Alternative English Language Tests for Student visas

On 20 May 2011 the minister announced that the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the Pearson Test of English Academic (Pearson) and the Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE ) from Cambridge ESOL (Cambridge) would also be acceptable tests for Student visa application purposes.

Overseas Students Ombudsman

The Overseas Students Ombudsman investigates complaints about problems that overseas students have with private education and training in Australia. The Ombudsman also:

provides information about best practice complaints handling to help private education providers manage internal complaints effectively
publishes reports on problems and broader issues in international education that we identify through investigations.

Student Visa Program Report

Key Points
• The March 2011 quarter data indicates that student visa applications may be stabilising from the decrease
experienced in 2009 and 2010.
• There were 36 523 student visa applications lodged in March 2011. This was the second highest number of
applications lodged during March in the last 4 years.
• The grant rate for student applications for the 3 month period between 1 January and 31 March 2011 increased to
93.6% compared to the previous 3 months (92.8%).
• There were 183 441 student visa grants in the 2010-11 program year to the end of March 2011. This represents
11.1% decrease compared to the same period in 2009-10 (206 354 grants).
• Visa processing times have improved considerably, compared to the previous four periods, with 75% of all
applications processed in 29 days during this quarter.

Additional Funding for 457 Visa Processing

As part of Budget 2011–12, the Government has announced additional funding of $10 million for the 457 program, which aims to halve processing times for 457 visas from the current median of 22 calendar days.

While processing times for 457 visas have reduced by thirty per cent over the past five years, the Government will establish a new processing centre in Brisbane to support the initiatives announced in the Budget and to reduce processing times even further.

The 457 visa program benefits Australian industry by providing access to the global supply of workers when suitably skilled workers cannot be found locally.

The program is uncapped, demand-driven and highly responsive to the economic cycle. It provides a flexible avenue for employers to fill immediate and short-term skill vacancies where Australian workers are not available.

FAQ Proposed Skilled Migrant Selection Model (the Model)

The following FAQs relate to the government’s decision to implement a new skilled migration selection model based on an Expression of Interest (EOI) and invitation to apply. The proposal is in an early stage of development and consultation. Although the basic features are settled, further changes are possible and the following must not be taken as a final description of how the new selection model will operate. In particular, no action of any kind should be taken on the basis that this will be the final model. The minister may recommend to the Governor-General in-Council amendments to the Migration Regulations 1994 to give effect to the final model.

Regional Migration Agreements

As part of Budget 2011–12, the Government has announced the introduction of Regional Migration Agreements (RMAs). These agreements are a new migration initiative that will bring together employers, local and state government and unions to cooperate on addressing local labour needs.

RMAs will be a coordinated response to regional labour needs, helping local areas to implement workforce strategies that support growth while ensuring Australian workers remain the first choice for employers and industry.

RMAs will be custom-designed, geographically based migration arrangements that set out the occupations and numbers of overseas workers needed in the area. Concessional access to semi-skilled overseas workers will be negotiated where there is a demonstrable and critical need.

Each RMA will be negotiated between the Government and representatives of the local area. Individual local employers will then directly sponsor workers under the terms of the RMA.

The agreements will allow employers to use overseas workers where local labour cannot be sourced. By utilising RMAs, regional employers will be able to gain streamlined access to temporary and permanent overseas workers if they can demonstrate a genuine need.

A strong focus of RMAs will be fostering training initiatives for Australians. Communities will be expected to demonstrate innovative strategies to train local workers to meet future skill needs. Individual employers who sponsor overseas workers under an RMA-associated labour agreement will be required to demonstrate investment in the training of local workers.

Enterprise Migration Agreements

The Government has announced the introduction of Enterprise Migration Agreements (EMAs), a new temporary migration initiative to help address the skill needs of the resources sector.

Through EMAs, major resource projects will be able to access overseas labour for genuine skill vacancies which cannot be filled from the Australian labour market. EMAs will streamline negotiation arrangements for access to overseas workers and guarantee fast processing times for visa applications.

With a range of resources projects entering the labour-intensive construction phase in the next few years, access to overseas labour will help to ensure that the peak workforce needs of these projects are met, easing capacity constraints and ensuring economic and employment benefits can be realised.

