Government considers mandatory English test for all new residents: Report

Foreigners hoping to settle in Australia on permanent residency visas could soon be sharpening their pencils and cleaning their erasers as the government gears up to introduce mandatory English tests for those wanting to live Down Under.

The Australian reports that Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Minister Alan Tudge is considering sweeping changes to the system that would require those wanting to stay in Australia on a permanent resident visa to pass an English test.

At present only those applying for citizenship must pass such a test.

A permanent resident visa is given to those who want to stay in Australia without becoming a citizen. They can live, work and study without restriction in Australia, but cannot vote and must ensure they have the correct visa if they want to travel outside the country and reenter.

It’s estimated that close to one million people living in Australia cannot speak English and, according to The Australian, Tudge will argue in a speech delivered on Thursday, that mandatory testing for all new residents will help eliminate the problem.

“This is particularly so given the concentration of non-English speakers in particular pockets, largely in Melbourne and Sydney,” his speech reportedly says.

“There are suburbs where up to one in three cannot speak the national language well or at all. Further, because of the concentration in particular areas, there is less demand on the individuals to have to interact with other ­Australians.”

The government faced criticism last year over claims its citizenship test was so hard not even born-and-raised Aussies could pass it. It has since proposed changes to citizenship laws and suggested a broader conversational language skills test be required instead.

Earlier this year, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said it was a “no brainer” for all migrants to be proficient in English.

If you’re in Australia we don’t ask you to abandon your culture or your heritage but if you’re in Australia you abide by our laws. There is one law that applies equally to every Australian, regardless of your background or place of birth, and people need to understand that… The majority of people do,” he told.

The minister added: “If people want to become Australian citizens… we need to have demonstrated that people integrated into our community, that they are working. There are lots of reasons that this is a good law, and we’ll continue to push through.”

Employer Sponsorship (457 Visa) Update

Employer Sponsorship – Update 15 January 2018

Since the Government’s announcement on 19 April 2017 there have been a number of changes to the employer sponsored program, with more to take effect as early as January 2018 and in early March 2018.

The relevant legislation hasn’t been released but, Immigration recently issued their January Skilled Visa E-news to help understand some of these arrangements.

New Occupations Lists from January 2018
Immigration have indicated the changes to employer sponsored occupations lists for temporary and permanent skilled visas will be introduced around 17 January 2018.
We have been advised these changes will not impact undecided applications, providing they were lodged before the change takes effect. Given the severe impact similar changes had to temporary residents last year, this is a welcomed approach.

Further information is expected to be released in the coming days.

457 Visas Replaced by TSS Visas from March 2018
The 457 Visa will be replaced by the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Visa in early March 2018.
TSS Validity Period
Currently, a 457 visa granted on or after 19 April 2017 is valid for:
Up to 2 years if the nominated occupation is on the Short-Term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL), unless exempt by an international trade obligation), or
Up to 4 years if the nominated occupation is on the Medium to Long-Term Strategic Skilled List (MLTSSL)
This arrangement will continue when the TSS is introduced.

Police Clearances
In July, Immigration introduced the requirement for 457 applicants to provide police clearance certificates for each country they spent more than 12 months in. This will continue with the TSS Visa.
Labour Market Testing
In March 2018, Labour Marketing Testing (LMT) will be required on all TSS applications where international trade obligations don’t apply. Currently, LMT applies when nominating trade, nursing, or engineering occupations.
If LMT is introduced for all cases, this could delay the lodgement of a TSS application and impact the Sponsor’s ability to urgently fill their vacant position.

Further details on the TSS including streamlined initiatives for processing applications will be announced by Immigration in February.

Employer Sponsored Permanent Residence
In March 2018, further changes are planned for employer sponsored permanent residence as outlined in our article 14 November 2017.
In Immigration’s January Skilled Visa E-news they advised the transitional arrangements, or grandfathering provisions, for certain 457 visa holders and 457 applicants as at 18 April 2017, were subject to final approval.

More details are to be announced in February.

