The Skilled Occupation List (SOL)

The SOL is a really useful tool for giving people who want to migrate to Australia a clear idea of just what skills are in short supply here over the next three to five years. You can check if your skills are needed in Australia by referring to the current list on the department’s website.

What is the SOL and what does it do?

The Skilled Occupation List (SOL) is a list of skilled occupations that deliver high value skills needed by the Australian economy. The SOL only applies to independent, that is non-employer sponsored or State/Territory government nominated skilled migration. It aims to meet medium- to long-term skills needs of high value occupations, rather than immediate short term shortages. This means your occupation must be on the SOL if you are applying for:

• points based skilled migration independently (not nominated by a State or Territory government);

• Subclass 485 (Temporary Graduate visa in the graduate work stream); or

• family sponsored stream of the Subclass 489 Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa.

Who updates it, and how?

Every year, the SOL is reviewed and re-examined by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) and as a result of this review, the SOL is updated on 1 July. When AWPA reviews the SOL, it uses a combination of macro-economic data, labour market data and consultations with relevant industry bodies to identify occupations where independent skilled migration is a sensible approach to help ensure a good match between supply and demand for skills in the medium and longer term. This year’s review included submissions from unions, peak industry associations, industry skills councils and a range of professional associations.
When providing advice as to what occupations should be included on the SOL, AWPA takes into account factors such as an occupation’s skill level, the lead time necessary to develop the required skills, whether the skills are deployed for the use intended and the economic impacts of a skills shortage in particular occupations.
AWPA advised the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship on the 2013 SOL, including some changes, which you can see here

Are there options available if my Nominated Occupation isn’t on the SOL?

If you don’t have an occupation on the SOL, you may be eligible for State and Territory nomination or employer sponsorship. Employers, as well as States and Territory governments, have access to a wider range of occupations on the Consolidated Sponsored Occupation List (CSOL). We’ll have a look at the CSOL in my next blog post.

Determining Australia’s Migration Program

Australia’s migration program for 2013–14 was announced in May 2013. This sets the number of places available for people who want to migrate to Australia permanently. But have you considered how the Australian Government plans and determines the size and composition of the program each year?

To manage permanent migration to Australia, the government sets annual planning levels, which determine the number of people who may be granted the privilege to call Australia home each year.

The planning levels are informed by many factors, including:

  • social, demographic and economic trends
  • government policies relative to migration and population
  • expected demand for skilled labour
  • estimated demand for family reunion places
  • net overseas migration levels.

The department also undertakes comprehensive consultations with state and territory governments, industry and community leaders to prepare advice about migration levels and inform its submission to government on the size and composition of the migration program for the following year.

In 2013–14 the migration program maintained 190 000 places with a small reallocation of 700 places from skilled to family migration.

The shift in places between skilled and family will result in 128 550 places available in the skill stream and 60 885 places available in the family stream in 2013–14. The remaining 565 places in the migration program are allocated to the special eligibility stream, which hasn’t changed from the previous program year.  

During the past decade the composition of the migration program has shifted towards the skilled component in support of Australian labour demands.  The skilled migration program has evolved into a mix of demand driven and independent skilled migration.

A slight rebalance of the program in 2013–14 will continue to respond to Australia’s skills shortages under a slightly softer labour market, while addressing the strong demand for family reunification, enabling more Australians to unite with their close relatives.

With the launch of SkillSelect in July 2012, the skilled component of the migration program has become more targeted—helping the Australian Government to better deliver the skills Australia needs.

For more detailed information on the 2013–14 migration program go to the migration program fact sheets available on the department’s website.

Migration Program planning levels and priority processing arrangements

Every year the Australian Government sets the number of places, otherwise known as planning levels, in the permanent migration program. The number of places allocated takes into account the current economic climate and feedback from consultations with the Australian community.

Within the skill stream of the permanent migration program, there are a number of different visa categories targeted to meet the diverse needs of Australia’s labour market.  The government also allocates annually a set number of visa places to each of the following categories:

  • skilled independent
  • skilled Australian sponsored
  • employer sponsored, and
  • state and territory sponsored

The planning levels can be varied by the government in response to economic and other factors. Delivering the migration program requires careful management. This is where it’s important to understand the relationship between the planning levels and priority processing arrangements  for skilled migration visa applications.

