Despite its popularity amongst applicants, the General Skilled Migration program has been in decline for the last couple of years. Outside of applicants who can fill priority-list occupations. SkillSelect invitations for the Skilled Independent Visa (subclass 189) have dwindled to almost zero.
Understandably, people are curious about the future of this respected program. This is what we know about the current status and outlook for the General Skilled Migration Program which includes the Skilled Independent Visa (subclass 189), the State Nominated Visa (subclass 190), and the Regional Skilled Visa (subclass 491).
General Skilled Migration Program: Understanding the decline
Invitations for the 189 visa first decreased in 2019 when the government made adjustments to the points test, in which applicants must score highly to be considered for the program. Applicants are competing for invitations based on their points score, with minimum scores required to receive an invitation varying greatly depending on the occupation of the applicant.
Shortly after the points requirements tightened, COVID-19 became a global concern. The government had to make rapid adjustments to preserve Australian jobs and prioritise public health and safety. With those issues in mind, the government began more targeted invitation rounds in May 2020.
Only months later, in October, Federal Budget allocations showed the government had shifted its focus to employer-sponsored visas, global talent visas, and regional skilled visas, which require migrants to live and work in regional areas.
Getting an invitation for a Skilled Independent Visa may still be possible – but there’s a significant amount of uncertainty. Only specific occupations on the skilled occupation list are being considered, and the invitations can take many months to obtain because of the high level of interest for a small number of places.
If you’re in the process of applying for this visa or are interested in the program, it’s wise to consider some alternative routes.
How to find out where your skills are needed
Even though the General Skilled Migration Program is in decline, that doesn’t mean Australia has no need for skilled migrants. What we’re seeing now is that applicants have a better chance of securing a visa by focusing on state or territory needs and opportunities.
Every state’s economy and labour market is different, and each part of the country needs professionals with different skills. Additionally, with remote work becoming the norm due to COVID-19, it’s easier for employees to settle in different regions without sacrificing work opportunities.
To qualify for a state nominated or regional visa, applicants need to show a commitment to living and working in their state or territory of interest. A job offer in the region, or living in the region for a period of time, are just some examples of what the government may look for in a promising applicant.
Up-to-date immigration data and information about state and territory workforce needs are widely available online. Additionally, TMA can review your qualifications and skills against current State and Territory skilled migration program criteria to help you determine where you might have the most success in getting a visa and starting the path to permanent residency.
Current in-demand skills and occupations
Needs vary by region, but overall, we’re seeing a high demand for skills that can help with Australia’s COVID-19 management and recovery efforts. Skills that support Australia’s economic recovery during the crisis are in demand, too.
The most recent invitation data from SkillSelect dated November 2020 shows that invitations were issued to nurses, medical practitioners, allied health workers, and social workers. There was also a high demand for IT, engineering, and construction professionals.
On the state front, a couple of examples help illustrate what regional governments need right now.
- QUEENSLAND: In Queensland, we know the state government has reopened its 491 and 190 programs. In particular, the 491 program is seeking small business owners who create jobs in areas impacted by COVID.
- NEW SOUTH WALES: In New South Wales, officials are continuing to focus on Skilled Migration program applicants with health, IT, and engineering skills.
- WESTERN AUSTRALIA: The state of Western Australia recently revealed that 349 invitations were issued for 490 and 190 programs as of January 15, 2021 with a focus on higher education graduates.
- ACT: The territory has released a new ACT Critical Skills List, which will be updated every four months to ensure their program is responding to the evolving critical skills needs of the ACT economy.
- VICTORIA: Victoria is only inviting highly skilled people currently working in health or medical research, or who have a track record commercialising innovative ideas and bringing them to market.
If you’ve been waiting for a General Skilled Migration invitation, it’s time to check the latest data and to discover regional areas where your skills are in high demand.
You can review the Long Term Skills Shortage list along with state/territory migration lists for further insight. If you need help with strategising or lodging a strong application, please contact TMA today for assistance.