New Skilled Migration Points Test Announced

By Mark Webster
11 November 2010
Updated: 30 June 2011

The Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen, today announced that a new points test will apply for General Skilled Visas from 1 July 2011.

The points test has a number of significant changes from the current points test which is in operation. This article explains the main changes to be introduced, with a view to which applicants will benefit (winners) and which will be disadvantaged (losers) as a result.

Update

This article was first written on 11 November 2010, and we now have the final legislation for the points test. As of 30 June 2011, this article has been read by over 20,000 people. Where possible, the original text of the article has been preserved and updates made as indicated. In some cases, for example points for work experience, the points test as implemented is different to the original announcement and changes have been made to the text itself.

We have an online points test calculator on our site which can be used to give an indicative points score.

Occupation

The current points test gives either 40, 50 or 60 points for occupation. The new points test does not give different points for occupation, and in fact no points are available for occupation. If the current provisions continue, people applying independently or sponsored by a relative will need to have an occupation on the new Skilled Occupations List. Applicants applying with a nomination by a state or territory government will need to have an occupation on the State/Territory Nominated Skilled Occupations list - this will need to be either an occupation on the new SOL or which is included on an approved State Migration Plan.

Winners

  • Have a 50-point occupation on the new SOL - for example internal auditors, valuers, construction project managers; or
  • Have a 40 or 50-point occupation on a State Migration Plan (for example the recent ACT State Migration Plan included most of the possible occupations on the State/Territory Nominated Skilled Occupations List

Losers

People in 60-point occupations which are very difficult to pass skills assessment in - doctors, nurses, engineers.

Pass Mark

The pass mark for the new points test is likely to be 65 points. This appears to be regardless of which skilled subclass is being applied for. Under the current system, the pass mark for Skilled - Sponsored and Skilled - Regional Sponsored visas is 100, versus 120 for the Skilled - Independent visa. As a result, Skilled - Sponsored and Skilled - Regional sponsored are now disadvantaged by an effective 20 points comparative to those applying for a Skilled - Independent visa.

The reason for the reduction in the pass mark is twofold:

  • No points for occupation means that the pass mark has to be reduced by at least 40-50 points; and
  • Reduced points for English language ability - previously 15 points were allocated for threshold English

Winners

Skilled Independent Applicants

Losers

Applicants sponsored by a relative or state/territory governments

Age

For the first time since 1999, applicants between 45 and 49 will be able to apply for General Skilled Migration. The current maximum age is 44, and once an applicant turns 45, they are no longer eligible for General Skilled Migration. Applicants over 45 do not get points for age under the new points test, but are at least eligible if they are highly skilled and can reach the pass mark.

In addition, there has been some changes to points for age. Applicants between 18 and 24 now receive 25, rather than the current 30. Applicants between 25 and 32 now receive 30, whereas currently applicants 30-34 receive only 25 points. This appears to be a recognition that people with some work experience behind them are more employable and yet still have a long future in the Australian job market.

Points for other age groups remain unchanged.

Winners

  • People between 30 and 32
  • People between 45 and 49

Losers

People between 18 and 24.

English Language Ability

People with Competent English (minimum of 6 in each of the 4 bands of the IELTS) will receive 0 points in the new points test versus 15 in the current points test. This may sound harsh, but with the decrease in the pass mark the only thing which really counts is the relative number of points available for various levels of English. This level of English is likely to remain the threshold requirement to be able to lodge a General Skilled Visa.

People with Proficient English (minimum of 7 in each of the 4 bands of the IELTS) will receive 10 points versus the current 25. This is still 10 more than people with competent English, so arguably there is no real change to people with these levels of English.

A new level of English, referred to in the Department of Immigration document as "Superior English", will now be available. Applicants would need to have a score of at least 8 in each of the 4 bands of IELTS, but in this case would receive 20 points. Such people would now only be able to obtain a maximum of 25 points, so people with excellent English will receive a significant advantage.