Priority processing is a tool, available to government, to assist managing the order in which applications are granted. We have blogged previously about the government’s priority processing direction, where visa applications are placed in one of five priority processing groups.

Applications in priority group 1 are allocated before applications in priority group 2, and so on, until the set planning level for each specific skilled visa category is met.

In the situation where set annual planning levels are met in a particular skilled migration category within a 12 month period, the department is obliged to temporarily suspend allocating applications in this category until the next program year, irrespective of where applicants are placed in the priority processing direction.

For example, in this (2011-2012) program year there has been a lower number of applications lodged under a state migration plan (priority group 3) than anticipated when government originally set the planning levels. To meet the set levels for this part of the program we have allocated some of the priority group 5 applications in greater numbers.

These are the priority group 5 applications that were lodged by onshore and offshore applicants who were nominated by a state or territory government before state migration plans were introduced. These applications are placed in priority group 5 as they do not have a nominated occupation on the skilled occupation list.

It may also be necessary to limit the allocation of visa applications in the skilled Australian sponsored categories this program year, because there are only a few places remaining in this visa category. We will continue to update the allocation dates for skilled visa applications on the department’s website and encourage applicants to regularly check the page, which is updated fortnightly. We have also updated information on our website about the processing of priority group 5 applications.

If you have any questions or comments please post below.

Changes to points-tested skilled migration visas

Reforms to Australia’s skilled migration program take effect on 1 July 2012. Included in these reforms are changes to points tested skilled migration visas for migrants who wish to live and work in Australia without employer sponsorship.

Simplifying eligibility requirements, the changes include the introduction of three new points tested skilled migration visas:

  • Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visa
  • Skilled Nominated (subclass 190) visa
  • Skilled Regional Sponsored (subclass 489) (provisional) visa.  

The distinction between onshore and offshore points tested visas and some threshold requirements will be removed – with more importance being placed on the points test to find the best suited independent skilled migrants.

If you want to apply for one of the three new points tested skilled migration visas you will still need to:

  • nominate a skilled occupation on the relevant skilled occupation list
  • be under 50 years old
  • have competent English skills.

From 1 July, if you are interested in a points-tested skilled migration visa you will need to complete an expression of interest in SkillSelect. SkillSelect is a new online system where skilled workers interested in migrating to Australia can record their details to be considered for a skilled visa. Only those who are invited by the Australian Government can lodge a visa application.

More information about the changes to the points tested skilled migration visas is available on our website.

Post your questions about the new visas below. As always we cannot provide case-specific advice, but we can answer general questions you may have.

Did you hold a Student visa on 8 February 2010?

New web page for Student visa holders who were affected by the skilled migration reforms announced on 8 February 2010.

 

 

There is a new web page for current and former Student visa holders who held a Student visa on
8 February 2010, when the Australian Government announced the skilled migration reforms.

The new web page can be found here.

 

Increasingly in the years leading up to the reforms, the composition of the skilled migration program was being determined by those who wished to apply, rather than by labour market demand. A series of reforms were necessary to reposition the program as demand driven and able to respond better to Australia’s skilled labour needs.

One of the key changes was the withdrawal of the Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) and the introduction of a new Skilled Occupation List (SOL). The SOL is a list of occupations that are eligible for independent, or unsponsored, skilled migration. The new SOL consists of 192 occupations, down from more than 400 on the old list, and delivers a skilled migration program that is tightly focused on high value skills that will assist in addressing Australia’s medium to long term skill needs.

When these reforms were announced, the Australian Government also announced generous transitional arrangements for those who held Student visas when the changes were announced. The new web page includes information about these transitional arrangements, as well as other information about extending a Student visa, and also information about the skilled migration program. We plan to expand the page with further information in the coming months.

