Critical Skills List an Admission of Failure of GSM Program

by Mark Webster, Acacia immigration Australia 21/1/2009

Introduction of CSL

The Department of Immigration announced the introduction of a Critical Shortages List (CSL) in December 2008 and the changes come into effect on 1 January 2009. The purpose of the CSL is to give priority processing to general skilled applicants with occupations on the CSL. The CSL is similar to the MODL, but excludes certain occupations - the main ones excluded are:
  • Cooks and Chefs
  • Hairdressers
  • Accountants (unless they have 7 minimum score in IELTS or have completed a professional year in Australia
  • Many trade occupations
  • Certain medical and engineering specialisations
The CSL does not affect the points score of an applicant or any other aspect of their eligibility for general skilled migration.

Other Priority Processing Categories

The Department of Immigration will also give priority processing to general skilled applications which have the support of a state or territory government, as well as situations where the applicant has a job offer in Australia and applies for an Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) or Regional Skilled Migration Scheme (RSMS) visa. Immigration has previously introduced priority processing measures for General Skilled Migration with limited success:
Initiative Date Result
Priority Processing for ICT Professionals June 2002 No noticeable speeding up of applications - initiative was introduced just after the internet bubble burst and revoked in July 2002
Priority Processing for MODL and Regional Skilled Applications May 2004 MODL applications end up contributing to 80% of caseload - no noticeable effect

A Migration Program Which Does Not Deliver

The announcement of the CSL is the latest in a series of badly thought through band aid solutions the Department of Immigration has introduced to the migration program in the last 2 years.

The reason for the introduction of the CSL is that the current general skilled system does not deliver workers with the required skills to fill labour market shortages in Australia. The Department has previously relied on the MODL (Migration Occupations in Demand List) to select for skills which are in short supply in Australia.

However, the system is clearly not working - obvious examples being international students completing commercial cookery, hairdressing and accounting qualifications. As these are MODL occupations, many students study these courses because it gives them a good chance of qualifying for migration to Australia, not because they are genuinely interested in the field. Many applicants do not end up working in their field, or do not have the skills that Australian employers require.

The solution which is obvious to anyone who has had any dealings in the area is to ensure that the skills assessment criteria are in line with what would be required to work in the occupation in Australia. In the alternative, these occupations could be removed from the MODL.

Sorry Can't Hear You - Ears Full of Sand

The worst aspect of the introduction of the CSL is the significant amount of uncertainty faced by applicants who do not have CSL occupations. Such applicants face a potentially open-ended wait for their application to be processed. Immigration has given no indication of the waiting time for such applicants, but it is likely that it will take in excess of 12 months.

Delaying processing of applications indefinitely is arguably an abuse of process by the Department of Immigration, as the department is obliged by law to consider valid applications within a reasonable timeframe. The Department of Immigration is not facing head on the issues with the GSM program - this really is a case of Immigration having its head in the sand.

This is, unfortunately, not the first time Immigration has used this "let's wait and see" strategy - to the disadvantage of thousands of applicants (see box below):

Problem Status How Long
State/Territory governments stop accepting $100k Bonds in November 2007 Decision with the Minister - check our website for updates 14 Months
Skilled Graduate Visa introduced in September 2007 - should be processed quickly to clarify status of international students Applications have taken an excessive amount of time to process - many over 12 months Immigration claims this is due to "abuse" of system by migration agents. The truth is that Immigration has not been giving these cases priority because they don't count towards the processing centre productivity statistics 16 Months IELTS testing - now takes 4 months to book in for an appointment. But from 1 September 2007, results are required at lodgement for skilled applications
Immigration commissions a report to be finalised by the end of 2009
16 Months
Parent visas - due to excessive demand by migrants to sponsor parents (processing times of up to 15 years), a new "contributory" category introduced in 2003 which costs approximately $35,000 per parent Demand still excessive - processing times now over 18 months even for the contributory category 18 Months
Quality of some colleges providing education to international students is dubious Freeze processing of applications for applicants from the relevant colleges 3 Months

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