Run-up to Australian General Skilled Migration changes

17 August 2007


As a reminder, on 01 September, Australia will make significant changes to its General Skilled Migration (GSM) program. People applying before 31 August 2007 will not be affected by the new rules.

The changes will include increasing the threshold for English language skills and rewarding very good English proficiency, putting a greater emphasis on skilled work experience, introducing a new temporary work visa for graduates, and simplifying the GSM visa structure.

The threshold for English language proficiency will be raised from an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of 5 (vocational) to 6 (competent) on all components of the test. However, those applying for trade occupations will only be required to meet the current threshold of 5.

From 01 September 2007, 25 points will be awarded to those who score a minimum of 7 (proficient English) in each component of the IELTS exam.

Additional points will be awarded for skilled work experience in Australia. Applicants nominating a job on the Migration Occupation in Demand List (MODL) will only be able to score bonus points for the nominated occupation if they have 12 months experience in the nominated occupation or one that is closely related.

A new visa subclass for students will be introduced called the Skilled-Graduate (subclass 485) visa which is valid for 18 months. Foreign students who are unable to meet the new requirements for a permanent skilled visa can apply for the Skilled-Graduate visa to build on their skills and experience. It will have unrestricted work rights.

Currently, Australia has 15 visa subclasses which will be reduced to 9 -- five onshore and four offshore visas. The reduction is intended to ease an applicant's ability to find the best subclass suited to their needs.

Some visas are assessed by a points based system that scores applicants on criteria such as age and past experience. For some visa subclasses, those who do not score the required number of points can have their applications put into a reserve pool if they score above a lower threshold (see below). Applicants in the reserve pool will be considered if the pass threshold is lowered at a later date.

New Onshore Visa Subclasses

People already in Australia on an eligible visa will be able to apply for the following GSM visa subclasses:

Skilled - Independent (subclass 885) -- This permanent visa replaced the Skilled - Independent Overseas Student (subclass 880) visa. This visa is assessed by a points system, with 120 points required to pass. There is no reserve pool with this visa.

Skilled - Sponsored (subclass 886) -- This permanent visa replaced the Skilled - Australian Sponsored Overseas Student (subclass 881) visa. This visa is assessed by a points system, with 100 points required to pass. There is no reserve pool for this visa.

Skilled – Graduate (subclass 485) visa -- This 18 month temporary visa replaces the Graduate – Skilled (subclass 497) visa. Skilled – Graduate visa holders work and study with unrestricted rights and can apply for a permanent GSM or employer-sponsored visa at any time.

Skilled – Regional Sponsored (subclass 487) visa -- This provisional visa, valid for three years, replaces the Skilled – Independent Regional (subclass 495) visa and the Skilled – Designated Area Sponsored (subclass 496) visa. Skilled – Regional Sponsored visa holders can apply for a permanent Skilled – Regional visa once they have lived for two years and worked full-time for one year in a specified regional area of Australia. This visa is assessed by a points system, with 100 points required to pass. There is no reserve pool for this visa.

Skilled – Regional (subclass 887) visa -- This is a permanent visa for holders of Skilled – Regional Sponsored (subclass 487 and 475), Skilled – Independent Regional and Skilled – Designated Area-Sponsored visas and replaces the second stage Skilled – Designated Area Sponsored (subclass 883) visa and the State/Territory Nominated Independent (subclass 137) visa.

New Offshore Visa Subclasses

People outside of Australia can apply for the following visa subclasses:

Skilled – Independent (subclass 175) -- This permanent visa replaces the Skilled – Independent (subclass 136) visa and the Skilled – Independent New Zealand Citizen (subclass 861) visa. New Zealand citizens applying for GSM can use this visa class regardless of whether they are inside or outside Australia. This visa is assessed by a points system, with 120 points required to pass and 100 points required to be entered into a reserve pool.

Skilled – Sponsored (subclass 176) -- This permanent visa replaces the State Territory Nominated Independent (subclass 137) visa, the Skilled – Australian Sponsored (subclass 138) visa and the Skilled – Australian Sponsored New Zealand Citizen (subclass 862) visa. New Zealand citizens applying for GSM can use this visa class regardless of whether they are in or outside Australia. This visa is assessed by a points system, with 100 points required to pass and 80 points required to be entered into a reserve pool.

Skilled – Regional Sponsored (subclass 475) visa -- This provisional visa, valid for three years, replaces the Skilled – Independent Regional (subclass 495) visa, the Skilled – Designated Area Sponsored (subclass 496) visa and the Skilled – Designated Area New Zealand Citizen (subclass 863) visa. Skilled – Regional Sponsored visa holders can apply for a permanent Skilled – Regional visa once they have lived for two years and worked full-time for one year in a specified regional area of Australia. This visa is assessed by a points system, with 100 points required to pass. There is no reserve pool for this visa.

Skilled – Recognised Graduate (subclass 476) visa -- This new 18 month temporary visa is for graduates of recognized overseas universities with skills in demand in Australia. Recognised Graduate (subclass 476) visa holders will have unrestricted work and study rights and can apply for a permanent GSM or employer sponsored visa at any time. The Recognised Graduate (subclass 476) visa will initially be restricted to graduates with a bachelor degree or higher qualification in engineering from a recognised university.