In 2008-08, the Commonwealth Government granted a total of 320,368 student visas. Many of these international students are interested in becoming permanent residents in Australia. In most cases, students apply for general skilled migration upon the completion of their studies. In 2008-09, the Commonwealth Government granted 69,153 permanent resident visas through the general skilled migration program.
The process for migrating can be lengthy and complex. As migration rules frequently change, it is a good idea to seek professional assistance early on.
One of the first decisions potential applicants must make is which occupation to nominate in their application. The occupation must be on the skilled occupations list. Due to the recent changes to the processing of applications for general skilled migration, applicants should consider choosing an occupation on the Critical Skills List. Occupations on the Critical Skills List currently receive priority processing.
Applicants will be awarded 40, 50 or 60 points, depending on the occupation which has been nominated. If the nominated occupation falls in one of the latter two categories, applicants may lodge the application onshore and remain in Australia during processing.
It is important for applicants to choose the right occupation because applicants must be able to pass a skills assessment in that occupation. In order to apply for a skills assessment, it is necessary to make an application to the relevant assessing authority for that occupation. VETASSESS is the main skills assessing authority for associate professional (40 point) and professional (50 point) occupations. The assessing authority evaluates an applicant’s qualifications and, in some cases, work experience, and then provides an assessment as to whether the applicant’s skills are suitable for migration in the nominated occupation.
Forty point occupations generally require the applicant to have a qualification at the level of an Australian diploma while 50 point occupations generally require a qualification equivalent to an Australian degree. At present, when evaluating 40 and 50 point occupations, the assessing authority focuses on the level of qualification, not work experience. Currently there is no requirement that the qualification be related to the occupation.
However, commencing 1 January 2010, VETASSESS will be changing its assessment criteria for all applicants. All applicants will be required to hold a qualification in a field of study that is highly relevant to the nominated occupation. In addition, applicants will be required to have at least 12 months of relevant work experience in order to pass the skills assessment. Applicants who apply before 31 December 2009 will be processed under the current guidelines.
There will be a two stage process for recent graduates who have studied in Australia who intend to apply for the Skilled Graduate subclass 485 visa. To be eligible, applicants must have completed Australian studies within the previous six month period and hold a qualification which is highly relevant to the nominated occupation.
At the first stage, there will be a skills assessment which can only be used to support the 485 application. Once an applicant has at least 12 months of work experience in the nominated occupation, the applicant may apply for a second stage assessment which could then be used for permanent visa applications.
It is, of course, preferable to nominate a 60 point occupation. Some of the most common 60 point occupations include accounting, trades (i.e. bakers, cooks, hairdressers, etc.), teaching, information technology, and nursing and allied health (i.e pharmacists, physiotherapists, radiographers, etc.). The requirements for 60 point occupations vary widely, depending on the occupation.