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.
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