It is important for students to be aware that the Student visa program and the skilled migration program serve different purposes. A Student visa allows a person to come to Australia and study for a specified period. On the other hand, the skilled migration program has an economic focus. It is designed to meet the needs of the Australian labour market and strengthen the whole economy. Because of this, the requirements for skilled migration may change depending on the economic circumstances of the time, and that is why students should study a course based on their academic interests, rather than to achieve a particular migration outcome.

Student visas are temporary visas, so students should be mindful of their visa expiry date so they can consider their options early. It takes time to apply for another visa, and if a person is unable to obtain another visa they must depart Australia before their Student visa expires. There can be serious consequences for overstaying a Student visa and becoming unlawful, including being unable to return to Australia for up to three years.

Some students might be thinking about lodging an Expression of Interest (EOI) in SkillSelect when their student visa expires. An EOI is not the same as a visa application. It is an indication that a person would like to apply for a skilled migration visa, rather than an application itself. A Bridging visa will not be granted after submitting an EOI. If a person is not invited to apply for a skilled migration visa before their existing visa expires, they will need to obtain another visa or depart Australia.

Talking skilled migration at the NSW International Student Festival

Last Sunday, Department of Immigration and Citizenship representatives from the skilled migration policy areas joined our colleagues from the NSW Student Visa Centre at the NSW International Student Festival.

Our stall was one of the busiest, with students from across the state enquiring about Student visas,

Post-Study visas, Skilled Migration visas and in particular, SkillSelect. It was a fantastic opportunity for us to talk directly to students and receive their feedback on our Student visa and Skilled Migration programs.

There was a lot of interest in skilled migration among the students we talked to. Many of the students were in their final year of study and were considering their options for permanent migration to Australia. While we welcome this interest it is important for student visa holders to be aware that a Student visa is a temporary visa and there is no guarantee of a permanent migration outcome.

Skilled migration to Australia is highly competitive. It remains possible for students to compete for a place in the program, however to do so you must meet the eligibility requirements in place at the time you lodge your application. Students who do not meet the requirements for another visa should make arrangements to depart Australia before their visa expires. There are serious consequences for overstaying your visa that may affect any future visa applications you may make.

It is also important to remember requirements for skilled migration can change from time to time. For this reason students should choose their field of study based on their academic interests and not in the hope of achieving a particular migration outcome.

With SkillSelect being introduced on 1 July 2012 it was great to see so many students taking an interest in how the new system will affect the Skilled Migration program.

The festival allowed us to answer some of the key questions around SkillSelect. Some of the most common SkillSelect questions we received were:

Will I be granted a Bridging visa when I lodge my expression of interest (EOI)?

No. The EOI is not a visa application and you will not be granted a Bridging visa. A Bridging visa would only be considered once a valid visa application is lodged.

If you do not receive an invitation to apply before your student visa expires you will need to apply for another visa if you want to remain in Australia, or leave Australia before your visa expires.

Can I submit an EOI at any time?

You may submit an EOI from 1 July 2012. However, in order to submit a complete EOI you must meet the necessary requirements for the visa you are expressing an interest in.

Will SkillSelect be able to find me a job?

SkillSelect is not an employment service and will not be able to help you find a job.

If, in your EOI, you choose to be considered for an Employer Sponsored visa, employers will be able to access some of your details in SkillSelect (such as your occupation, work experience and English ability). This information will assist them to consider you for employment. In this way SkillSelect may be able to assist you in finding an employer sponsor.

For more information on SkillSelect, please visit our previous blogs or visit the SkillSelect website .

Some of the other skilled migration questions we received over the course of the day were:

What visa options are available within the Skilled Migration program?

Within the Skilled Migration program there is a range of permanent and temporary visa options. For an overview of the different Skilled Migration visa categories see our fact sheet.

We advise students looking to progress to a Skilled Migration visa to confirm the requirements of the visa they wish to apply for before they lodge their application or submit an EOI.

What are the new post-study work arrangements for students?

Graduates of an Australian Bachelor degree, Masters by coursework degree, Masters by research degree or Doctoral degree will have access to a new post-study work visa scheduled to be introduced in early 2013.

Further information is available on our website.

