In July of 2012 the Australian Government implemented unprecedented changes to its General Skilled Migration (GSM) Program. However, before discussing those changes, it is important to understand the nature of the GSM Program itself.
Australia was one of the first countries to create a visa program which grants permanent residence to an applicant simply because the applicant holds a certain level of professional skills. Previously, applicants needed to obtain a job offer from their Australian employer, and that employer would then need to submit a visa application on behalf of the applicant (this is how most of the world accepts new workers into its economy). However, Australia realized that this requirement to locate an employer and complete the visa process through the employer did not sufficiently meet the country’s economic needs. That is, despite the option for employers to hire foreign workers, there remained constant and significant shortages of labor in certain industries. Consequently, Australia decided it was best for the national economy to implement a visa program which allows applicants live in Australia simply because they hold a certain skill level and Australia acknowledges that such skills are highly required in Australia. This skills-based program became known as the GSM Program.
However, initially the GSM Program did not fill Australia’s labor shortages as expected. At first, this seemed strange because the GSM Program was designed exactly so that the labor shortages would be resolved. Upon further review and analysis, however, it was seen that the way the Program was implemented not only caused significant delays in processing, but also the most skilled applicant was often overlooked for a less skilled applicant. As a result, by the time the GSM applicant received an approval for the visa, there was a good chance that the labor shortage was no longer relevant, and even if it was still relevant the shortage was filled by a less qualified applicant. It is exactly for these reasons that the GSM Program was changed in July of 2012.
Under this new version of the GSM Program, the Australian Government implemented what is now known as SkillSelect, which is an electronic platform where “Expressions of Interest” are now submitted by GSM applicants prior to their final application for a visa. This “Expression of Interest,” or EOI, is basically a statement from the applicant made directly to the Australian Government that he or she wants to obtain a GSM visa. The EOI also includes a summary of the applicant’s skills and relevant experience and training, along with an indication of which specific GSM subclass visa(s) the applicant is interested to obtain. Once the EOI is received, the Australian Government pools the applicant with any other applicants who desire the same GSM visa(s). By pooling the applicants in this new SkillSelect system, the Australian Government is able to select the very best applicants from the pool (as opposed to just reviewing each application on a first-come, first-serve basis). Consequently, this new program ensures that the very best applicants are being selected for the GSM visas.
In regards to the processing times, once the Australian Government selects an applicant from the EOI pool, that applicant receives an official “invitation to apply” for a certain GSM visa (the applicant cannot apply for the visa unless an official “invitation” is received). From the time the applicant receives this “invitation,” the applicant only has 60 days to submit the final application. Therefore, the final decision is made by the Australian Government much closer to the time that it was determined that the economic shortage still exists. As a result, at the time the visa is issued it is more likely that Australia’s economy still requires those skills.
Due to these changes to the GSM Program, it appears likely that Australia’s economy will become stronger, which is the main goal of the GSM Program itself. This new Australian model for skills-based visas takes advantage of new technology which did not exist previously, and it is very possible that Australia is going to be a pioneer in this new method to attract the best minds of the world to its country.
However, despite these changes, the GSM process remains very complicated and arduous for applicants. For example, applicants not only must complete this new EOI and then submit a full visa application to the Australian Government, but prior to even submitting the EOI applicants must receive approval from the appropriate assessing authority (which proves the applicant truly works in his nominated occupation) and also obtain high scores on the IELTS English exam.
It is never easy to solve a country’s economic needs, but this new visa program truly has the potential to create opportunities for both Australia itself and the new immigrants that wish to work there.
All said and explained in this article does not constitute a legal opinion and does not replace legal advice. Responsibility for using the wordings and opinions conveyed in this article relies solely and entirely on the reader.
This article was written by Dotan Cohen Law Offices, working in the field of immigration law in the United States, Canada, Australia and England.