New Selection Model for General Skilled Migration

By Mark Webster
11 May 2011

The Department of Immigration announced on 10 May 2011 that a new selection model for skilled migration will be introduced which will require applicants to first make an Expression of Interest before being invited by the Department of Immigration to lodge a skilled visa application.

Applications Affected by Selection Model

The new Selection Model will apply from 1 July 2012 and will affect the following types of visa:
  • Skilled Independent
  • Skilled Sponsored
  • Skilled Regional Sponsored

Transitional provisions are very limited - only people who held or had applied for a skilled graduate subclass 485 visa on 8 February 2010 would be able to apply outside the new selection model comes into effect on 1 July 2012.

Expressions of Interest

Under the new model, applicants must first complete skills assessment and English testing, then lodge an Expression of Interest (EOI) via the internet.

The EOIs will be assessed on a periodic basis - possibly every quarter or every six months. Invitations to apply for a general skilled visa will then be issued by the Department of Immigration based on:

  • How many invitations have been issued for the applicant's occupation in the program year
  • The applicant's likely points score
  • Order of application
Assessment of EOIs will be fully automated and based purely on data entered into an online form, with no attachments or documentation being submitted. Most likely a minimum pass mark will be published, with applications meeting the pass mark being issued with invitations in the order of date received by the Department of Immigration until the allocation of invitations is filled.

Once invited, applicants must then lodge their application within 2 months of the invitation being issued.

Occupation Ceiling

An "occupation ceiling" will apply for people applying for skilled independent migration. Should the ceiling be reached in a program year, no further invitations will be issued for that occupation. It appears that this ceiling will not apply to family sponsored or state/territory government sponsored applicants.

Nomination by Employers and State/Territory Governments

The EOI will typically be held in the system for 2 years. During this time, applicants can elect to have their details published to employers and state/territory governments. Employers may then nominate applicants for RSMS or ENS visas, and state/territory governments for sponsored and regional sponsored skilled visas.

State and Territory governments will only be able to nominate from applicants who have made an EOI. Nominated applicants will still be part of the invitation process and will be issued with invitations at the same time as independent and family sponsored applicants.

Consequences of the Changes

The proposed system will mean that the Department of Immigration will be more easily able to control the pipeline of skilled visa applications by restricting the number of visa applications to what can reasonably be processed within the program year.

In 2010 the size of the general skilled pipeline peaked at some 150,000 applicants - the Department of Immigration is currently obliged to process valid applications and options for reducing this pipeline are limited. In particular, it would be illegal for the Department of Immigration to refuse or render invalid applications from people having certain occupations, and refusals would be subject to legal and merits review.

The new selection model will have serious consequences for people who need to apply for skilled migration within a tight timeframe - for example:

  • International students who need to lodge for an onshore visa prior to expiry of their current student or graduate skilled visa; and
  • People who are soon to go up an age bracket and so become ineligible for skilled migration
No bridging visa will be issued when an EOI is lodged, meaning that impact would be particularly severe on onshore applicants.

Of particular concern is that the system will be introduced on 1 July 2012, but the first round of invitations will not be made until January 2013. This means the general skilled stream would effectively be frozen for some 6 months, having a devastating impact on people who were planning to make their application during this period.

There will be an element of luck in obtaining a skilled visa, as it will not be apparent prior to making an EOI whether an invitation to apply will be issued. This will depend on matters beyond an applicant's control, and in particular how many people apply in the same occupation. Once an occuaption is filled for the year, people with an EOI in that occupation go to the back of the queue and will need to wait till the next program year for their chance.

Significant expenses may be involved in lodging an EOI - namely English language testing and skills assessment - which would not be refunded if an invitation is not issued. A decision not to issue an invitation would not be reviewable by the Migration Review Tribunal.

They proposed system is similar to the skills matching visa subclass 134 which was abolished in September 2007. Skills matching involved an applicant lodging a fee-free visa application with evidence of threshold requirements such as English and skills assessment. The applicant's details were placed on a "skills matching database" where employers and state/territory governments could nominate applicants for permanent visas. The previous scheme was hardly a success, with only a small number of skills matching visas granted every year.

For more information on other changes, please visit our Immigration Portfolio Budget 2011-12 Announcement page.

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