Do I need to use a migration agent to lodge a skilled migration application or EOI?

No. You do not need to use a migration agent to lodge your application. However, a registered migration agent can advise on visa requirements, help you lodge a visa application and deal with the department on your behalf—usually for a fee.

You can choose to use a migration agent to assist you in submitting an EOI. However, you will only have one login to access your EOI account. You can only specify one email address to be contacted by SkillSelect about any invitations or messages in relation to your EOI account. All email notifications will be sent to your nominated email address and it will be your responsibility to ensure you can access your emails and update your account with any change of email address.

We wish international students all the best with their studies in Australia. If you are a current or former student with a general question about skilled migration, feel free to post it here and we will try to answer it as best we can.

DIAC attends International Higher Education Conference

Yesterday I attended the International Higher Education Conference in
Melbourne. It was a great opportunity to listen to some interesting presentations and hear the views of the industry and their thoughts about the Knight Review of the Student Visa Program. This blog was mentioned at the conference so I hope some of the attendees stop by and have a look.

Peter Speldewinde, who has posted on this blog before, spoke at the conference. His presentation topic was ‘the role of DIAC in assessment and monitoring standards in the new era’. The new era refers to how international education will operate in a post-Knight Review environment where education providers and key stakeholders work closely, in a partnership with government. Peter’s presentation gave an interesting perspective to the group, as it provided context about how the recent reforms to skilled migration support a sustainable international education sector.

Before I touch on the key points Peter raised, I’ll provide you with a brief background. The international education sector experienced unsustainable growth in the 2008-09 period. Growth in parts of the sector brought major issues around quality in some parts of the sector and high levels of fraud in the student visa program. Following this period, a number of key changes to both the student visa and migration programs were necessary to maintain the integrity of these programs.

During his presentation Peter explained the impact of this growth, which I’ll paraphrase here.

While there had been an increase in the number of students coming to Australia, the majority of these international students were staying in Australia, reaching a point where close to four times as many people were arriving on a temporary student visa than were departing.

This had an impact on Net Overseas Migration (NOM) – which is the difference between inflows and outflows of long-term residents. This rapid acceleration of visas granted to students with no intention of returning home not only put pressure on the department to maintain the integrity of the student visa program, this rapid growth led to questions about credibility in our international education sector.

The reforms announced by the Australian Government on 8 February 2010 and the subsequent introduction of the Skilled Occupation List (SOL) have resulted in a critical shift towards a labour market demand-driven program. They have effectively decoupled the international education and migration programs, breaking a link that had led to negative outcomes for both international education and the skilled migration program.

The interesting trend Peter discussed was the immediate effect this reform package has made in contributing to a decline in NOM, which has now almost halved from its peak of more than 315 000.

The purpose of the Knight Review was to examine how the student visa program could best support Australia’s international education sector while at the same time preserving the integrity of Australia’s migration program. The changes that are occurring as a result of the Knight Review should ensure the student program remains broadly NOM neutral, as we expect to see genuine students coming to Australia, with the view to complete their courses and then return home – unless they have been sponsored by an Australian employer or have been offered a place in the Australian independent skilled migration program.

Professional Year program—tell us what you think

The department is evaluating the Professional Year (PY) program. The PY program is a structured development program, available to former overseas students who have graduated as Engineers, Accountants and IT Professionals, and has been in place since 2008. 

The PY program is offered by providers approved by professional bodies. It includes workshops, skills training and a professional placement. The program may help graduates find employment and on completing the PY, graduates can be awarded five points towards meeting the points test pass mark.   

As part of our evaluation, we want stakeholders, including current and former students, to tell us how useful the program is and what sort of improvements can be made. The first part of the evaluation will be a short online survey. The survey will collect general demographic information, and asks questions to capture each individual’s experience of the PY program. The results will contribute to a discussion paper, which we expect to be completed in early 2012. 

All survey responses will remain anonymous, and will have no bearing on the outcomes of any current or future visa applications, or other dealings with the department.  This also means we can’t follow up your comments directly with you. 

