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AUSTRALIAN SKILLED MIGRATION CHANGES

6 Jun 2019

Generally, changes to migration law are determined by the needs of society as seen through the eyes of lawmakers (politicians). In Australia there are conflicting views on migration - on the one hand, there is a belief that immigration stimulates the economy and encourages growth whereas the contrary belief is that immigration causes congestion in cities with concomitant shortages in housing, schooling, health care benefits. The recent parliamentary election in Australia exposed the differing views of the two major parties.

SBS News reported prior to the election that Prime Minister Scott Morrison is cutting the annual migration intake by 30,000 places and introducing regional visas, forcing skilled workers to the regions. They announced that there will be 23,000 extra regional visa spots, which require skilled workers to live and work in regional Australia for three years after which they can apply for permanent residency. The employer-nominated stream of the visa program would have 9000 places, while the state and territory nominated scheme would have 14,000 spots.
On 5 June 2019, the Sydney Morning Herald ran a headline ”Crying out for workers”: five regional areas to receive migrants. The Population Minister, in an interview, said five regional areas will be named as the focus of council and business sponsorship arrangements designed to take population pressures off the east coast by pulling more skilled migrants into the regions. South-west Victoria, Adelaide, regional South Australia, far-north Queensland and Kalgoorlie-Boulder will all receive "Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA’s)" that will allow councils and business peak bodies to sponsor categories of workers.

The DAMA is a new visa type designed specifically to supplement the workforce strategies of states territories and regions to support economic performance and help them adjust to changing economic conditions. The DAMA is in two parts firstly a five-year agreement with the designated area setting out occupations, ceilings, and concessions. The second part is a Labour agreement with employers allowing the employer to nominate applicants for specific occupations. The visa applicant would only then be able to negotiate an employment contract with an approved employer. This system will favour applicants already living in Australia with the ability to move to, or already in, the regional area.

Changes proposed from 16 November 2019 include the cancellation of the subclass 187  (RSMS) Visa and the subclass 489 Regional (Provisional) visa. These will be replaced by a Subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) and Subclass 494 (Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visas. Subclass 491 and 494 visas will be valid for a period of five years.  An applicant holding a 491 or 494 visa will be able to transition to subclass 191 (permanent regional skilled visa) after 3 years. Applicants will be restricted to living in their designated area. Certain areas will attract additional points on submitting an expression of interest.

Further mooted changes to the points system on the 16th November are as a result of the Productivity Commission 2016 Report’s recommendation that the points system be amended so that secondary applicants with skills and other desirable employment-related characteristics contribute significantly to the points score of the primary applicant. Additional points will be allocated to single applicants,  and to compensate applicants with a married partner or de-facto spouse, similar additional points will be allocated to partners with Competent English skills i.e. holders of UK, Irish, Canadian, USA, or NZ passports or with a score equivalent to 6 in each section of an IELTS test.

Points tested skilled migration for many years has centred around the subclass 189 skilled independent visa. Due to the emphasis on regional migration, the authorities have cut back dramatically on invitations to apply for this visa. During the months of April, May, and June 2019 only 100 invitations were extended each month. The budget for this visa for the financial year starting in July 2019 has been cut back to 18,000 places which will probably result in about 12,000 invitations being extended i.e. about 1000 per month. The effect of this reduction is to increase the cut-off points score. Although the points score pass mark is 65 points the likelihood is that only applicants with 75 points or more will get through this system. This puts pressure on the state nominated visas subclass 190 and 489. Each state/territory negotiates with the Department of Immigration on an annual basis, a State Migration Plan whereby they are allocated quotas for certain occupations which they wish to nominate. Tremendous pressure is being put on these visa options because of the reduction in the numbers of subclass 189 visas being issued, which in turn raises the points level at which invitations are extended. These government initiatives focus the attention on migration to regional Australia. One of the new initiatives is to expand the definition of Regional Australia to be anywhere in Australia except Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and Perth. Another way of tweaking the immigration regulations to favour regional areas is through changes to the various skilled occupation lists which seems to happen on a regular basis.

Gone are the days where it was easy to specify that you only want to go to Australia if you could live in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, or Melbourne for instance. It is much more sensible to accept the fact that to obtain permanent residency might require you to spend a few years outside of the major cities in Australia. There are many smaller towns or cities with 70,000 to 100,000 people where you can experience an incredible lifestyle, good schooling, excellent medical attention in Australia - which has often been called “the lucky country”.

Due to the increased complication regarding visa options for Australia, it is prudent to take advice from a Registered Migration Agent (RMA) before embarking on a journey through the maze of complicated and evolving regulations.

Please schedule an appointment to discuss this with one of our Registered Migration Agents as soon as possible by phone 01483 500 914 or email by simply clicking here: info@immigration2oz.com.