Top Ten Changes - International Students Applying for Permanent Residence

natalya By Natalya Khodan
Monday, 01 December 2014

Over the last year, there have been many changes affecting international students applying for permanent residence - this article updates you on the most important ones.

1. Skills Assessment

Skills Assessments are now valid for a maximum of 3 years, or less than this if specified in the skills assessment. Some skills assessments are valid for only 2 years - for example those issued by ACS (IT Professionals), ANMAC (Nurses) and AITSL (Teachers). Previously, even very old skills assessments could be used. So it's very important that you first check the issue date of your skills assessment. You may need to get a new one!

Many skills assessing authorities have now started accepting applications online including ANMAC, ACS, VETASSESS, Engineers Australia and Chartered Accountants - this can make the process more efficient for applicants.

2. SkillSelect

This time last year, places were limited for Engineers and IT professionals. This year, there is less pressure on these occupations - most likely due to the introduction of work experience requirements for recent IT graduates and a higher occupational ceiling for engineers.

Even for high demand occupations (IT and accounting), it is still taking only 2-3 invitation rounds to get invited if you have 60 points (4-6 weeks). If you have 65 points or more, you can expect to be invited next invitation round.

The only category which is very slow are the family sponsored 489 applicants - if you have only 60 points, it may take a few months to be invited due to low allocations for these applicants in each invitation round.

3. Graduate Work and Post Study Work Visa

To qualify for the Post Study Work Visa (PSWV) Stream of the Graduate Temporary Subclass 485 visa, you must have applied for your first student visa on or after 5 November 2011. As some students are now completing their 2 years of study, we are starting to see students eligible for the PSWV stream for the first time.

The PSWV stream is more favourable than the graduate work stream - in particular:

  • The visa is generally valid for 2 years or more versus 18 months for the Graduate Work Stream
  • The Graduate Work Stream requires a formal skills assessment - this is not required for the PSWV stream
  • The Graduate Work Stream requires that you nominate an occupation on the Skilled Occupations List (SOL) - this is not a requirement for the PSWV stream and you can qualify by studying in any discipline
You should check the date you applied for your first student visa to see if you qualify for the PSWV.

4. State Nomination

State nomination is also highly beneficial, although much more difficult to obtain compared to last year.

In particular, NSW nomination for the Skilled Nominated Subclass 190 visa has been very difficult. NSW announced that they would release places over 4 intakes of 1000 places per intake. Applicants found it very difficult to lodge their applications due to the very high levels of demand for the places. In the first round, all places were filled within 30 minutes.

NSW has announced it will move to an "Expression of Interest" or "EOI" style system for the next round in February 2015. State nomination for the Skilled Regional Provisional Subclass 489 visa remains a very good option for many applicants.

Outside of NSW, many states are requiring that you live, study or work in the nominated occupation in the state. If you reside in a different state, it may be very difficult for you to qualify and in some ways overseas applicants may find it easier to qualify. In the ACT and South Australia, places in some occupations filled within hours, leaving many applicants having to wait until the program reopens in July 2015.

5. English Language Ability

TOEFL and Pearson tests are now accepted for Skilled Migration from 23 November 2014. Some skills assessing authorities are also starting to accept the alternate tests of English - particularly for Accountants and Social Workers.

This gives applicants struggling to book in and pass the IELTS another opportunity to meet the English language requirement.

We expect Immigration will also accept the Cambridge test by early 2015.

Most applicants find it difficult to pass the writing section of the IELTS. We are beginning to see clients have success with one-to-one tutoring to increase their scores to required level.

6. Work Experience Points

Not being able to substantiate claims for work experience points is the number one reason that applicants applying without a migration agent get refused.