It would be great if all current Professional Year students and graduates complete this survey, because it is a good way for those who have experienced the program to pass on their views and feedback.  For those who are reading this who have completed or are completing a PY, please check your email for details of this survey.  For those who have already responded – thank you very much for your input.

Some of you may have questions about Subclass 485 processing times, please check out the allocations page on our website.

Processing Priority Group 5 applications

In August we published information on this blog about the processing of general skilled migration applications, and new information available on the department’s website to assist applicants.

The new webpage has been very popular, and it’s great to see it being used by people to check the progress of their visa applications.

That earlier post also explained why skilled migration applications are processed in a particular order (in technical terms, the order set by a Ministerial Direction on processing priority) and that we expected to see progress for applicants who had been waiting the longest for their visas to be processed.

Today’s update is to let you know that shortly we will begin to allocate applications in the Priority Group 5 category to case officers. The oldest applications made in Australia will be processed before those made outside of Australia. We have published detailed information about how the processing of these applications will happen on our website.

While we can’t tell every applicant exactly when their case will be allocated, this progress is positive news for all applicants. When your application is allocated to a case officer, the department will contact you. If you haven’t heard from us, you should keep checking the department’s website for updates to the allocation dates for general skilled migration visas.

The number of Priority Group 5 applications processed will depend on how many applications are lodged in higher priority groups and other factors including any change in the size of the Migration Program, so we can’t give you an exact timeframe when all applications will be processed.

Please continue to check the department’s website for information about the date of lodgement that applications are currently being allocated to case officers.

Points Tested Visas – understanding the minimum requirements

When you work in a policy area it is important to talk to the people who have a personal interest in the work you are doing. Recently we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak to a group of international students at the Australian National University in Canberra. For one of us it brought back memories of hours spent in that very lecture theatre, though this time, with a different view from up the front.

Before explaining the visa options available within the skilled migration program, the first point we wanted to make to students was to explain the difference between the student visa program and the skilled migration program. The differences might seem obvious but it is important to distinguish the purpose of each program because students shouldn’t make their decisions about choice of study for the wrong reasons.

We are often asked by students what they should study in terms of meeting skilled migration requirements. The skilled migration program’s aim is to meet the needs of the Australian economy.
As the economy changes the program has to be flexible so it can respond quickly to these changes. Because requirements can and do change, there can be no guarantee of a migration outcome for students, so students should choose to study courses which they are interested in, rather than studying a course that they think will help them reach a migration outcome.

After delivering the presentation we answered a number of questions, and it struck us that there is often a misunderstanding about the minimum requirements needed to apply for a visa and points awarded through the points test.

Minimum requirements need to be met before a person even considers self-assessment of the number of points they may be eligible for under the points test. Minimum requirements for a points tested visa are:

• is under 50 years of age;
• demonstrates competent English;
• nominates an occupation that is on the SOL; and
• provides a positive skills assessment in their nominated occupation by the relevant assessing authority.

Those applying directly from a student visa will also need to have recently completed recognised study in Australia.

There are other visa options within the program for those applicants who do not meet the minimum requirement of recent study in Australia. Those applicants who have evidence of recent skilled employment in any skilled occupation on the SOL can also meet the minimum requirement for points tested visa, those visas are granted outside of Australia.

Some of the skills and attributes needed to satisfy the minimum requirements can also separately earn points through the points test, and this is where the confusion lies. For example, while competent English is one of the minimum requirements to make an application, a person can also be awarded points for higher English language skills through the points test. Another example is age. While applicants need to be under 50 years of age to submit an application, the points test also awards points for age depending on how old (or how young) a person is.

This post highlights the minimum requirements. There is more detailed information about the points test and visa options on the department’s website. Where people are interested in applying for a points tested visa, we suggest they first go through all the minimum requirements, and if they meet those – then check to see if they reach the pass mark of 65 points.

We hope this information makes the application process clearer but it is important to remember a student visa is a temporary visa and there can never be a guarantee of a permanent migration outcome.

Thanks to all those students who came to our presentation and we wish you all the best with the rest of your studies, and hope you enjoy your time and experience in Australia.