Chris De Sousa, Associate and Alex Paterson, Partner, Perth
General Skilled Migration (GSM) visas were fast becoming a distant memory after Ministerial Directions gave priority processing to the Employer Nomination and Regional Skilled Migration Schemes.
These individually based skilled applications, clouded by excessive waiting periods, continuous change and uncertainty for applicants, lead to foreign nationals naturally looking at employer sponsorship as the preferred option where an offer of permanent employment could be established.
Yet, all is not lost for the GSM visa category. On 28 January 2012, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) launched SKILLSELECT. This online system, where skilled workers express their interest in skilled migration, mirrors the demand driven employer sponsored permanent residence schemes.
As a HR or Mobility professional, this scheme potentially offers Australian employers a pool of prospective and identifiable employees in occupations where there is demand within their organisation.
Despite January’s launch, prospective applicants will need to hold off a little longer before they start using SKILLSELECT. The system’s facility for prospective migrants to submit Expressions of Interests (EOIs) will not be operational until the appropriate legislation changes come into effect on 1 July 2012. In advance of this, we take a look at how the SKILLSELECT system works, how it will benefit the GSM program and the added benefits to employers using employer sponsored and business skills programs.
How SKILLSELECT works
The migration version of a ‘LinkedIn’ social network account, SKILLSELECT enables the prospective applicant to display their best and greatest qualifications, skills and achievements to DIAC and potential employers.
The aim of SKILLSELECT is essentially to minimise the discrepancies in the Australian skills shortage market that often arose out of the previous “Migration in Demand” and “Critical Skills” lists. As with the current GSM visa application, prospective applicants will need to have core documentation on hand, namely, a positive skills assessment and evidence of English language proficiency. Currently, having this information and meeting a prescribed points test entitles an individual to lodge a GSM visa application – but this will be no more.
Prospective applicants will first need to upload an EOI, essentially throwing their hat in the ring with a pool of other skilled individuals seeking to migrate to Australia. Once an EOI is submitted, DIAC will select individuals and invite them to lodge a visa application based on their ‘ranking’ against others. Just ‘passing’ the required points score may not be enough for competitive occupations, so the applicant will need to try and reach the highest points score possible.
A set ceiling or quota of skilled visa applications that can be lodged for each group of occupations will be prescribed by DIAC each immigration program year. The occupation ceilings hope to minimise the risk of skills imbalances that we saw with the flood of migrating cooks, hairdressers and accountants several years ago.
Invitations to lodge a visa application will be sent out in monthly waves, subject to the set occupation ceilings. And as each state and territory has its own migration plans indicating the occupations they are willing to sponsor, this increases the possibility of invitations prompted by state delegates.
Some points to keep in mind for prospective applicants: the EOI has a ‘shelf life’ of 2 years; and applicants need not get too carried away in how they sell themselves for invitation selection!
Whilst the EOI is not a visa application, information provided in the EOI is subject to the same fraud public interest criterion (PIC 4020) that applies to other relevant visa categories. Any false or misleading information provided in an EOI can come back to bite the prospective applicant should they later lodge a visa application, potentially leading to an adverse decision and three year bar from being granted a further visa subject to PIC 4020.
The benefits of SKILLSELECT
A significant benefit of SKILLSELECT is that it gives transparency in ‘what Australia is looking for’ by way of skills needs driven by government statistical data, state and territory interest and Australian employers.
DIAC is refining the number of quality visa applications by the ranking and invitation selection process. Meeting the minimum points score threshold will no longer be enough, but at least applicants will know how they fare against their migrating peers...eventually.
The prospective applicant will know their score, calculated when submitting the EOI, to ensure they meet the prescribed points pass mark. This is currently 65 points. However, an applicant’s ranking against other applicants will continuously change. Following a round of invitations, SKILLSELECT will publish the lowest scores of a successful EOI in each occupation group. It is here that a prospective applicant can gauge whether they are likely or not to be issued with an invitation to lodge a visa application.
But SKILLSELECT will not end here. State delegates will also be sourcing skilled individuals from the SKILLSET system. Depending on how desperate a state or territory is for an occupation, the state could select any prospective applicant that is at least over the pass mark on the points test and support the issue of an invitation. However, the states and territories have to stay under the occupation ceilings set for each occupation group.
Another opportunity for Australian employers seeking skilled workers is SKILLSELECT’s role as an added recruitment source. When a proposed Australian sponsor likes what they see in an EOI, they can reach out to the potential applicant and kick start the visa application process without an invitation being required.
While SKILLSELECT may look like a glorified lottery system where visa applicants hold onto their EOI ticket and hope for the best, if it is successfully marketed to Australian employers and appropriately utilised, SKILLSELECT may be the longed-for, effective skilled migration tool that meets Australia’s long term skilled labour needs.
Centre for International Employment and Migration (CENTIEM) – a Fragomen initiative and business unit within Fragomen Australia www.centiem.com