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Major changes to Australia's Skilled Migration Program

The contents of this article are correct as at 25 July 2011.

The Australian Government has decided on a number of major changes to the Skilled Migration Programme that will completely alter the way skilled migrants are admitted into Australia.

The changes, coming into force on 1 July 2012, will affect the following visas:

  • 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

What are the changes?

A Skilled Migrant Selection Register, SkillSelect, will be introduced to the Skilled Migration Programme. SkillSelect will be an electronic system, replacing the current application model (for abovementioned visas) and the Skill Matching Database. In preparation for this, the Skill Matching Database will be decommissioned and shut down on 1 July 2012. No new applicants have been added to this database after 30 June 2011.

The SkillSelect model will be based upon a two-stage process:

  1. A prospective applicant first submits a claim for skilled migration through an online expression of interest (EOI), and
  2. May subsequently be invited to apply for a visa. This means that a prospective applicant must receive an invitation to be able to lodge a valid visa application.

In addition to this process, the occupations on the Skilled Occupation List (SOL) will be regularly reviewed in order to limit how many people can be selected for independent migration from a particular occupation group. When the limit for an occupation group has been reached, there will be no further invitations for migration from that group for the remainder of the year. The reason for this is to avoid domination by a narrow range of occupations in the independent migration category.

Applicants who already have a sponsor

Applicants interested in employer sponsorship will not be required to submit an EOI if they already have a sponsor. Submitting an EOI will however allow employers to view prospective applicants’ details and contact them to discuss sponsorship (ENS, RSMS or Subclass 457) opportunities. It will also enable prospective migrants, who are sponsored on a temporary basis, to be invited for either independent skilled migration or state/territory sponsored migration (if eligible).

When an EOI will be required is summarised in the table below:

Independent or Family Sponsored

Subclass 457

Employer & Regional Employer Sponsored

State or territory Sponsored

Regional Sponsored (Provisional)

Yes – EOI compulsory

No – EOI optional

No – EOI optional

Yes – EOI compulsory

Yes – EOI compulsory

Other applicants – More about EOIs

Assessment of an EOI will be fully automatic and based solely on information provided in an online form, which means that documents are not required on submission. Since the EOI will be based upon facts as they stand at the time a prospective applicant express interest in migrating, he/she must still complete a skills assessment and have received an English Language Test Score before lodging the EOI.

The information in SkillSelect can be updated if circumstances change, e.g. if the prospective applicant acquires more work experience or achieves a better score on IELTS.

An EOI will remain in SkillSelect for two years (after submission). The EOI will however be removed from SkillSelect prior to this if a permanent or provisional visa has been granted.

The period of time an EOI will remain in SkillSelect is summarised in the table below:

Granted a 457 visa

Granted a permanent employer sponsored visa

Invited for a state or territory sponsored visa

Invited for an

Independent or family sponsored visa

Not invited

EOI will not be removed from the database until either:

a) The two year expiry period elapses


b) The prospective applicant is subsequently invited for and granted a permanent residence visa.

EOI will be removed from the database upon visa grant.

EOI will be removed from the database upon visa grant, even if granted a provisional (regional) visa.




EOI will be removed from the database upon visa grant.

EOI will be removed from the database two years after submission.

Prior to the expiry of the two year period, applicants will be able to renew their EOI.

It should be noted that an EOI is not considered to be a visa application. In consequence, a prospective applicant who has lodged an EOI will not be granted a bridging visa and a decision to not issue an invitation to the prospective applicant will not be appealable to the Migration Review Tribunal.

More about invitations

Invitations to apply for an independent/family sponsored visa will be issued by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), at regularly scheduled intervals, starting with people who have achieved the highest scores on the points test. This means that simply passing the threshold of 65 points may not be enough to obtain an invitation.

Furthermore, the SkillSelect system will make it difficult for prospective applicants to anticipate their chances of getting an invitation due to the fact that success will depend on a number of factors unknown to them, such as how many people have applied in the same occupation and their comparative age, qualifications and skilled work experience. It should also be noted that if several applications have the same amount of points, invitations will be issued in the order of date received by DIAC.

State/Territory governments will however be able to nominate prospective applicants at any time to apply for a sponsored or regional sponsored visa as part of a State/Territory Migration Plan. Nominated prospective applicants will then receive an invitation to apply for one of these visas at the same time as the selection round for independent migrants.

If a prospective applicant receives an invitation to apply for a visa, he/she must do so within two months (of issue of the invitation). It is important to note that since an invitation will be based on information provided in the EOI, an applicant may not be granted a visa if the details provided on the visa application are not consistent with those contained in the EOI; even if the applicant meets the threshold criteria.

Transitional arrangements

Transitional arrangements will apply to people who held or had applied for a Skilled – Graduate (subclass 485) visa on 8 February 2010. This group will, until the end of 2012, be eligible to apply for a permanent skilled visa under the previous system.

For more information about this ort any other migration related queries please click this link to contact Visa Lawyers Australia