There is no mention of the points available for Concessional Competent English which is currently the threshold requirement for the Skilled - Regional Sponsored visa. This is perhaps an indication that the current concession will no longer be available once the new points test comes into effect.

Update

The minimum threshold requirement for English will be competent for all applicants. This can either be established through the IELTS test (6 minimum in each of the 4 bands) or by holding a passport from the UK, Ireland, Canada, USA, or New Zealand.

Proficient English can be established either via IELTS (7 minimum in each of the 4 bands) or an OET (Occupational English Test) B Pass.

Superior English requires 8 minimum in IELTS or an OET A pass.

The legislation has been drafted to allow other tests to be accepted without changing the regulations.

Winners

People able to score at least 8 in each of the 4 bands of IELTS

Losers

People relying on concessional competent English to apply for a Skilled - Regional Sponsored visa.

Australian Work Experience

Various points are available for work experience in Australia. The work experience needs to be in the applicants' nominated occupation, or closely related occupation.

Points available are as follows

  • 1 of the last 10 years: 5
  • 3 of the last 10 years: 10
  • 5 of the last 10 years: 15
Currently 10 points are available for working for 12 of the last 24 months in Australia in your nominated occupation. People with significantly more work experience do not gain additional points, no matter how long they have worked in Australia. The main group of people who are able to accumulate significant work experience in Australia are 457 visa holders. The additional points are a major boon to 457 visa holders working in Australia.

The main group of people who cannot gain more than 1-2 years of work experience in Australia are international students. The reason for this is that work experience undertaken during studies is very difficult to have counted towards the points test (for example, work experience has to be 20 hours per week or more but students only have work rights of 20 hours per week during semester). In addition, the graduate skilled visa which is available after completion of studies is valid for only 18 months - to accumulate 3 years or more of work experience is almost impossible.

Winners

457 visa holders who work in Australia for 3 years or more.

Losers

International students and other with less than 3 years of work experience in Australia.

Overseas Work Experience

Points are also available for overseas work experience. Points for this factor will be able to be counted in addition to the Australian work experience factor. Again, work experience must be in the applicant's nominated occupation, or closely related occupation.

Points available are as follows:

  • 3 of the last 10 years: 5
  • 5 of the last 10 years: 10
  • 8 of the last 10 years: 15
As points can be double-counted for Australian work experience, so someone working in their occupation in Australia for 8 years would score 15 + 15 = 30 points. Not bad when the pass mark is only 65.

Under the current system, to claim work experience points for overseas work, you need to show you have worked for 3 of the last 4 years. The new system allows for 3 of the last 5 years, so people who have had career breaks of between 1 and 2 years will be advantaged under the new system.

Winners

People with over 3 years of work experience overseas

Losers

Recent graduates with less than 3 years of work experience.

Update

The points test as implemented allows work experience gained in the last 10 years to be counted for points. As originally announced, for example, applicants needed to show they had worked for 1 of the last 2 years in Australia to gain 5 points for Australian work experience. This change will benefit people who have had career breaks or have changed occupation in the last 10 years.

Points are available for work experience in the applicant's nominated occupation, or closely related skilled occupation. The Department of Immigration information sheet makes it clearer what they consider to be "closely related" - namely occupations which are in the same ANZSCO "unit group".

For example, the occupation of "Accountant (General)", ANZSCO 221111 and "Taxation Accountant", ANZSCO 221113 are in the same Unit Group 2211 "Accountants". Both occupations are on the new Skilled Occupations List and so if an applicant has a skills assessment as a Taxation Accountant, work experience as a General Accountant could be counted in calculating points.

However, work experience as an Auditor, which is in Unit Group 2212, could not be counted towards points under this policy because it is in a different unit group.

Recognised Qualifications

Points have always been available for people who have completed Australian qualifications. Under the new points system, 5 points are available to people who complete a qualification taking 2 years of study in Australia, and a further 5 points for 2 years of study in a regional or low population growth area. These settings are the same as the ones which currently apply.

