30 May 2011

New points test, new selection model

We are now a month away from the start of the new points test for General Skilled Migration visas, and we have already been told that it will only be in place for a year before an entirely "new" system for selecting migrants to Australia comes into effect on 1 July 2012.

I put the word "new" in quotes because it isn't really a new idea at all, but more about that later.

The 2011 points test will apply to all applications lodged from that day on for visas in subclasses 175, 176, 475, 885, 886 and 487. Applications lodged before that date will continue to be processed under the existing points test.

I have included some more information about the 2011 test on my website. It appears to favour qualifications and experience over youth, which is probably a good thing. One thing that I think is a big mistake however is that family sponsorship has been completely done away with for the permanent visa subclasses. I have always believed that the migrant family was a major reason for the historic success of immigration in Australia, due to its contribution to the long-term settlement prospects of migrants.

From 1 July 2012, the new Skilled Migration Selection Model, or "SkillsSelect", takes over. Anyone who has been watching the development of Australian immigration programs over recent years will notice some striking similarities between the "new" SkillsSelect and the old Skills-Matching Database. That idea didn't work last time, though of course that doesn't necessarily mean that Mark II will also be a flop.

The plan is that you won't be able to apply for a skilled migration visa straight up. You will have to first lodge an "EoI" (Expression of Interest) and you will then go into a database. Depending on your preferences, your EoI will be available for scrutiny by the Department of Immigration, State and Territory governments and certain employers. If any of those find you interesting, you will then be invited to lodge a visa application. After two years, if you haven't been picked you will drop out of the database.

The basis on which the Department will select applicants will be the points test, presumably the same one that comes into effect this July, but there won't be simple pass mark. Immigration will decide what occupations it is looking for, and will choose the applicants that have nominated those occupations and have the highest overall scores. So instead of knowing what that the pass mark is, say, 65 points, when you put in your EoI, you won't know until the Department looks at what is available and decides who to take.

I attended an information session given by the Department last week to explain the new system. I wanted to ask a question about how the government intended to protect the integrity of its anti-discrimination legislation if it made information about gender, age, nationality, marital status etc. available to prospective employers. I wasn't able to get my question up at the session, so I sent it in an email to the Department. Specifically, I asked "if an employer wants to sponsor a particular applicant of, say, male Anglo-saxon background, will DIAC ask why the employer chose that candidate and not another one on the list with higher qualifications but a different profile?" So far I haven't received a reply.

That concern aside, I was interested to see that nobody really tried to explain how we got into the mess that, apparently, we are in now. You know, all those cooks and hairdressers (and accountants, or not, depending on who you are listening to) jostling each other on that huge queue, how did that happen? The old points test had available to it a mechanism which could have been used to avoid such a problem: at any time it wanted the government could have varied the points to be awarded for any given occupation. But this tool was never used. Cooks and hairdressers remained at 60 points, the top ranking. Interestingly, the 2011 test does not give points for occupations, so the tool that was never used has now been discarded.

Finally, at the same information session the person in charge of skilled migration processing announced that, over the course of 2011-12, he expected to clear all waiting priority 3 cases (ie independent and family-sponsored applicants with occupations on the current Skilled Occupations List -- see my website for details) and "some" priority 4 cases (independent and family-sponsored applicants with occupations on the old SOL).

As for the dreaded visa capping powers, the government apparently has no plans to use them again, but will not commit to not using them again.

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