Getting Your PR - Top 10 Tips for International Students 2017

Cinque Terra
webster By Mark Webster
Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Back in 2009, Acacia created an article on Getting your PR - Top 10 Tips for International Students.

The 2009 article proved to be one of our most popular articles and we updated it in 2013.

Things have changed a lot since then - this article sets out the top 10 tips for getting your PR for 2017.

1. Know How SkillSelect Works

General Skilled Migration is now an "invitation only" visa - you must first receive an invitation to apply through the SkillSelect system.

SkillSelect is now much more competitive in a number of occupations. There are now 8 "pro rata" occupations where there are more EOIs lodged than there are available places. This means that the required points for an invitation may be higher or the waiting time longer. Even if you have 60 points, you may miss out altogether if you are in a pro-rata occupation.

SkillSelect is now the most difficult part of the General Skilled Migration process - to maximise your chances, you need to choose the right occupation, and maximise your points without over-claiming. Timing can also be critical, and you need to keep up to date with the trends in your occupation to make the most of your chances.

2. Improve your Points Score

In competitive pro rata occupations, 60 points is not enough for an invitation. Improving your points score will improve your chances of getting that all important invitation. The most important ways of doing this are as follows:
  • Improving your English Score
  • Skilled Work Experience in Australia
  • State Nomination
  • Further Studies
  • Professional Year

There are also other options such as:
  • Spouse Skills: if you are married or have a de facto partner, they may be able to contribute points. They would need to show competent English, pass skills assessment and be 18-49 to contribute points.
  • NAATI Translator or Interpreter Test: if you pass the NAATI translator or interpreter test, this will give you another 5 points. You only need to translate in one direction, and paraprofessional level is sufficient for points

3. Maximise your English Points

English is the single most important factor in the Skilled Migration Points Test. You can score up to 20 points for English and it is the one factor you have more ability to influence than any other.

Some important factors to bear in mind with English:

  • There are a range of alternative tests of English - some applicants find certain tests easier than other
  • English tests are valid for 3 years - it's never too early to get started
  • You need to achieve a minimum score in each band in a single sitting - this is much more difficult than meeting an average band score
  • Doing well in the English test is often more about understanding how the test works rather than your communication skills in English. If you are not getting the score you expect, you may consider English courses or one-on-one tutoring.
  • Some skills assessing authorities have higher levels of English required, or don't accept all types of tests and you will need to factor this in

4. Choose the Right Occupation for Skills Assessment

In many cases, there may be more than one skilled occupation which we could use for skills assessment. Once your application is lodged, you can't change your nominated occupation, so choosing the right one is critical.

This can depend on:

  • Skills Assessment requirements - these vary widely depending on your occupation
  • Competitiveness of SkillSelect - some occupations are more difficult than others when it comes to getting a SkillSelect invitation
  • State Nomination Opportunities - each state has its own state nomination list, and its own criteria. Choosing the right occupation may open up a range of state nomination opportunities

5. Get your First Professional Job in Australia

Getting your first professional job in Australia not only pays the bills, it open up a range of migration opportunities. These include:
  • Various employer sponsored visas - an employer can sponsor you for temporary and permanent visas
  • You can get points for Australian work experience - up to a maximum of 20 points
  • Many states require you to have worked in Australia before they will nominate you

Getting your first professional job can be challenging - some hints for doing this:
  • Make the most of your networking opportunities - university careers centres organise a range of activities - be the person who shows up to these!
  • Meet some locals - this will expose you to local customs and attitudes and improve your Australian English
  • The Professional Year is available for Accounting, IT and Engineering students - as this includes an internship, you may get a job offer after this if you perform well

6. State Nomination - Think Regional

State nomination opens up a range of opportunities - for instance:
  • Occupational Ceilings do not apply for state nominated visas - so if you are in a pro rata occupation, this may be your best option
  • State nomination gives you priority in SkillSelect - as soon as the nomination is completed, you receive an invitation immediately
  • State nomination gives you 5-10 additional points
  • There is a wider list of occupations available for state nomination

Each state and territory has its own list with its own criteria - so being familiar with these will give you the best possible chance.

People who are prepared to relocate outside the main capital cities enjoy advantages. For instance, they can be eligible for the following regional visa options:

7. Further Studies

You may be able to improve your chances of migration by doing further studies in Australia after completion of your first qualification. Examples include:
  • Study in a Regional Area: greatly improves your chances of state nomination and gives you 5 points if you complete a qualification taking 2 academic years
  • Bachelor Level or Higher: many SOL occupations require you to have a bachelor-level qualification for skills assessment. You also get extra points for a bachelor degree, and you may be eligible for the Post Study Work stream of the 485 visa
  • PhD and Masters by Research: extra points are available for PhD studies and Masters by Research in STEM specialisations. Many state governments look favourably on PhD graduates for state nomination

8. Make the Most of your Graduate Temporary Visa

Many students will not have enough time to apply for permanent residence in the available time between completing their course and expiry of their student visa.

Graduate temporary visas are a great way to extend your stay in Australia, but if used correctly are a great way to improve your chances of getting Permanent Residence. You can only apply for a Graduate Temporary Visa once, so make the most of it:

  • Professional Year: a Professional Year may assist with skills assessment, points for skilled migration, as well as lead to a skilled job offer
  • Skilled Work: Your graduate temporary visa has full work rights, so seek employment as this may lead to points or employer sponsored options
  • Move Interstate: many states and territories require you to have lived, worked or studied locally before they sponsor you
  • English Language Ability: you have the opportunity to improve your English whilst living and working in Australia

9. Get Your Bridging Visa Right

Bridging visas can be complex - getting it wrong can be costly as you may become unlawful, subject to detention or removal from Australia. It can also affect your eligibility for PR and for Australian Citizenship.

Some common issues include:

  • Lodging an Expression of Interest (EOI) does not give you a bridging visa. You need to be invited and lodge your application for General Skilled Migration to get a bridging visa, and this may take some months.
  • You need to lodge for a further visa prior to expiry of your student visa if you intend to stay in Australia. If you are not ready to apply for PR, this could mean lodging a graduate temporary or visitor visa
  • You would generally receive a Bridging A visa when you lodge an onshore visa application - this ceases if you depart Australia. You may need to apply for a Bridging B visa if you wish to travel during processing

10. Keep Up To date

Australian immigration rules change on a daily basis. Some recent examples of this are as follows:
  • State Nomination: state sponsorship opportunities can come up at any time, and often these fill quickly.
  • Employer Sponsorship: major changes to employer sponsored visas have been announced which are likely to come into effect in March 2018. Unless you apply before this, you may no longer be eligible
  • SkillSelect: there is a huge variation in the number of invitations issued and points score required for each SkillSelect invitation round. This means that the points you need and the waiting time may be quite different to what was happening this time last year
  • Occupations Lists: significant changes were made to skilled migration occupations lists in April and July this year. It looks likely that changes to occupations lists will happen more regularly going forward.

Keeping up to date with immigration changes is absolutely critical to ensure that you give yourself the best possible chance of qualifying for permanent residence. You may wish to subscribe to Acacia's Immigration News, because we clearly explain what the changes are and how they are likely to affect applicants.


Applying for migration is more competitive than ever, and it is critical that you make the most of your opportunities.

Acacia can guide you through the immigration process and give you the best possible chance of getting your PR.

If you would like our assistance, the first step is to book a consultation with one of our advisors. They will give you an immigration roadmap which lays our your visa options and immigration strategy.

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