29 April 2024

Australian Government's Review Of The Skilled Points Test: Proposed Changes And Rationale

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The Australian Government's Migration Strategy, released in December 2023, outlines a major overhaul of the migration system.
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The Australian Government's Migration Strategy, released in December 2023, outlines a major overhaul of the migration system. A key area of focus is the general skilled points test, which is used as a factor in selecting applicants for the general skilled visas which include direct pathways to permanent residence. The Department of Home Affairs which manages immigration for Australia, has released a discussion paper on the review of the points test, highlighting several challenges and proposing reform directions.

The points test, first introduced in 1979, has been a critical component of Australia's skilled migration system. It allocates points to potential migrants based on factors such as age, qualifications, skills, and English proficiency. The test aims to identify migrants who will contribute to Australia's economy and society. However, the last major change to the points test was in 2012, and since then, only minor adjustments have been made.

The following are the key issues identified in the discussion paper and the proposed changes. While this is at the proposal stage, the paper is the result of a detailed review and subsequent strategy development. The proposals are likely to be implemented and therefore provide an insight into the expected changes in the near future.

Targeting Migrant Success in Finding Skilled Work

The current points test does not effectively distinguish between candidates based on factors that predict success in the labour market. The proposed changes include prioritising education, English language skills, and experience; either removing or reducing points for factors such as regional study and community language skills; and possibly requiring a skilled job offer for onshore applicants. It is worth noting New Zealand recently overhauled the skilled migration category to hold a job or job offer in New Zealand as a mandatory requirement to qualify.

Meeting Australia's Skills Needs

The occupation lists used for general skilled migration are slow to respond to shifts in the labour market. The occupation database (ANZSCO) used is based on a 2013 release and lacks many occupation definitions. The government is seeking to explore alternative ways to identify and target Australia's long-term skills needs, as well as ensuring the points test complements domestic skills and training systems.

Recognising the Contributions of Younger Migrants

The current skilled points test does not sufficiently recognise the long-term contributions of younger migrants. The proposed change is to redesign points allocated to age to better select younger migrants, and to consider an age points approach similar to Canada's system, with a sliding scale for points based on age.

Acknowledging Partners' Potential

The points test offers limited recognition of partners' potential contributions. The proposed change is to give greater consideration to partners' attributes, such as English language ability, education, and skilled work experience. This would likely result in an increase for the points available for partners' skills and qualifications.

The government has stated an intent to balance fairness and certainty for migrants, while meeting the needs for reform of the program. The Australian Government's review of the points test aims to create a more targeted and responsive skilled migration system and the proposed changes focus on factors that predict migrant success, better target skills needs, recognise the contributions of younger migrants and partners, and ensure regular reviews.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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