Some of our General Skilled Migration specialists got together today to speak about State and Territory Nomination programs and the drastic cut of places allocated by the Federal Government. Here is what they talked about.

A transcript article of their discussions:

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to our first podcast of the year. Today’s topic will focus on the 2023-2024 state and territory nomination allocations for the 491 and 190 visa options. Joining us are Mark, our CEO and Migration Solutions specialist, Claudia, and Shashe. I’m Nam, a senior migration agent with over 17 years of experience, mainly in general skilled migration and employer-sponsored programs. Before we dive into our discussion, let’s have each of you introduce yourselves briefly. Mark, would you like to start?

Certainly, thanks, Nam. I’m Mark Glazbrook. I’ve been working in the migration industry for about 25 years. I founded Migration Solutions around 23 years ago and became a registered migration agent almost 23 years ago.

I’m Shashe, leading the GSM team (General Skilled Migration). We assist applicants applying for general skilled migration visas, student visas, and graduate visas.

And I’m Claudia. I’ve been a migration agent at Migration Solutions for five years now. I’m part of the general skilled (GSM) and family visa team, assisting Shashe with the visa applications she mentioned.

Thank you all for the introductions. As we’ve alluded to and as most people are aware, the federal government has announced a significant reduction in state-sponsored general skilled migration applications affecting the 190 and 491 visa programs. This reduction also extends to the 188 stream, including the entrepreneurial visa. While we won’t discuss the 188 program today, our focus is on the Skilled Migration program and its implications.

Indeed, there’s a 75% reduction in state nomination applications, which doesn’t mean the programs are closed entirely, but it does mean fewer opportunities for 491 and 190 visa nominations. Despite this reduction, there are still avenues for successful application. It’s crucial to understand the eligibility criteria and submit a strong application demonstrating why you should be nominated.

To put it in perspective, last year South Australia’s final allocation was around 8800, while this year it’s just over 2300. This constitutes a significant 73.8% reduction. This change was announced by the federal government on August 24th, which came as a surprise. We were hoping for the program to continue at the same capacity as last year, but this change was unexpected. If we compare this figure to pre-COVID times, like around 3750 for the 2017-2018 year, it’s still a substantial reduction.

Absolutely, the current allocation is significantly lower even when compared to figures from five to six years ago. This shows a significant shift in the program’s availability and underscores the importance of understanding and navigating the new landscape.

The recent changes are quite significant, and what I find particularly interesting, though also frustrating for many, is how these alterations impact those going through the migration process. Many individuals have made decisions to move to South Australia, study there, or relocate to outer regional areas to meet the state’s nomination criteria. Some have even submitted applications with the South Australian government already. It’s uncertain if they will be eligible now. Some have left city jobs to meet eligibility criteria for outer regional SA, creating substantial implications and impacts on numerous people for various reasons. This change raises questions about the state government’s future program operations and Australia’s reputation as an international education destination. On one hand, the government talks about easing student visa requirements to attract international students and encourage permanent residency applications. On the other hand, they’re reducing opportunities for international graduates.

It’s indeed a complex situation. The guidelines for this year’s state nominations haven’t been released yet, and there’s also the matter of their backlog of pre-financial year applications to address. It’s uncertain how they’ll handle these cases—whether they’ll be assessed under the previous guidelines or if changes will invalidate these applications. The fact that they are addressing backlogs and issuing some invitations, particularly in critical sectors like health and allied health, shows potential shifts in priorities.

While it might seem like the South Australian government is responsible, it’s crucial to note that the decision to cut the program wasn’t theirs; it was the federal government’s choice. The South Australian government is actively trying to attract skilled migrants to address skill shortages and offer residency opportunities. This disappointment isn’t exclusive to South Australia; most state and territory governments have expressed their discontent with the lower allocation.

This situation poses significant challenges for many, particularly international students and 485 visa holders. Many pathways to residency have been impacted. While it might seem bleak, there are alternative options like extending a 485 visa or exploring a 408 Pandemic visa. Going back to a student visa might not be as feasible due to student visa reforms. We’ll delve into the student visa reforms in another discussion, likely next week.

Navigating the current changes certainly presents challenges. What’s even more challenging is the lack of clarity due to the absence of new guidelines from the South Australian government. It’s difficult to advise people on their eligibility when the specifics are unknown at this point. However, based on figures and trends, we can attempt to make predictions about the new program’s potential structure. Given the limited places available, it’s likely that the government will need to introduce mechanisms to filter and narrow down candidates, choosing the most skilled and promising individuals.

In terms of what the new program might look like, the recent changes compel me to consider the Department of Home Affairs’ backlog of visa applications and its influence on processing priorities. Historical instances have shown that overwhelming backlogs led to the termination of certain visa programs. Avoiding a repeat of such a scenario is crucial. Across various visa categories, Australia faces a challenge where more applications are accepted annually than there are available visa grants. The government’s commitment to reduce processing times and backlogs adds to the complexity.

If, for instance, the government accepts 300,000 permanent residency visa applications for the current year but can only grant 190,000 visas, the backlog will inevitably grow. Managing this backlog might involve measures like reducing the number of visa options. This reduction, as seen in the skilled migration program, is aimed at trimming the applications in the department’s pipeline and subsequently alleviating the backlog.

This approach might lead to a scenario where the government grants a certain number of visas, lodges a lower number of applications, and potentially issues refusals to balance the program’s numbers. As I had predicted and shared in a LinkedIn post before these changes were announced, this has indeed transpired. The implications for the state government in implementing their migration program are intriguing. This prompts speculation that the state government might introduce an expression of interest or registration of interest program, possibly inviting South Australian nominations every three months or quarterly. This approach would allow for a more comprehensive assessment, ensuring the state nominates individuals who bring the most substantial long-term economic benefit to South Australia’s workforce and economy.

