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AUSTRALIA: Further Changes to Permanent Entry Employer-Nominated Program

The Australian government has announced a raft of changes to visa programs effective July 1, 2012. Changes to the employer nominated permanent residence visa program were outlined in the last ABIL Global Immigration Update. Changes to the General Skilled Independent visas and Business Skills visas are outlined below.

SkillSelect

As of July 1, 2012, the introduction of SkillSelect represents a significant change in how Australia manages its skilled migration program. According to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), the new model will allow Australia to "select the best and brightest skilled migrants from a pool of prospective migrants registered on the system."

SkillSelect will enable skilled workers and business people to submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) to migrate to Australia by recording their details in an online database. An EOI will serve as a quasi-resume for intending applicants with the information accessible by Australian employers as well as state and territory governments, which may then nominate the individual for employment or for a skilled visa. The Australian government may also invite the person to lodge (file) a Skilled Independent visa application.

The objective of the new program is to ensure that Australia's skilled migration program is based on the country's economic needs. Through SkillSelect, the Australian government will be able to manage who is able to apply for skilled migration, when they can apply, and in what numbers. This is expected to streamline the program and lead to more efficient processing of applications.

It is also designed to help address regional skill shortages by allowing intending migrants to indicate in their EOI that they are willing to live and work in certain regions of Australia.

Expression of Interest

An EOI includes basic personal information, details of the person's nominated occupation and relevant work experience, educational qualifications, level of English language ability, and the outcome of a skills assessment (by a gazetted assessing authority) in the person's nominated occupation. For business skills visa applicants, an EOI requires details of the person's business and/or investment experience.

An EOI will remain in DIAC's database for two years. During that period, it will be accessible by employers looking to fill vacancies, state and territory governments looking to attract skills, and Australian businesses.

Changes to Business Skills Visas

DIAC has also announced changes to Business Skills visas, replacing the former program with a new "Business Innovation and Investment" scheme. The new visa structure is designed to attract significant migrant investment, entrepreneurial talent, and demonstrated innovative business history and skills to the Australian market.

As part of these changes, beginning on July 1, 2012, the current 13 Business Skills visa subclasses are consolidated into the following three:

  • Business Talent (permanent) subclass 132
  • Business Innovation and Investment (provisional) subclass 188
  • Business Innovation and Investment (permanent) subclass 888

The reforms include the following key changes:

  • introducing an innovation points test for provisional visa applicants
  • integrating the new Business Innovation and Investment visas with the skilled migrant selection model, SkillSelect (discussed above)
  • facilitating entry of entrepreneurs that have sourced at least A$1milllion in venture capital funding in Australia from a member of the Australian Venture Capital Association Limited
  • increasing asset thresholds to better align with the Australian business community
The suite of business visa reforms are intended to better align Australia's immigration policy with countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Singapore, and New Zealand.

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