Politics Analysis

Government issues biggest round of Skilled Independent visas in years

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Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (Image by Dan Jensen)

The Labor Government has issued its largest number of Skilled Independent visas in years as well as lowering the criteria for applicants. Dr Abul Rizvi reports.

AS I WROTE back in July, it was inevitable the Government would significantly increase the Skilled Independent visa category (Subclass 189) in 2022-23.

The Government has now locked that in by issuing 12,200 invitations for Skilled Independent Visas and another 466 for the Regional Family Sponsored Skilled visa on 22 August 2022. These invitations relate to Expressions of Interest (EOIs) lodged on or before 8 August 2022.

This invitation round for Skilled Independent visas was by far the biggest in years (see Chart 1) and reflects a change in program management strategy whereby the Government is seeking to grant visas as soon as possible in 2022 rather than spread these through the 2022-23 program year.

(Source: DHA)

These invitations are to primary visa applicants. Adding secondary applicants (dependent family members) will see the total number of Skilled Independent visas for this category at over 16,000.

It is likely there may be no more invitation rounds in 2022-23. If there are, these will be very small as the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) will be relying on state/territory governments to nominate from EOIs lodged after 8 August 2022.

In contrast to recent invitation rounds where the minimum pass mark was around 85 to 90, the pass mark for the 22 August 2022 round was set at the minimum currently possible of 65. This means slightly older applicants, those with lesser English skills and fewer years of skilled work experience will receive visas.

The 22 August 2022 invitation round significantly focused on EOIs lodged by people offshore. For example, 52 out of 115 occupations that received an invitation were solely to people offshore.

The offshore invitees will begin to arrive from early 2023, hopefully into a strong labour market enabling them to secure suitable jobs. If they do not, or if the labour market weakens, they will have to rely on their own savings as they face a four-year wait for access to social support.

The offshore only invitations were dominated by technical and trades occupations such as bricklayer; cabinetmaker; carpenter; carpenter and joiner; chef; civil engineering technician; construction project manager; drainer; electrician; fitter; gas fitter; lift mechanic; metal fabricator; motor mechanic; painting trades worker; panel beater; plumber; radio communications technician; solid plasterer; telecommunications technologist; wall and floor tiler; and welder.

This essentially reflects the difficulties overseas students who undertake such courses have in finding a pathway to skills recognition. To the extent there are onshore EOIs from people with these occupations, DHA appears to be planning for these people to be nominated by state/territory governments based on relevant local employment.

The lack of sensible pathways for the relatively few overseas students who undertake trades and technical occupations is an area of reform the Government should examine given the shortages in these areas that Australia is likely to encounter as more baby boomer “tradies” retire.

A stronger role for TAFE in this area, to ensure delivery of high-quality courses while limiting entry of unscrupulous private VET colleges, would have merit. This may require changes to migration regulation requirements associated with minimum hours of course delivery.

Of the occupations that received invitations, 48 out of 115 went to both onshore and offshore EOIs. These occupations were predominantly in the health or education industries.

The health industry occupations where both onshore and offshore EOIs were invited included audiologist; chiropractor; clinical psychologist; radiologist; emergency medicine specialist; general practitioner; intensive care specialist; radiographer; oncologist; radiation therapist; midwife; neurosurgeon; nuclear medical technologist; obstetrician; occupational therapist; optometrist; orthotist; osteopath; paediatrician; physiotherapist; plastic surgeon; podiatrist; psychiatrist; registered nurse (various types); social worker; sonographer; specialist physician; speech pathologist; veterinarian; and zoologist.

There was also a range of other medical specialisations where only onshore EOIs were invited. These are likely to relate to people who have had their medical qualifications recognised after upgrading these following arrival.

The education industry occupations where both onshore and offshore EOIs were invited included early childhood teacher; educational psychologist; secondary school teacher; special education teacher; special needs teacher; tennis coach; and university lecturer.

Two types of occupations were prominent in their absence. These were occupations in the ICT industry as well as occupations in accounting and finance. It is likely DHA will be relying on state/territory governments nominating EOIs in these occupations, noting that there is a much larger allocation of places for state/territory nominations than for the Skilled Independent category.

To end August 2022, most state/territory governments were slow off the mark in making nominations. For example, NSW had only nominated 30 EOIs for direct permanent residence and less than 20 for provisional residence. WA had nominated no EOIs for permanent residence and less than 20 for provisional residence.

By contrast, the A.C.T., which has a much smaller allocation, had nominated 124 EOIs for permanent residence and another 228 for provisional residence. Tasmania had nominated 219 for permanent residence and 245 for provisional residence. Victoria had nominated 379 for permanent residence but less than 20 for provisional residence.

All state/territory governments will significantly accelerate nominations over the next few months.

Dr Abul Rizvi is an Independent Australia columnist and a former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Immigration. You can follow Abul on Twitter @RizviAbul.

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