However, the challenge will be to avoid a situation where a significant number of visas are issued within the first few months, leaving highly skilled applicants with limited opportunities. Adapting state nomination programs and eligibility criteria will be necessary to ensure the best outcomes for the economy while addressing the reduced number of available spots.

Certainly, it’s intriguing to speculate about the government’s potential approach. Shashe, do you have any thoughts on how the government might structure their program in response to these changes? It’s likely to become highly competitive. One possibility is that they’ll opt for a registration of interest system. Applicants would need to express their interest and the state government would select the best candidates, focusing on highly skilled and talented individuals, or even high-performing graduates, possibly limited to the 491 visa category. Unfortunately, this might not include the 190 visa, which seems unjust for applicants in regional areas like ours. Our graduates are indeed highly skilled and many are on the path to becoming nurses, crucial for addressing our aging population’s needs. It’s going to be challenging, but applicants must do their best, perhaps focusing on English proficiency and aiming for higher points, potentially around 80 points, up from the current 65.65 points requirement for general skilled migration.

The state government could also consider reintroducing previous requirements, such as focusing on SA graduates or individuals who have lived and worked in SA for a specified time. The program might become more streamlined, targeting high-performing graduates and priority sectors like health, defence, and possibly infrastructure. This might echo the competitiveness seen in Victoria’s state nomination process or even surpass it.

Looking at our own region, like the construction and housing sector, it’s clear that South Australia has its skill shortage challenges. If we can’t attract construction workers through visas due to immigration restrictions, the shortage will worsen, impacting housing, healthcare, education, and more. It’s vital that the migration program aligns with the country’s actual needs.

Absolutely, it’s a catch-22 situation. We need skilled individuals, but if the pathways are restricted, the skill shortage persists. It remains to be seen how this complex challenge will be addressed. To summarize, potential changes may involve a focus on ROI, high skill levels, points ranking, employment status, and even the duration of residence in SA to show commitment to the state. This helps ensure that candidates aren’t just here for the visa, but genuinely invested in contributing to the community.

Looking at Migration Solutions, as we approach our 23rd anniversary, with decades of collective experience, we’ve seen and overcome various challenges. With these changes reducing sponsorship opportunities, expert representation and assistance are more crucial than ever. Our combined experience of over 40 to 50 years equips us to guide applicants through the process and maximize their chances of success.

Securing a nomination might come down to a single opportunity, so it’s crucial to ensure you’re well-prepared. Appointing a skilled and experienced team with collective knowledge can greatly enhance your chances of success. However, until the eligibility criteria are revealed, there’s limited advice we can provide at this moment. Shashi and Claudia have been actively assisting applicants with skill assessments and gathering necessary evidence during this waiting period. Preparing supporting documents, ensuring valid English proficiency, and having a current skills assessment are key steps to consider. Moreover, if English proficiency needs improvement, investing in that area can be advantageous, especially if points become a critical factor.

Engaging your employer becomes pivotal. A robust support letter that highlights not only your duties but the value you bring to the organization is essential. Employer endorsement can play a significant role in the nomination process, particularly in critical sectors. It’s also wise to explore your spouse’s potential contributions in terms of points, especially if they work in a critical sector too. Encouraging them to take an English test can further boost your points tally.

As for the state eligibility criteria, it’s unlikely to remain as lenient as before, especially regarding outer regional areas where even non-skilled occupations were considered. Given the significant increase in allocations last year to 8800, a level that hadn’t been seen in a decade, the criteria will likely tighten. Expectations for more rigorous assessments and stricter requirements are reasonable, considering the trend over the past 10 years, where the average allocation was around 4000-5000.

While we await the formal announcement of the eligibility criteria, we anticipate higher competition and a need for more comprehensive strategies to enhance your chances of success.

Certainly, when looking at offshore applications, there’s going to be a cut as well. Unless you have considerable work experience or high talent, along with a job lined up in Australia, it might be quite challenging. This situation could lead to an increase in demand-driven employer-sponsored visas, particularly for roles not classified as critical sector jobs. For instance, an employer in a regional area might seek chefs, cooks, or mechanics. With the system reverting to demand-driven, exploring such opportunities might be wise. Another anticipated effect is a rise in partner visa applications, but that’s a topic for another day.

As we’re nearing the end of our allocated time, one of the topics we’d like to delve into in the upcoming weeks is the 2022-2023 migration program report. It’s intriguing to see how the changes and reforms underway align with the number of lodged, yet unprocessed visa applications. Often, people solely focus on visa outcomes without considering visa lodgements, which presents a nuanced perspective. This approach would let us analyse student visa programs, especially discussions around course adjustments and the potential removal of the Genuine Temporary Entrant requirement. Importantly, the extensive migration reform anticipated to be announced in early 2024 will significantly shape the landscape.

To encapsulate today’s discussion, we’ve delved into this year’s ceiling, potential factors leading to fewer available spots, and practical strategies for individuals, applicants, and employers. Given the dynamic nature of immigration rules and regulations, it’s vital to stay updated and adapt your strategies to maximize your chances of securing permanent residency. In this complex journey, obtaining advice from experienced migration agents is essential, as it’s not expected to be a quick or straightforward process.

Thank you all for joining us. Keep an eye out for our upcoming podcasts, which might delve into the migration report and changes to student visas. If you have any questions or feedback, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Until next time, thank you and goodbye!



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