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New points test for general skilled migration visas

Millions of people around the world want to migrate to Australia to live and work. Skilled migration is a selective process. An important public policy issue therefore is how to allocate the limited number of places in the skilled migration program to make sure they are given to people who will best contribute to Australia.

Since 1979, Australia has used a points test to determine which applicants can qualify for skilled migration. The first of these points test systems was called the ‘Numerical Multifactor Assessment System (NUMAS)’ (catchy name!). The original model accounted for factors such as family ties, occupational and language skills. The idea was that these factors would indicate if someone would settle well in Australia.

While the points test has changed throughout the years, the basic foundations are the same - a points test creates a fair and transparent mechanism for the selection of suitable permanent migrants. Because the requirements are made clear by the points test, aspiring migrants can work out if they achieve the pass mark before they apply. This transparency might be why more and more migrant-receiving countries have incorporated some form of points test in their selection processes.

A recent review of the system found that the current points test has been skewing permanent migration towards a small number of occupations, such as hairdressers and cooks, which partly led to an imbalance in the overall skilled migration program. Following the review, a new points test was developed. This new points test will commence on 1 July 2011 will apply to permanent skilled migration visas where the applicant does not have an employer sponsor.

Importantly, the changes to the points test make skilled migration to Australia more responsive to the needs of the economy. The new test does not give undue weight to any one factor and recognises a broader range of skills and attributes. The changes focus on:

  • better English levels
  • more extensive skilled work experience
  • higher level qualifications obtained in Australia and overseas
  • changes to age ranges.

Points are no longer awarded for occupations. All people must nominate for an occupation that is on the Skilled Occupation List. These occupations are carefully selected, based on the advice of Skills Australia, to help meet Australia's medium to long term economic and labour market needs. For instance, in the resources sector there are long term supply issues relating to engineers. Therefore, different types of engineering occupations (19!) feature prominently on the Skilled Occupation List.

There can be confusion when points and occupation lists change because of misunderstanding about different visa streams. Therefore, it’s important to be aware that the new points test only affects one component of the skilled migration program – points tested skilled migration. These changes won’t apply to business skilled or employer sponsored skilled migration visa categories. These changes also have no impact to temporary skilled migration, such as the 457 visa.

The new points test is designed to select the skilled migrants who will make the optimum economic contribution to Australia. The intended structure of the new points test is available on the Department’s website. As we move forward, I’ll get back to you with more details.