Conclusion
Many are unsure whether they should use a Migration Agent to lodge their visa application.
Since 19 April 2017, obtaining an employer sponsored visa has become more complex and slower than was previously the case. More changes are in the pipeline and much of the information circulating about Immigration’s announcements may be confusing.

Employers should also be aware of upcoming changes in January 2018 and March 2018 and where possible, applications should be lodged before these critical dates to ensure that the impact of the changes is minimised.

MY VISA ONLINE can assist with ensuring that an employer sponsored visa is lodged prior to any critical dates. We can also ensure that it is lodged as a “decision ready” application, and so can be processed as quickly as possible.

If you are an employer and would like advice on sponsoring staff, please call our consultant on 03 9670 1010.

If you are looking at your own visa options and want to know more about the changes to employer sponsorship, please book a consultation at MY VISA ONLINE. As always we are HAPPY TO HELP.

Increase to the financial requirements for certain Student Visa applications

This article explains the changes, potential impact on visa applications and why using an expert of your choice may be beneficial.

Increase to the financial requirements for certain Student Visa applications

Sufficient funds for cost of living
In certain instances student visa applications must be submitted with evidence the applicants have sufficient funds available whilst undertaking studies in Australia.
Today, the Department of Home Affairs announced the minimum funds required will increase on 1 February 2018 – the increase will start at around 2.3% and will continue to change in line with Australia’s consumer price index (CPI).

From 1 February 2018:

Main Student or Guardian: $20,290
Partner or Spouse: $7,100
Per Child: $3,040

Conclusion
Many changes to the migration portfolio and the various types of Australian visas have come into effect over the last 6 – 8 months. Some of these changes are still in place and some have been disallowed subsequently reverting back to the original requirements.
More changes to the migration program are scheduled to take place over the coming months and are likely to create a surge in the number of visa applications being lodged before those changes take effect.

With that in mind, this is a timely reminder that the Department of Home Affairs may make decisions on visa applications based on the information submitted and in many instances are not required to ask for further supporting evidence.

In light of the above, the chances of lodging an invalid application and risking your immigration status, or having a visa application refused is a real possibility.

MY VISA ONLINE has many years of experience and is ready and able to assist you to achieve your migration goals.

If you would like to work with us, the best way to proceed is to book a consultation with our advisor. Aside from outlining your migration options in writing, you will be able to judge for yourself what it’s like to work with MY VISA ONLINE and whether we are the right experts for you.

IELTS 6 overall for 485, IELTS 5 overall for 457

The new English requirements for both the Post Study Work Stream and Graduate Work Stream:

  • Hold a passport from the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada or New Zealand; or
  • IELTS (Academic or General Training): overall average of 6 and at least 5 in each band; or
  • Occupational English Test (OET): B Pass in each band; or
  • Pearson (PTE Academic): overall average of 50 with at least 36 in each band; or
  • TOEFL iBT (Internet Based Test): total score of 64, with at least 4 in Listening and Reading, and at least 14 in Writing and Speaking; or
  • Cambridge (CAE): 169 overall average with at least 154 in each band.

 

The required English test scores for 457 visas are now as follows:

  • IELTS: overall average score of 5, with a minimum score of at least 4.5 in each band; or
  • OET: “B pass” is required for all 4 components of the OET; or
  • TOEFL iBT: total band score of 36, with at least 3 in Listening and Reading and at least 12 in Speaking and Writing; or
  • PTE Pearson Test of English (Academic): Average band score of 36, with minimum of 30 in each band; or
  • CAE Cambridge English: Advanced: Average band score of 154, with minimum of 147 in each band.

