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Australia new points test

Posted on December 6, 2010
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Foreign nationals applying to migrate to Australia under the General Skilled Migration (GSM) category will be subject to a new set of criteria starting July 1, 2011 when a new points-based system takes effect. The new system will place a greater emphasis on educational qualifications and skill level than the current system and less emphasis on an applicant’s occupation.

On July 1, 2011, Australia will introduce a new points-based system for the General Skilled Migration (GSM) category, which includes several of the country’s permanent residence programs that do not require employer sponsorship. GSM applicants who file applications on or after July 1 will be judged against the new points-based test, which generally focuses on selecting highly skilled individuals to meet labor market demand. The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship announced the new system on November 11, 2010.

The most relevant changes to the points-based system are:

•The pass mark for the points-based test is expected to be lowered to 65 points from the current 120 points.

•Points will no longer be awarded based on occupation. However, applicants must still nominate an occupation listed in the Skilled Occupations List and applicants will still have to provide a satisfactory occupational skills assessment from the relevant Australian authorities.

•Greater weight will be placed on higher level educational qualifications. Under the new system, applicants will be able to earn points for overseas educational qualifications, provided they are from approved and recognized universities. Under the current system, only Australian educational qualifications can earn points.

•Applicants who have completed tertiary studies in Australia will be eligible to claim additional points. Further points may be earned if the applicant’s studies were completed at regional campuses.

•Greater weight will be given to accumulated work experience and higher levels of English language skills.

•The maximum age of principal applicants for the GSM will be raised to 49 years old, from the current 44 years old.

•Family sponsorship will only be available to applicants with families who live in specified regional areas.

Note that the new points-based test will apply to the GSM category only; other skilled migration visa categories are not affected. The new points-based system is the final stage of the GSM reforms that began earlier this year. The GSM category is used by foreign nationals who are not sponsored by an employer but who have skills in occupations that are in high demand in Australia. The GSM category includes the Skilled Independent, Skilled Sponsored, Skilled Regional Sponsored, and the Provisional Skilled Regional Sponsored visa programs.

The Australian government is expected to promulgate legislation to support and implement the new points-based test policy closer to July 1, 2011. Fragomen will continue to monitor developments and provide updates as necessary.

GSM Sponsorship by States and Territories

Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and Victoria have finalized their State Migration Plans, and other states are expected to do so in the near future. As previously reported, Australia’s national government has been working with state and territorial governments to develop GSM sponsorship options for skilled foreign nationals in occupations that are in high demand locally, but that may not be in high demand nation-wide. Pursuant to these State Migration Plans, Australian state and territorial governments may nominate individuals for GSM visas, provided that their nominated occupation is included in the state’s or territory’s plan. There is also some flexibility in limited circumstances that may allow authorities to consider applications for occupations that are not included in the state or territory’s plan.

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