EMAs will be a custom-designed, project-wide migration arrangement uniquely suited to the resources sector, ensuring that skill shortages do not create constraints on major projects and jeopardise Australian jobs.

Proposed Skilled Migrant Selection Model (the Model)

The following information relates to the government’s decision to implement a new skilled migrant selection model based on an Expression of Interest (EOI) and invitation to apply. The proposal is in an early stage of development and consultation. Although the key features are settled, further changes are possible and the following must not be taken as a final description of how the new selection model will operate. In particular, no action of any kind should be taken on the basis that this will be the final model. The minister may recommend to the Governor-General in-Council amendments to the Migration Regulations 1994 to give effect to the final model.

The Skilled Migrant Selection Model
The Australian Government has decided on a major reform in the way Australia selects skilled migrants, the Skilled Migrant Selection Model (the Model). The Model will build upon and draw together the suite of reforms to the skilled migration program over the past three years. In doing so it will deliver the skills Australia needs by matching the best and brightest migrants to the available places in the migration program.

The Model will be an electronic system based upon a two-stage process. Prospective applicants first submit claims for skilled migration through an online EOI and subsequently may be invited to make a visa application. This is a significant change from the current situation, as applicants for independent or state/territory sponsored migration will be required to receive an invitation in order to lodge a visa application.

Once invited, the Model will ensure a match between the number of applicants and the number of available program places. This will result in streamlined processing times.

Foundations and benefits of the Model
The fundamental principle underpinning the Model is that the skilled migration program is determined by the economic needs of Australia. As such, it is necessary for the Australian government to manage who is able to apply for skilled migration, when they are able to apply and in what numbers, on the basis of this need. It is proposed that the Model will allocate all places in the independent skilled migration program to the prospective migrants, those who score highest on the points test, in each eligible occupational group.

A key benefit of the Model is the ability to address regional skill shortages. The Model allows prospective migrants to nominate their willingness to live and work in regional Australia. This will be of particular benefit to employers experiencing regional skills shortages and state and territory governments attempting to settle migrants in regional Australia.

The Model will connect state and territory governments and Australian employers with potential skilled workers through a central database of prospective skilled migrants. This will help state and territory governments maximise the benefit derived from their state and territory Migration Plans. From the perspective of employers, the Model would assist in the resolution of skills shortages through quick and easy identification of prospective workers with the requisite skills and attributes, reducing advertising and recruitment costs to businesses.

Implementation of the Model
The Model is proposed to commence on 1 July 2012. As of this date, new applicants for independent, family or state/territory sponsored migration would need to submit an EOI and be issued with an invitation before lodging a visa application, unless eligible for transitional arrangements. The first round of invitations is expected to occur in January 2013.

Transitional arrangements currently apply to certain people who, on 8 February 2010, held or had applied for a Skilled – Graduate (subclass 485) visa. This group is able to apply for a permanent skilled visa under the previous system, until the end of 2012. There are no additional transitional arrangements in relation to the Model.

Visa subclasses affected by the Model
The visa subclasses which will be affected by the Model are:

•Skilled – Independent (Migrant) subclass 175
•Skilled – Sponsored (Migrant) subclass 176
•Skilled – Independent (Residence) subclass 885
•Skilled – Sponsored (Residence) subclass 886
•Skilled – Regional Sponsored (Provisional) subclass 475
•Skilled – Regional Sponsored (Provisional) subclass 487.
All prospective applicants for these visas will need to submit an EOI and receive an invitation before they can apply.

Prospective applicants interested in employer sponsorship would not be required to submit an EOI if they already have a sponsor. However, submitting an EOI allows employers to view their details and contact prospective applicants to discuss sponsorship opportunities. It would also allow prospective migrants who are sponsored on a temporary basis to be invited for either independent skilled migration or state/territory sponsored migration if eligible.

For those who have already lodged a visa application prior to the implementation of the Model and are pending processing, the department would process this application in accordance with any priority processing direction in effect at that time. A prospective migrant who has already lodged a visa application may want to submit an EOI in order to be connected to an employer or state/territory government.