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Thursday, March 20, 2008

A-Z of Offshore Migration

In my previous posts, I have mainly discussed onshore migration visas. You can find related posts for onshore migration here, here and here.

Just to recap once again, following are the different categories for offshore migration visas.

Offshore immigration. If you are outside Australia

Skilled – Independent (Migrant) visa (subclass 175)
A permanent visa for people with skills in demand in the Australian labour market. Applicants are not sponsored and must pass a points test.

Skilled – Sponsored (Migrant) visa (subclass 176)
A permanent visa for people unable to meet the Skilled – Independent pass mark. Applicants must be either sponsored by an eligible relative living in Australia or nominated by a participating State or Territory government. Applicants must pass a points test lower than that for the Skilled – Independent visa.

Skilled – Regional Sponsored (Provisional) visa (subclass 475)
A three (3) year provisional visa for people who can meet the lower pass mark for this visa. Applicants must be either sponsored by an eligible relative living in a designated area of Australia or nominated by a participating state/territory government. After living for two (2) years and working for at least one (1) year in a Specified Regional Area, applicants can apply for a permanent visa.

Skilled – Recognised Graduate (Temporary) visa (subclass 476)

An 18 month temporary visa for graduates of recognised overseas educational institutions who have skills in demand in Australia. There is no points test for this visa.

There are some other offshore migration visa options but all of them come with strings attached. Which means there are conditions attached to them.

Obviously, every one would be interested in the visa subclass 175 which doesnt place any restrictions of any sort. You can live and work any where in Australia. The rest of the visas have their conditions like living in a particular area etc.

How to Apply for offshore migration

Step 1.

The first step in applying for an offshore migration visa subclass 175 is to chose a profession which is listed on the Skilled Occupation List, SOL, or the Most on Demand List, MODL.

If your profession is not listed on the SOL/MODL then you cannot apply for skilled migration. There might be other ways but this post only deals with skilled migration.

Also, you must satsify some basic criterias for being able to apply for offshore skilled migration. For example, you should be under 45 years of age AND you must have post-secondary (such as university or trade) qualifications (in a small number of occupations substantial relevant work experience may be acceptable) and your skills must have been assessed by the relevant Australian assessing authority as suitable for your nominated occupation.

Check what the is current pass mark for your visa sub class 175. And see that provided you get a positive skills

Step 2.

The second step is to make sure that you have, in the past 24 months before you lodge the application, at least have 12 months of experience in the profession you have selected on the SOL/MODL.

Please note that this is only the immigration departments work experience requirement. You might need more work experience depending upon who your assessing body is.

For example for IT professionals the work experience requirement set by the Australian Computer Society, ACS, is 4 years, whereas the work experience requirement set by Engineers Australia for engineers is zero years. Yes, engineers Australia require an engineer to write a competency demonstration report. If you write a good report perfectly, you get a positive skills assessment. If you write an unsatisfactory report, you get a negative skills assessment. So basically you can get yourself assessed from engineers Australia right after your undergrad degree and then work for one year and then apply for immigration.

In order to get a positive skills assessment from ACS, an IT professional must have 4 years of work experience. If you do not have 4 years of work experience, ACS will not give you a positive skills assessment. Which means the Immigration department will not be able to consider you for immigration as the ACS doesn't consider you a qualified IT professional.

Step 3

Get yourself assessed by your assessing body. The name of each assessing body is listed next to the profession on the SOL/MODL.

Different assessing bodies have different criterias for giving overseas applicants a positive skills assessment.

For example, an IT professional, must have studied in a degree which has 75% of core computer science subjects AND also have 4 years of paid professional experience in the IT industry.

For engineers, the Australian Engineering council requires writing of a Competency demonstration report, CDR, by the candidate as well as 3 years of professional experience.

Most assessing bodies consider undergraduate degrees PLUS work experience as the criteria for giving a positive skills assessment to a candidate.

The process of getting a positive skills assessment takes any where between 8 to 12 weeks.

Step 4

Appear in the IELTS exam. You must be at least at the "competent" level in the IELTS exam to be eligible to apply for occupations other than trade occupations. You should have a high enough level of English that would enable you to score at least a "6" on all four components of the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) examination. However, if your nominated occupations is a trade occupation, a score of "5" (vocational) will suffice.

From Sept 1, 2007, any one getting 7 and above in all bands of IELTS is awarded bonus points and an applicant can gain 25 points if he/she scores 7 or above in all bands of IELTS in either academic or general version of the test.

Step 5

After having acheived a positive skills assessment and a score in IELTS exam, you should lodge an application with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, DIAC.

While applying online, you will realize how many points you are scoring. It is better to calculate your points beforehand using the points calculator which you can access at the following link.

Points calculator

If you are falling short of points, it would be advisable to contact a lawyer.

