for your query. Here is my advice. 1. As far as I recall,"Customer Service Manager - ASCO 3392-11" has not been on ENSOL for at least the last few years. Therefore I think the occupation was not on the ENSOL when your husband applied for his 457 last year. 2. Please also note that ENSOL was not revised on 8/2/2010. 3. If your husband was granted a 457 in July2009, then the two year anniversary would be July 2011 not July 2010. 4. the occupation your husband nominated for his ENS visa does not necessarily have to be the same occupation for 457. Depending on his background and the tasks he performs, his employer may be able to select another occupation for occupation for ENS purpose.
Rating: 5 / 5
by Aki Takahata on 18 Mar 2010

In July last year my husband was granted a 457 under the ASCO Code 3392-11 Customer Services Manager which at the time of lodgement and approval the occupation was on the ENSOL. 8th Feb the Minister announced a new Skilled list which does not include the ASCO code that we are currently on. If the change had not come about in Feb we would have been able to lodge in July under the ENS route (2 years and 1 Year with Employer). If we are already on the 457 Visa and the ASCO Code was originally on the ENSOL list - can we not still apply for the PR under the ENS route as our 457 was granted before the changes about.
Rating: 4 / 5
by candice on 11 Mar 2010

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