The points test for immigrants in Australia which has been criticised for preferring hairdressers over Harvard scientists is to be changed significantly in 2011.
A new Australian Skilled Migration Points Test will apply for General Skilled Visas (GSV) from 1 July 2011.
The changes will see a shift in emphasis to high skill levels and employee sponsorship, making it harder for overseas students with low quality Australian qualifications to secure permanent residency.
‘The current weighting of points test factors has lead to perverse outcomes such as the situation where a Harvard qualified environmental scientist with three years relevant work experience would fail the points test, while an overseas student who completes a 92 week course in a 60 point occupation such as cookery or hairdressing would, with one years experience, pass,’ said a discussion paper issued by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Changes being discussed include rewarding superior levels of English and applicants with higher degrees. There is also likely to be less emphasis on youth. The paper added that the current points test ‘does not adequately recognise the trade off between age and work experience, particularly for highly skilled professionals’.
There could also be an end to the bonus points for those with relatives already living in Australia. The paper suggested that local qualifications should attract extra points because of the general quality of Australian education and the fact studies were undertaken in English.
The poor English of foreign graduates from Australian institutions has been one of the triggers for reform of skilled migration.
For the first time since 1999, applicants aged between 45 and 49 will be able to apply for General Skilled Migration visas. The current maximum age is 44.
Applicants judged to have only competent English are likely to receive 0 points in the new points test compared with 15 in the current test and a new level of English, referred to in the DIAC document as ‘Superior English’, will now be available and result in 20 points.
For the first time, points will be available for qualifications gained overseas. The DIAC document refers to ‘recognised’ overseas qualifications but details have not yet been revealed.
Maurene Horder, chief executive of the Migration Institute of Australia, said the new points system was keenly awaited. ‘The new Test includes several useful changes providing the mechanisms necessary to tailor Australia’s migrant intake to its skills needs. Several MIA recommendations, regarding flexibility of applicant age and work experience, have been taken up to the benefit of the final product,’ she said.
‘Allowing for the first time 45 to 49 years old workers to apply for GSM is a particularly sound provision, reflecting both shifts in the workforce age and the Australian value of fairness,’ she added.
There is concern though about the level of English. ‘We note the levels of English required and the points awarded appear onerous and may exacerbate Australia’s skill shortages. The reality is that many native speakers would find an IELTS 8 English language score difficult to achieve,’ she explained.
‘The proof of this new Points Test will be in the testing. Once we see who is passing and who is failing, then we will be able to take full measure of this overdue change,’ she added.