Functional English proficiency

Functional English proficiency can be demonstrated if the applicant can provide evidence of:

  • having completed all years of primary education and at least 3 years of secondary education at educational institutions in which all instruction was conducted in English; or
  • having completed at least 5 years of secondary education at institutions in which all instruction was conducted in English; or
  • having achieved an IELTS average band score of at least 4.5, based on the four test components of speaking, reading, writing and listening in a test conducted:

- not more than 12 months before lodging the relevant application to migrate; or

- at the time of the processing of the relevant application to migrate; or

  • having successfully completed, in Australia, at least 1 year of full-time study or equivalent part-time study towards a degree, higher degree, diploma, or associate diploma, at an institution or institutions where all the instruction was conducted in English.
  • having achieved a Test of English as a Foreign Language internet-Based Test (TOEFL iBT) total band score of at least 32, based on the four test components of speaking, reading, writing and listening in a test conducted:

- not more than 12 months before lodging the relevant application to migrate; or

- at the time of the processing of the relevant application to migrate; or

  • having achieved a Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic) overall band score of at least 30, based on the four test components of speaking, reading, writing and listening in a test conducted:

- not more than 12 months before lodging the relevant application to migrate; or
- at the time of the processing of the relevant application to migrate; or

  • having achieved a Cambridge English Advanced (CAE) overall score of at least 147 based on the four test components of speaking, reading, writing and listening in a test conducted

- not more than 12 months before lodging the relevant application to migrate; or

- at the time of the processing of the relevant application to migrate; or

  • holding valid passport issued by the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, New Zealand or the Republic of Ireland, to a citizen of that country.

The change from the previous instrument is the addition of the Cambridge English Advanced (CAE) test.

This instrument commences on 1 January 2015 and revokes IMMI 14/055 (F2014L01551) signed on 12 November 2014.

Alternative English Language tests for visa applicants

From November 2014, the department will accept English language test scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language internet-based test (TOEFL iBT) and the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic) across visa programmes.  These tests are alternatives to the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and Occupational English Test (OET), and have been accepted in the Student visa programme since November 2011.

The Department of Immigration has announced that the TOEFL and Pearson tests of English language ability will be accepted for immigration purposes from November 2014.

Currently, only the International English Language Testing System IELTS and Occupational English Test (OET) are accepted for the purposes of applying for General Skilled Migration and Permanent Employer Sponsored ENS/RSMS visas.

From November 2014, the following tests will also be accepted:

TOEFL iBT

The TOEFL iBT is taken via the internet. There are more than 50 test dates each year, and there is a wide range of test locations throughout the world.

The test takes approximately 4.5 hours to complete has the following structure:

  1. Reading: 60-80 Minutes
  2. Listening: 120-180 Minutes
  3. Speaking: 20 Minutes
  4. Writing: 50 Minutes

TOEFL scores are available approximately 10 days after the test date. They can be viewed online, and a hard copy is sent approximately 13 days after the test date. You can specify recipients for your scores to be sent to via an online facility, but this cannot be changed after you have taken the test.

The current cost to undertake the TOEFL iBT in Australia is $240, well under the current cost of IELTS ($330).

PTE Academic

The Pearson Test of English Academic is structured as follows:

  1. Speaking and writing: 77 – 93 minutes
  2. Reading: 32 – 41 minutes
  3. Listening: 45 – 57 minutes

Overall, the test takes 3 hours. Results are available within 5 working days, and can be accessed by logging into an online account. It is possible to forward results to institutions via the online account also. This compares favourably with IELTS – results currently take 2 weeks to become available, and there is no online account facility for test takers.

The cost to do the PTE Academic test in Australia is $330 – exactly the same as IELTS. Locations and test dates are less extensive than the TOEFL.

Which Visas Will Be Affected?

The new English tests will apply for the following types of visa:

At this point, the new English tests have not been announced as applying to the subclass 457 visa. This subclass is currently under review and a report is due in July 2014, and it is likely that one of the recommendations would be to accept a wider range of English tests.

English Levels

Various Levels of English are Relevant for visa purposes:

1. Functional English

This is the level required for applicants for permanent and provisional skilled visas who wish to avoid paying the English Language Charge (currently $4,500 or more).

Required Scores to establish Functional English are as follows:

Test component Average across test components only
IELTS 4.5
TOEFL iBT 32
PTE Academic 30
OET n/a

2. Vocational English

Vocational English is the required level to obtain a 457 visa, and also ENS and RSMS visa through the Temporary Residence Transitional stream for people who have held a 457 visa for 2 years with the employer.