It is better to lodge the application online as that speeds up the process.

The online process is pretty straight forward. Once the application is lodged online, you might be asked to send original documents by post.

The process takes between 10 to 16 months.

Bonus Points

You can gain bonus points for getting 7 and above in all bands of IELTS, for having a spouse whose profession is also on the SOL/MODL. Note that to claim points for spouse skills, the spouse will also have to proove his/her skills by getting a positive skills assessment from the relevant assessing body.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The hurdle of IELTS

One of the processes to gain permanent residency is to gain a certain score in the International English Language Testing System, IELTS exams.

As per the legislative changes introduced in the points system from the 1st of September, 2007, if you gain 7 or more then 7 in ALL modules of IELTS, then, you score 25 points.

When I first appeared in the IELTS test in Sept, 2004 in Pakistan, I scored more then 7 in all modules of IELTS in the academic version of the test.

While applying for residency in 2007, I was very much confident that I would score more then 7 in all modules of IELTS on the first go, however, to my surprise, I was unable to score 7 in all modules and was constantly getting 6.5 in the reading module.

Finally on the third attempt, I achieved above 7 band in all modules of IELTS and got through the exam. I actually got 8.5 in listening, 9 in reading, 9 in speaking and 8 in writing.

Word of Advice

Do not take the IELTS exam lightly, even if you are really confident of your English language skills. It can become a real big hurdle. For those who have a weakness in a particular area of the English language should prepare well before the exam.

IELTS can become a real pain in the neck without any reason.

Do not take it lightly and be well prepared for it.

Practice Material:

I have been receiving a lot of queries from people asking for help in the IELTS examination.

I am putting up some material which you can download by clicking on the following links.

Simply download all files and then unzip them all in the same directory.

Please note that all files are required to unzip the archive. You have to use the winrar application to be able to open the archive.

Best of luck.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Choosing a migration lawyer

I have been receiving a very high volume of emails requesting help regarding visa migration to Australia.

Certain people have also offered to pay me for my services. I want to inform all my readers that I am not a registered migration agent and the advice I provide on this blog is free of charge. This doesn't mean that what I am telling you is wrong. The fact that I am not a registered migration agent/lawyer means that I cannot charge you for providing legal services or any advice on this blog.


There are lots of scams going on in the market where unregistered, non-professional people posing as lawyers rip off people by charging them high legal fees. There is a strict penalty for such crimes and the person involved can face criminal charges.

How to chose a migration lawyer/agent?

The first step you should take in choosing your lawyer agent is to confirm whether he/she is registered with the Migration Agents Registration Authority, MARA.

Please note that migration agents outside Australia are not required by Australian law to be certified from MARA. However, any one providing migration services, inside Australia is required by law to be a certified MARA migration agent. So its up to you to chose a MARA qualified migration agent or to chose a non-qualified MARA agent.

All registered MARA migration agents have a registration number. If you want to hire a lawyer, agent, You should ask for your lawyers/agents MARA registration number. You should ask for your lawyers/agents MARA registration number.

The authenticity of that registration number can be confirmed by checking it from the online database provided on the website of MARA.

Your agent/lawyer/consultant of the firm should be a registered Migration Agent under Australian Government Legislation. This legislation requires Registered Migration Agents to demonstrate that they are of good character and demonstrate competence in Australia's immigration law. Registered Agents must operate in accordance with a detailed Code of Conduct. You can also have a look at the Information on the Regulation Migration Advice Professional (IRMAP)

What are the benefits of hiring a MARA registered lawyer?

The greatest benefit a customer has while hiring a MARA registered lawyer/agent is that you can legally sue your lawyer/agent by lodging a complaint with MARA. If you do not hire a registered migration agent, you will not be able to legally sue him in Australia. It doesn't matter whether you yourself live in India or Brazil. Sending an email complaining against your agent/lawyer would be enough.

There are many other benefits such as knowledge and skills of a registered lawyer and his experience in handling cases etc.

I myself made a mistake and hired a non registered MARA lawyer and got myself into trouble. So instead of trying to save money and then getting yourself into trouble, it is advisable to pay a little extra and hire a professionally qualified lawyer who can get things done quickly and in a proper way.

Eligibility for registration

To be eligible to register with the MARA, you must be over 18 years of age and be either:

  • an Australian citizen
  • the holder of an Australian permanent visa
  • a New Zealand citizen holding a special category visa.

In considering registration applications, the MARA must be satisfied that an applicant:

  • is a fit and proper person to provide immigration assistance (an AFP National Police Check is required)
  • has demonstrated competence in the English language
  • has completed a Graduate Certificate in Australian Migration Law and Practice or holds a current legal practicing certificate
  • holds professional indemnity insurance.

The MARA website contains forms and guidance about the requirements for becoming a registered migration agent.