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Australia cuts immigration target
On Monday 16th March 2009, Australia's immigration minister Christopher Evans announced changes to the permanent skilled migration programme in a bid "to protect local jobs.

Despite this change, employers can access skilled professionals in industries still experiencing skills shortages," writes registered migration agent John Adams.

The changes include a 14 per cent cut in the 2008-09 permanent skilled migration programme intake [from 133,500 to 115,000], and changes to the Critical Skills List (CSL).

The minister's announcement said that occupations removed from the Critical Skills List, with immediate affect, include bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers, welders, and metal fitters, and that the list will now comprise mainly health and medical, engineering and IT professions.
Almost all trade occupations have been removed except Gas Fitters, Aircraft Maintenance Engineers and Wall & Floor Tilers. "The Critical Skills List will remain under constant review and the Government will remove occupations from the list if demand for those skills can be satisfied by local labour," stated Evans. We can therefore expect the Critical Skills List to be under continual review and changes can be expected at any time, depending on current economic circumstances.
Processing implications:

As of now, only General Skilled Migration applications which are State/Territory sponsored, or which have nominated occupations on the new Critical Skills List will be processed. There will be no visa grants to other applicants until further notice, which is not likely to be before 1st July 2009, and may even be much longer.
Australia must obviously protect its own workforce and cannot be seen to be bringing in more unemployment. That being said, the reduction of 18,000 places in the skilled migration follows last year's increase of 30,000 places. Therefore there is a net gain in two years of 12,000 places. I do not see cause for panic. Skilled migration applications have been taking about nine to 18 months on average anyway to process. The purpose of the Critical Skills List was only regarding processing times. An announcement by the Minister early this year stated that skilled visa applications will be processed in the following order:
Employer sponsored
State sponsored
Critical Skills List (CSL)
Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL)

Australia seems to be taking an employer led approach to migration. In other words if there is a job offer the visa will be processed quickly. Alternatively, State sponsorship's are also a way of getting your application processed quicker. Everybody will now be rushing to obtain a state sponsorship and you will probably find that the state skills list will change according to supply and demand. Each State or Territory has a current list of occupations that they will sponsor for either a permanent Skilled State Sponsored Visa or a temporary Skilled Regional State Sponsored visa. These lists are likely to change regularly in future. Therefore you would be well advised to consult a Registered Migration Agent for advice before embarking on this route.
Conclusion:

The only aspect that this announcement has changed is processing times.

An important point is that there are going to be changes to the regulations at some time in the future. Amendments to the Skilled Occupations List (SOL) and Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) could change visa options dramatically. Therefore, whilst there is an opportunity to apply under existing regulations, one should do so as soon as possible. Once a valid visa application has been lodged, then the regulations are "frozen" as far as that application is concerned. Any changes to the regulations thereafter would not affect the validity of that visa application.

The fact that it might take a little longer to process is really not as critical as not being able to make a valid application for a visa.

John Adams is a registered migration agent for
Immigration2oz.com

Click here to read Immigration minister Christopher Evans's media release

16 March 2009

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