Points Test Update - 7 June 2011

By Mark Webster
7 June 2011

The legislation for the new points test has been released by the Department of Immigration today. The broad aspects of the new points test have been available for some time, but the legislation introduces a number of unanticipated changes in relation to:

  • English language testing
  • Recognition of Qualifications
  • Work Experience
These changes are on top of the information in the previous articles on this website: You can use the 2011 Points Test Calculator to estimate your likely points score in the new points test.

English Language Testing

The legislation to be introduced on 1 July 2011 includes new definitions of competent, proficient and superior English. Most applicants will need to do an English test to demonstrate competent English which will be the basic requirements to apply for skilled migration from 1 July. All applicants seeking points for proficient and superior English will need to do an English test.

Currently, the only English test recognised for skilled migration is the IELTS test. A minimum of 6 in each band of IELTS is required to establish competent English, with 7 required for proficient (10 points) and 8 for superior (20 points). However, the legislation makes no reference to the IELTS test - instead it refers to a legislative instrument which will presumably give details of the required score in the IELTS test. This flags the possibility of alternative English language tests being accepted by Immigration in the future, as only a change in the legislative instrument would be required rather than new regulations.

A more immediate change is that the new definitions make it clear that only English tests conducted 2 years or less prior to lodgement of the application will be accepted. Currently, the definitions are ambiguous and the High Court case of Berenguel is authority for English tests conducted after lodgement being acceptable.

The requirement in legislation for the test to be conducted prior to lodgement means the Berenguel principle will not apply to applications lodged after 1 July 2011. This applies both to the threshold requirement for English (competent), and also the higher levels of English (proficient and superior English). Under the current points test, for example, it is possible for a UK passport holder to lodge a skilled application without undertaking English testing, then claim higher points for English if they sit for an English test after lodgement.

Whilst the Department of Immigration claims that no single factor dominates the new points test, English language ability is by far the most significant factor. This is disguised by the fact that zero points are awarded for competent English. Competent English is worth 15 points under the current points test, meaning superior English is effectively worth the equivalent of 35 points under the current points system.

Recognition of Qualifications

The new Schedule 6C makes it clearer how qualifications will be recognised in the new points test.

If the person holds a qualification from an Australian educational institution, it will provide points without any requirement for assessment. Points applicable are as follows:

  • 20: Doctorate
  • 15: Bachelor degree or higher (presumably this includes masters degrees)
  • 10: Diploma or Trade Qualification (ie Certificate III or higher in a trade occupation
Points are awarded for the highest qualification possessed by the applicant only.

The regulations refer to qualifications issued by an Australian educational institution. This might include overseas campuses of Australian institutions - further clarification is required.

Similar points are available for qualifications issued by overseas educational institutions. However, award of points is not automatic. Immigration will take into consideration:

  • Recognition of the qualification by the skills assessing authority
  • Recognition of the qualification by a body specified by Immigration - presumably AEI NOOOSR
  • Other matters at Department of Immigration discretion - for example the duration of the course
So most applicants relying on overseas qualifications will need to seek an opinion from the skills assessing authority as to the equivalence of their qualifications. Skills assessing authorities will most likely rely on NOOSR's Country Education Profiles to make this determination. Failing that, applicants may need to get their qualifications formally assessed by NOOSR. In the end, the final discretion in awarding points for occupation will remain with the Department of Immigration officer assessing the application.

10 points are available for "qualifications or awards" recognised by the skills assessing authority in completing the applicant's skills assessment. This would appear to cover vocational qualifications and apprenticeships recognised by TRA and VETASSESS in assessing trades, as well as vendor qualifications (eg MCSE, MCSD) recognised by the ACS as equivalent to an Australian diploma in IT. People relying on Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) for skills assessment are unlikely to get points for qualifications, unless the RPL process results in a formal qualification being issued.

Work Experience

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.

Applicants can seek an opinion from the skills assessing authority in relation to their work experience, but again the Department of Immigration processing officer has the final discretion in awarding points.

Effect of Changes

Applications lodged prior to the changes coming into effect will be assessed under the points test which applied at the date the application was made.

The new points test will affect applications for general skilled migration lodged on or after 1 July 2011.

Only international students who had applied for or been granted a Skilled - Graduate Subclass 485 visa on 8 February 2010 will be eligible for transitional provisions. People in this category will still be able to apply under the points test which applied on 8 February 2010 providing they lodge prior to 1 January 2013.

Please contact us if you would like further information on how the changes will affect your application.

References

New Legislation on Comlaw.gov

Department of Immigration information sheet on new points test

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