Department of Immigration - 2009-10 Budget Announcements

By Mark Webster, Acacia Immigration Australia Pty Ltd, 13 May 2009

The Minister for Immigration announced a number of significant changes to the migration program as part of the Australian government's 2009-10 Budget last night.

Skilled Stream - 2009-10 Planning Level

The planning level for the skilled stream (this includes General Skilled Migration, Employer Nomination Scheme, Business Migration and Distinguished Talent), has been decreased to 108,000. This represents a reduction of some 20% from the original 2008-09 planning level of 133,500.

The majority of the reduction will be in General Skilled Migration, and the total decrease in this program is likely to be in the order of 35%. Unless significant adjustments are made to the general skilled criteria, we can expect processing times to increase significantly for General Skilled Migration. The current priority allocated to state nominated and CSL applicants will remain in effect.

Family Stream - 2009-10 Planning Level

The Minister announced an increase of 1000 places in the contributory parent program. This will most likely mean faster processing for such applicants.

The planning level for partner and child visas has also been increased - an additional 2,500 places for partners and 300 more for children. However, these categories are not capped and are demand driven.

Overall, the family stream will be 60,300 places, which represents an increase of close to 7%.

Increased English Language Requirement - Trade Occupations

The threshold English language requirement for applicants nominating a trade occupation will increase from 5 in all 4 components of IELTS (vocational English) to 6 in all 4 components of IELTS (competent English). This brings the requirement for trade occupations in line with the requirement for other occupations.

Note that this change applies to all General Skilled visa applications - whether permanent, provisional or temporary. In particular, it applies to the skilled graduate visa.

The timing of the change will depend on whether the application is lodged onshore or offshore.

For offshore applications (ie subclasses 175, 176, 475), the change will come into effect on 1 July 2009.

For onshore applications (ie subclasses 885, 886, 485 and 487), the increased English requirement will apply from 1 January 2010.

Applications lodged prior to these deadlines will not be affected.

Increase in Concessional Competent English - Skilled Regional Sponsored

Where applying for a skilled regional sponsored visa, the current requirement is that the main applicant either shows the usual threshold English requirement, or shows Concessional Competent English and pays an English Language Charge.

Applicants claiming Concessional Competent English currently need to show an IELTS average band score of 5.5. The required score will be increased to an average of 6.0, but it appears that the English Language Charge will no longer be required.

For onshore applications (ie subclass 487) applications, these changes will come into effect on 1 January 2010. for offshore applications (ie subclass 475), the changes will come into effect on 1 July 2009. Applications lodged prior to these dates will not be affected.

JobReady Test

A JobReady Test will be introduced for GSM applicants from 1 January 2010. The Department of Immigration has indicated that the test will apply initially only to trade occupations. It is not clear whether the change will affect both onshore and offshore applications - however the main budget press release indicates the change only affects onshore applications. The more detailed information indicates that the change does not affect skilled graduate (subclass 485) applicants.

The Department of Immigration is working with the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, together with industry and unions to develop the JobReady Test.


The changes to General Skilled Migration were much less extensive than anticipated. The English language requirement and JobReady Test could have a significant effect on trade applicants. However, there have been no significant changes to the skilled occupations list or skilled migration points test.

This is just a summary of the changes - for more information please contact us for more information.

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