Required scores to establish Vocational English are as follows:

Listening Reading Writing Speaking
IELTS 5 5 5 5
TOEFL iBT 4 4 14 14
PTE Academic 36 36 36 36
OET B B B B

3. Competent English

Competent English is the minimum (threshold) score for people applying for General Skilled Migration. It is also the score required for people applying for ENS and RSMS visas through the Direct Entry Stream.

Scores required to show Competent English are as follows:

 

Listening Reading Writing Speaking
IELTS 6 6 6 6
TOEFL iBT 12 13 21 18
PTE Academic 50 50 50 50
OET B B B B

4. Proficient English

Proficient English applies only to Points Tested General Skilled visas, and is the required score to obtain 10 points for English.

Scores required for Proficient English are:

Listening Reading Writing Speaking
IELTS 7 7 7 7
TOEFL iBT 24 24 27 23
PTE Academic 65 65 65 65
OET B B B B

5. Superior English

Superior English is to obtain the maximum score of 20 in the Skilled Migration Points Test.

Minimum scores for Superior English are:

Listening Reading Writing Speaking
IELTS 8 8 8 8
TOEFL iBT 28 29 30 26
PTE Academic 79 79 79 79
OET A A A A

Conclusion

The availability of more choices for English language testing from November 2014 will be good for visa applicants. There will be various advantages for the different English tests, for instance:

  • TOEFL: readily available, inexpensive
  • Pearson: results ready in 5 days, ability to forward results to various recipients after test date
  • OET: no requirement to sit all 4 modules on the same date, results from different dates accepted by Immigration

http://www.immi.gov.au/News/Pages/aelt.aspx

Call for visas to serve up chefs

 

STRICT English language requirements for foreign workers are being reviewed as the Immigration Department negotiates a new labour agreement for the hospitality industry

The department is evaluating an industry request to fast-track thousands more foreign chefs and cooks on temporary work visas.

Separately, the department is considering lowering the existing requirement for 457 visa workers to have “functional ­English’’, as part of a government-ordered inquiry into the temporary work scheme.

Restaurant and Catering Australia chief executive John Hart yesterday revealed the hospitality industry wants the agreement to extend 457 visas to cover waiters and bar staff, as well as skilled chefs and managers.

The industry also wants to waive English language requirements and axe the $53,900 minimum salary.

Mr Hart said foreign workers should be paid the same award rates as Australian staff. And he said kitchen staff did not need to speak English.

“The reality is that most of the people coming into the business are cooks and chefs and many of the kitchens, especially in the ethnic cuisine, don’t use English at all,’’ he said. “The language of the kitchen is the language of the cuisine. It is not appropriate to set the bar so high where there’s no requirement for English in the workplace, particularly with cooks and chefs.’’

Mr Hart said the industry needed to recruit 3500 more chefs and cooks because of a shortage of local labour.

Restaurateur Philip Thompson, who owns the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar, said he had sponsored two chefs and two managers on 457 visas, and relied heavily on backpackers and foreign students to staff his popular Circular Quay eatery.

Mr Thompson said he paid award wages, but still could not find suitable Australian workers.

Only three of his 40 staff, including the head chef, were Australian. He has hired seven Italian waiters — “they’re fantastic and really understand service’’ — but backpacker visa rules prevented him employing them for more than six months.

“It’s not seen as a profession in Australia — it tends to be a part-time job for people to put themselves through uni — but a lot of the overseas people see it as a profession,’’ Mr Thompson said.

His general manager is Indonesian Dimple Nanikram, who first came to Australia from Bali to study business management.

She said Australian jobseekers did not want to work weekends, even though they were paid time and a half on ­Saturdays and double time on Sundays.

The restaurant’s floor manager is 27-year-old Turkish woman Hasrel Talus, who worked for years in international hotels and restaurants in Istanbul before moving to Australia to study English.

“We have 200 resumes at the moment and there is not one Australian one there — they are all from overseas,’’ she said yesterday.

“I love working here; you can’t complain working every day in front of the Harbour Bridge.’’