International students often seek to count work experience whilst they are studying, not realising that work experience must be:

  • Post-qualification: ie after you completed your entry level degree
  • At least 20 hours per week: often an issue because students are limited to working 40 hours per fortnight
  • In the nominated occupation: for instance accountants seeking to count work experience as a book keeper or accounts receivable will be refused because these occupations are not on the Skilled Occupations List

IT professionals and tradespersons also have difficult counting all their work experience because the skills assessment generally includes a "skilled date" before which points cannot be awarded for migration purposes. This may be 6 years or more from the date you commenced employment.

7. Study In Australia

Many students are finding it increasingly difficult to extend their student visas due to the new "Genuine Temporary Entrant" or GTE requirement. This is particularly the case where students have studied in a number of different disciplines or are seeking to move from university sector to vocational sector studies.

Always think carefully before you change your course. It is always better to studying something you have a passion for rather than studying to obtain a particular migration outcome.

Regional study can be quite beneficial - if you complete a qualification taking 2 years of study in a regional area, such as Adelaide or Darwin, this will give you 5 extra points. In addition, it will make it much easier for you to obtain state nomination through the state where you are studying. Most states now require you to either have studied or have a job offer and/or work experience in the state for nomination to be possible.

8. Employer Sponsorship - 457 and RSMS Visas

In the last 12 months, we have seen many self-lodging applicants refused on the new "Genuine Position" requirement for 457 employer sponsored visas. This is particularly the case for the following situations:
  • Customer Service Managers: previously an occupation used by many applicants, but now one which has a very high rate of refusal
  • Hospitality Occupations such as Restaurant Manager, Cooks and Chefs: Immigration seems to treat applications from hospitality employers as being higher risk, resulting in many more documents being requested than normal and a high refusal rate.
  • Family Sponsorship: if you are being sponsored for a 457 by a family member, there is a higher risk of refusal
You are now required to obtain skills assessment if you nominating Program or Project Administrator Specialist Manager Not Elsewhere Classified and this has resulted in a much lower application rate in these occupations - overall the number of 457 approvals has reduced by 40% compared to the 2012-13 year.

The regional RSMS visa remains a good option for people with a job offer in a regional area. RSMS is a permanent visa, and in some ways has lower requirements than a 457 or ENS. The most common issue is meeting the Labour Market Testing requirement - this would mean that the employer advertise the position and demonstrate that there are no suitable Australian applicants.

9. Fraud and Integrity - 4020

Most common permanent and temporary visas are now subject to the 4020 Public Interest Criterion. 4020 can result in visa refusal and a ban of up to 10 years from applying again if you provide misleading or fraudulent information or bogus documents in your application.

Even if the information was provided in a previous application or has been provided to a Third Party, such as a skills assessment authority, this can activate 4020.

The Department of Immigration has been much more active in issuing 4020 notices in the last 12 months, so applicants should be very careful to ensure no false or misleading information is provided and that all documents are genuine.

10. Family Sponsorship

Family sponsorship has fallen out of favour in recent times.

The Government sought to eliminate a number of family sponsored categories in June 2014 - for instance the remaining relative, carer and non-contributory parent categories. These subclasses have now been reinstated, but possibly for a short time only - if you are considering one of these subclasses, you should act fast.

In terms of partner visas, these are now taking 12-15 months for applications lodged from within Australia. The Department of Immigration is now making it more difficult to lodge for partner visas if you hold a bridging visa or no visa when you apply. Previously, Immigration had a facilitative approach when it came to these "Schedule 3 waiver" situations, but have now made it clear that they will only allow lodgement in exceptional circumstances.

Work to a Plan

Given the continuing changes to the migration landscape, it is more important than ever to work to a plan. It is critical that you have a Plan A, but also a Plan B and Plan C just in case changes mean that Plan A is no longer possible. It is also very important to keep up with the changes, as opportunities may only be available for a short period of time.

Acacia's Immigration Roadmap has been used by thousands of aspiring migrants over the last 15 years as the cornerstone for their migration strategy.

To get your Immigration Roadmap, please book a consultation with one of our migration advisors today.

Stay up to date - Subscribe to Immigration News!