For the first time, points will be available for qualifications gained overseas. The Department of Immigration document refers to "recognised" overseas qualifications - it remains to be seen which qualifications are "recognised", but this is sure to advantage applicants from highly regarded universities.

10 points are available for people with an Australian AQF III or higher completed in Australia and taking at least 2 years. These points are also available for people who have completed a recognised apprenticeship overseas, which would be a significantly more arduous undertaking (an AQF III typically takes one year of study in Australia, versus an apprenticeship which can take 4 years or more).

People who complete a recognised Bachelor degree in Australia or overseas will receive 15 points. A bachelor degree can take 6 years or more, so people who have such qualifications may feel a bit short changed to receive only 5 points more than someone with an AQF III. Under the current system, people completing a masters or honours year after completing a bachelor degree in Australia receive an additional 10 points, but there seems to be no such provision in the new points test.

People with a PhD will now receive 20 points. A PhD typically takes 3 years after completion of a bachelor degree, but it is certainly of benefit for graduates from overseas universities to receive some recognition of their achievement.

The current points test gives 40 points for a diploma level qualification, 50 points for a general professional occupation requiring a degree level qualification and 60 points for trades and specialist professions. The new system will do away with different points depending on occupation, but introduce points for types of qualifications.

It is curently possible to pass skills assessment in certain occupations without a formal qualification. Examples include managers (typically requiring 5 years of management experience) and IT professionals (who can apply on the basis of Recognised Prior Learning or vendor qualifications such as MCSE). Currently, such applicants would obtain 60 points, just like any other highly skilled occupation. However, under the new points test, they would be at a relative disadvantage to anyone with a recognised qualification - even an Australian AQF III.

People applying for skills assessment in a trades currently also receive 60 points for occupation, whereas a person with a bachelor degree, for example in science, would receive 50 points. The new points system turns this on its head - the tradesperson would receive up to 10 points for qualifications, versus 15 for the person with a bachelor degree. It is possible to pass skills assessment in a trade based on overseas qualifications (similar to TAFE in Australia) and work experience. Unless the person has a recognised apprenticeship, they would not then receive any points for qualifications, again placing them at a disadvantage.

The big winners are definitely people with recognised overseas bachelor degrees or PhDs. This is somewhat heartening as Australia definitely needs more quality scientists and people in science occupations are the main group who tend to complete PhDs, and such applicants have not been treated well under the points test previously. However, there are only a few science occupations on the new SOL, so such applicants would be relying on state nomination to have any chance of qualifying for general skilled migration.

Update

We now have more details on which qualifications will be recognised for the award of points and the process for this. The following is now clear:
  • Australian qualifications will definitely be recognised for points. There will be no distinction between, for example, a degree from a G8 university and a degree undertaken through a vocational institution.
  • For overseas qualifications, skills assessing authorities will be able to issue an opinion as to the equivalence of the qualifications. The Department of Immigration will rely on this, and in cases of doubt, refer cases to VETASSESS for further analysis. No specific list of recognised instituations will be used, instead the Country Education Profiles published by NOOSR will be used as a broad guide to equivalence.
  • The 10 points can be awarded for qualifications which have been "recognised by a skills assessing authority" - as all applicants need to go through skills assessment, this may mean that all applicants will receive at least 10 points for qualifications
  • The qualification does not need to be closely related to the nominated occupation to give points
As all Australian qualifications will be recognised, as well as all overseas qualifications roughly equivalent, this is somewhat of a missed opportunity to give priority to applicants with qualifications from highly regarded institutions worldwide.

Winners

  • People completing recognised overseas degrees
  • People with overseas PhDs - particularly in the science field

Losers

  • People who do not require formal qualifications to pass skills assessment (managers, IT professionals applying through RPL or vendor qualifications)
  • Engineers and IT professionals applying on the basis of overseas diploma-level qualifications
  • Overseas trades, particularly those applying on the basis of vocational qualifications rather than recognised apprenticeships
  • People completing higher qualifications in Australia (Masters or honours year after bachelor degree, PhD)

Professional Year

10 points are currently available for completion of a professional year in Australia. This is typically undertaken by international students after completion of their studies in Australia. Current occupations where this is possible include Information Technology, Accounting and Engineering.

