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Australia: New requirements for potential “skilled migrants”

In early November, Australia’s immigration minister, Chris Bowen, announced a new points test for skilled migration visa applications, with potentially far-reaching effects on the large population of international students in Australia seeking to adjust to permanent resident status. The new points test comes on the heels of a review of the current points test, initiated by a series of immigration reforms announced in February 2010. That review found that applications tended to be skewed toward a small number of occupations. It also noted that the existing scheme did not consistently ensure the effective achievement of the objectives of the skilled migration programme.   

The new test—which will likely establish a pass rate of 65 as opposed the current pass rate figure of 120—allocates more points for higher levels of English language proficiency, more extensive work experience and advanced qualifications obtained in Australia and elsewhere. It also favours applicants in the age range of 25-32, although it simultaneously raises the age limit for applicants from 45 to 49. Points will no longer be awarded on the basis of an applicant’s occupation, although the authorities are still clearly interested in this variable, as all applicants must select an occupation from a new “more targeted Skilled Occupation List (SOL)”.

The new approach is rationalised by the government of Australia as an effort to bring more economically productive immigrants into Australia and to keep the most qualified foreign graduates in the country to contribute to Australian economic development. However, the new points test is perceived by critics as yet another indication of an increasingly hard line on immigration by the Australian government. The higher education community in Australia is already highly sensitised to softening foreign student recruitment, especially from the largest sending countries of India and China. The effects of the new policy on Australia’s attractiveness as a destination for international students may be apparent as early as next year, as the new points test is due to take effect on 1 July 2011.

Australian Government – Department of Immigration and Citizenship