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/policy/call-for-visas-to-serve-up-chefs/story-fn9hm1gu-1226876191494#

Judges air concerns about English tests in visa cases

THE Federal Court has seized on the use of English language tests by immigration authorities as potentially unfair.
In a decision this month involving an Indian-born graduate from the University of New England, Justice Nye Perram said the court had noticed something puzzling in a number of cases.

Judges air concerns about English tests in visa cases

THE Federal Court has seized on the use of English language tests by immigration authorities as potentially unfair.
In a decision this month involving an Indian-born graduate from the University of New England, Justice Nye Perram said the court had noticed something puzzling in a number of cases.

There was “a disjunct between the apparent ability of [former overseas students] in skilled migration visa appeals to conduct their own cases in fluent English, on the one hand, and the operation of the [International English Language Testing System] test which deemed them not able to speak competent English at all, on the other”.

Justice Perram began his judgment by recalling the 1934 attempt to deport the communist Egon Kisch by setting him a dictation test in Scottish Gaelic, a device used to apply the White Australia Policy.

“Experiences such as these have led to a natural caution in the legal mind about the use of language tests in an immigration setting,” the judge said.

However, he conceded that today’s immigration authorities had a legitimate concern about English proficiency and said IELTS was not “a discreet tool for the implementation of concealed policies”.

To make sure the legal issues were properly argued, the Indian graduate, Dushyant Manilal Parmar, was given a court-appointed barrister, Kellie Edwards.

Mr Parmar had taken more than 10 IELTS tests but could not get the score needed for a skilled migration visa.

His challenge to the visa refusal failed and Justice Perram said the court could not set itself up as an arbiter of English proficiency.

“It is all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because a person appears to speak English with reasonable fluency that their reading and writing skills are necessarily of the same order,” he said.

In a separate challenge rejected the same day, Justice Perram expressed sympathy for the litigant, Sardar Khan Ghori, another Indian-born graduate of UNE.

Mr Ghori had taken the IELTS test five times but had not managed to get the reading and writing scores needed for his skilled graduate visa.

Justice Perram expressed a “natural sympathy” for him, especially given “the fact that his English appears to have been sufficient to obtain a Masters of Information Systems with Honours from [UNE in 2008]”.

Mr Ghori had wanted time to sit another IELTS test.

In a third case last December, Justice Robert Buchanan had no choice in law but to reject an appeal by an Egyptian-born man, Moemen Rady Abdelnaeim Mohamad, who had Australian qualifications in commercial cookery, tourism, hospitality and business.

Mr Mohamad had taken 18 IELTS tests. For his visa he needed a score of at least five in each of the speaking, listening, reading and writing components.

He had attained that score in each component — but never in the one test.

Justice Buchanan said there was a very real possibility “that the test result process yields a false result in the case of the appellant, due to his inability to cope well with an examination environment.

“The possibility of practical injustice was revealed starkly at the hearing of this appeal.

“The appellant appeared for himself, without the aid of an interpreter. He had no difficulty expressing himself and reading from notes.

“Were it a matter for me I would have no hesitation in pronouncing him capable of speaking, reading and understanding English to an acceptable everyday level.”

In the Parmar case, Ms Edwards said the immigration rules meant that an IELTS test was just one way to prove competent English.

But Justice Perram said the rules clearly made IELTS the only proof of English.

Ms Edwards also argued that the design of the test showed that an overall score of six was enough to show competent English.

(The immigration rules required a score of at least six in each of the four elements of the test: speaking, listening, reading and writing.)

Justice Perram rejected this argument, too, saying the rules made careful use of an internationally accepted test to set up a hierarchy of proficiency in English.

And judges listening to apparently fluent litigants could not substitute their own opinion about proficiency, he said.

Ms Edwards’ final argument was that by relying on the IELTS organisation, the government had put decisions about English proficiency beyond the reach of judicial scrutiny but Justice Perram said there was no problem with this arrangement.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship pointed out that it had won the cases and no legal error was found in the decisions under challenge.

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.