Changes to Australia’s Skilled Migration Programme

Leading Australian migration agents say changes to Australia’s skilled migration laws will give the country greater opportunities to “cherry pick” would-be-migrants, writes Sophie Loras.

On July 1, stringent changes to Australia’s skilled migration laws came into effect, reducing the number of permanent visa subclasses but opening up a vast new way of processing potential migrants.
 
Reforms include the Business Skills Program (traditionally a popular pathway for Chinese business owners, investors and senior executives to migrate to Australia with their family members) being renamed the ‘Business Innovation and Investment Program.’ It is now divided into three visa subclasses.
 
The Business Talent visa (Subclass 132) is a permanent visa to attract high calibre business owners who are interested in owning a new or existing business in Australia. This visa is also open to entrepreneurs with high-potential business ideas which have sourced at least A$1 million in venture capital funding from the Australian Venture Capital Association Ltd.
 
The Provisional Business Innovation and Investment visa (Subclass 188) is intended to attract business innovators and investors to Australia. The program has no minimum English requirement. In order to qualify for the visa, applicants must score at least 65 points on a new points test. Points are awarded for net personal and business assets, experience in business or investments, business turnover, investments, age, English language ability and qualifications. This is a provisional visa that is valid for four years. During that time visa holders can apply for the Permanent Business Innovation and Investment visa.
 
The Permanent Business Innovation and Investment visa (Subclass 888) allows holders to obtain permanent residence by demonstrating that they have established and continued their business ownership or investment in Australia and meet the business and investment requirements for the grant of the visa.
 
The government has also announced plans to introduce a Significant Investor visa in late 2012, targeting migrants who can make an investment of at least $5 million into the Australian economy. It offers some concessions on visa requirements – such as not having to meet a points test and reduced residence requirements. The government says the changes will bring Australia into line with other countries, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Singapore and New Zealand, which provide for migration on the basis of investment of a specified size and conditions.
 
SkillSelect is a new is online system for skilled workers interested in migrating to Australia. Applicants record their details through an expression of interest (EOI). Intending migrants will be found and nominated for skilled visas by Australian employers or state and territory governments. They may also be invited by the Australian Government to lodge a visa application. This will give the government greater control and flexibility to adjust to changes in the economy. The employer nomination scheme (ENS) and the regional sponsored migration scheme (RSMS) will be integrated with the new skilled migrant selection model, SkillSelect.
 
Leading Melbourne-based immigration law specialist, and Partner at law firm Holding Redlich, Maria Jockel, says the changes will allow Australia to better position itself to “cherry pick” candidates.
 
Ms Jockel says the new system, while more complex, will allow Australia to select the very best candidates seeking permanent residency  and address the “deep skills” that Australia needs.
 
“This is a very, very good for Australia,” says Ms Jockel.
 
“It’s nation building and it’s making Australia the strongest country it can be.”
 
Ms Jockel says the changes also address concerns in regards to fraudulent visa applications such as bogus documents in support of skills set or fake English language tests, through the Public Interest Criterion (PIC) 4020. Applicants found to have been dishonest in their application will be banned from reapplying for three years as will any family members included in the initial process.
 
However, Ms Jockel says the new changes will make it more difficult to determine the success of an applicant.
 
“Visa categories might be less, but the complexities in my view have increased significantly.”
 
Ms Jockel says the changes reflect the government’s past legacy of allowing low skilled migrants, such as chefs and hairdressers, to gain permanent residency in what she described as an unsustainable model. The innovation aspect will encourage high-quality entrepreneurs to apply for PR and away from the previous system, which allowed would-be-migrants to purchase and manage a business in Australia for two years, and then on-sell it to migrants-in-waiting.
 
China is currently Australia’s largest source of migrants and Ms Jockel says it is likely to remain so, but she says, the changes put Australia in a stronger position to select the very best candidates.
 
 
Zeno Sworder, s Senior Consultant at Hamilton Watts International Migration Services in Melbourne says in recent years, interest in Australia as a business and investment destination has grown steadily.
 
“This has been fuelled by Australia’s strong economy, geographic proximity to Asia, quality education system, business potential and predictable legal environment.”
 
He says the new program is good news for Chinese business people, investors and entrepreneurs with the points test providing more flexibility for those who are interested in migrating to Australia as business people and addresses a number of barriers that were previously faced by this group such as the English language requirement.
 
“In previous years Chinese business people accounted for roughly half of our business skills clients. We expect that to increase substantially over the next couple of years based on these changes and the announcement of the Significant Investor visa, which will be introduced later this year,” said Mr Sworder.
 
He says the changes formalise the involvement of the Australian State and Territory Governments in nominating business candidates.
 
“We have generally found the Australian State and Territory Governments to be open and helpful in attracting new business and investment from China. We expect this level of cooperation to continue under the new program.”
 
Mr Sworder’s advice to prospective applicants, or those interested in seeking assistance or further advice regarding a visa applications, is to engage professional registered migration agents who understand the Australian business environment and have established lines of communication with the Australian State and Territory Governments. 
 
 
* For more information visit the The Department of Immigration’s website for a full diagram of the changes: www.immi.gov.au/skilled/business/_pdf/diagram-changes-business.pdf or click here.
 
 
**To learn more about SkillSelect, click here, or visit: www.immi.gov.au/skills/skillselect/

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