Under the new points test, only 5 points are available for completion of a professional year. But this would be in addition to points obtained for work experience in Australia - under the current system it is not possible to claim both. However, given the limited amount of time international students have to work in Australia, it would be quite difficult to be in a position to claim both 12 months of work experience in Australia, and completion of a Professional Year.

Sponsorship by State/Territory Government

Currently, 10 points are available for sponsorship by a state or territory government. Under the new system, 5 points are available for sponsorship to live in a metropolitan area (presumably under the Skilled - Sponsored subclasses), and 10 for sponsorship to a regional area (under the Skilled - Regional Sponsored subclasses). If the state/territory sponsored subclasses will now have the same pass mark as the skilled independent subclasses, this means that state/territory sponsored applicants will be at a significant disadvantage in terms of points.

On the bright side, such applicants receive the highest level of processing priority. With so much uncertainty around timeframes for grant of General Skilled visas, having a state nomination is still highly beneficial, though not necessarily in terms of points score.

Losers

State/Territory sponsored applicants. But at least they have some idea as to when their application is likely to be granted.

Family Sponsorship

Under the current system, the pass mark for family sponsored applicants is 100 versus 120 for independent applicants. In addition, 25 point are available if sponsored by a relative living in a designated area - in this case, it is possible to apply for a Skilled - Regional Sponsored visa.

Changes will be introduced meaning that it will no longer be possible to apply for a Skilled - Sponsored visa through family sponsorship from 1 July 2011. In addition, only 10 points will be available if sponsored by a relative living in a designated area when applying for a Skilled - Regional Sponsored visa.

Losers

Family sponsored applicants, particularly if the relative does not live in a designated area.

Partner Skills

Points for partner skills remain at 5 only. Given the amount of effort required to obtain the points (skills assessment, English testing and work experience), and the fact that Australia is then getting two skilled people for the price of one, this could be more generous.

Designated Language

Under the current points test, it is possible to claim 5 points if:
  • You have completed a degree level qualification taught in a designated language; or
  • You are a NAATI-accredited translator or interpreter in a designated language
Points are available for designated language in the new points test, but only if holding a NAATI accreditation as a translator or interpreter at the paraprofessional level.

Losers

People holding degrees taught in a designated language. They are no longer eligible for points for designated language on this basis.

Transitional Provisions

The points test below will apply if you make your application for General Skilled Migration after 1 July 2011.

The current points test will apply to you if you had applied for or held a Skilled Graduate Subclass 485 visa as of 8 February 2010.

The Minister's press release still refers to the "extremely generous" transitional provisions for international students. There may be a number of international students who beg to differ on this point of view, particularly after absorbing the flow on effects of the new points test!

Conclusion

The new pass mark is likely to significantly disadvantage:
  • International Students
  • Family Sponsored Applicants
The main winners from the changes will be:
  • People with significant amounts of work experience, particularly in Australia (ie 457 holders)
  • People with excellent English language ability - likely to be native English speakers
  • People with recognised overseas qualifications
Allowing people aged 45-49 to apply for General Skilled Migration if they have enough points is to be applauded. Such people often have a lot to contribute to Australia. The change to points for people aged between 25 and 32 is also sensible as such people are certainly prime candidates for migration due to their level of experience and long working life ahead of them.

The level of advantage given to people already working in Australia should be looked at more carefully - such applicants would typically have access to the Employer Nomination Scheme program anyway.

The changes in relation to points allocation for overseas qualifications will take some time to work through in terms of consequences. However, the new system does seem to be much more complex than the current system of allowing skills assessment authorities to determine the level of qualifications and experience required to pass assessment in an occupation worth a certain number of points.

References

Immigration Website - New Points Test Factsheet
Immigration Website - New Points Test FAQ
Article on new points test in The Australian newspaper
Minister Bowen's address to the Australian Industry Group on the new points test

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