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Skills assessment for the IT specialists

Skills assessment for the IT industry is mainly done by the Australian Computer Society. All occupations assessed by the ACS are worth 60 points. There is a fairly extensive MODL list, granting additional 15 or 20 points, which is only applicable to those applicants who applied at the time MODL existed. The MODL is no longer applicaple. The ACS requires a minimum working period of two years in certain situations and up to eight years in other cases. It is also important how they assess your educational qualifications to be related to the nature of your work. These factors will determine which assessment category you fall under. Below is a collection of personal experience and common knowledge.

IT Occupations assessed by the ACS under schedule 3 of the SOL:
261111 ICT business analyst
261112 Systems analyst
261311 Analyst programmer
261312 Developer programmer
261313 Software engineer

Under schedule 4 of the SOL
135111 Chief Information Officer
261314 Software Tester
261399 Software and Applications Programmers nec
262111 Database Administrator
262112 ICT Security Specialist
262113 Systems Administrator
263111 Computer Network and Systems Engineer
263112 Network Administrator
263113 Network Analyst
263213 ICT Systems Test Engineer

There is a link to the assessment guidelines with more detailed description of positions that fall into each of those categories at the end of this article.

Computer Support Technicians aka Hardware Technician aka ICT Customer Support Officer

This occupation is not assessed by ACS. Although it's a skilled occupation, it attracts only 40 points under schedule 4 of the SOL and is assessed by Trade Recognition Australia (TRA).

Alternatives to ACS assessment

There are some alternatives to an ACS assessment.

  • If your background is in engineering, an assessment from Engineers Australia (as an engineer or engineering technologist) may be possible.
  • If you were previously trained in another 60 point occupation, such as accounting or teaching, you could get assessed in that occupation instead.
  • If a 50 point occupation is enough, and you have a degree equivalent to an Australian bachelors degree, you could get assessed by Vetassess as a Management Consultant or a Business Information Professional not elsewhere classified.

If you have skill assessment in another 50 or 60 point occupation, then DIAC will not normally ask you to get ACS assessed as long as they can see that your IT experience is at a "skilled" level. However, it may be harder to get 10 points for work experience this way, and MODL points will probably not be available.

Assessment Groups

Based on the educational qualifications and the work references sent, you will be assessed under any of the following groups.

Group A: An IT-major Bachelor Degree or Graduate Diploma or higher, plus 2 years of work experience if your IT major is found to be highly relevant* to your work, else 4 years if your IT major is not relevant to the nominated occupation.
Group B: an IT-minor Degree or IT-major Diploma, plus 5 years of work experience where the ICT subjects must be assessed as highly relevant to the nominated occupation, else 6 years if the ICT subjects are not assessed as highly relevant. Having a bachelor degree (or higher) in another discipline is also accepted with 6 years work experience. Non-IT education or no formal qualifications is also accepted, with 8 years of work experience. In this case, Recognition of Prior Learning is necessary. Some vendor certifications, such as MCSE, are accepted by ACS as equivalent to an Australian diploma in IT.
Group C: recent graduates of Australian University, majoring in IT, exempt from work experience if applying for skills assessment within 6 months from graduation
Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL):

  • For a degree to be found highly relevant, 65% of the minimum requirement for the major must be in the same ICT disciplinary area as that occupation nominated. Further details on the amount of ICT content to be assessed as a major, minor, sub major, sub minor, sergent and captain are available in the PASA document

"Degree" and "Diploma" must be rated as equivalent to Australian standards.

The education background will be assessed against the country educational profiles, maintained by the NOOSR. Bad news is – ACS does not offer pre-assessment advice, neither on the educational background, nor on the suitability of your work experience, so be sure to have everything in check before you dive in – the application fee is not refundable.

Equivalent vendor certifications: ACS considers the following list of vendor certificates to be meeting Group B requirements:
Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, Microsoft Certified Solution Developer, Certified Lotus Professional or Certified Novell Engineer (from 1997)
Certified Directory Engineer from Novell, Master Certified Novell Engineer, Certified Novell Instructor, CITEC Certified Engineer or Oracle Certified Master (from 2004)
Microsoft Certified Professional Developer or Microsoft Certified IT Professional (from 2007)
Certified Information Systems Auditor or Certified Information Security Manager from Information Systems Audit and Control Association (from 14 June 2007)
Certified Information Systems Security Professional from International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (from May 2008)
Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (from August 2009)

Work experience requirements

Work experience considered by the ACS must meet all of the following: be full-time, paid for, relevant to IT, and post-graduate. “Full-time” is defined as 38 hours per week, so if the employment was part time (20 hours per week or more), it will be pro-rated to the full-time equivalents. If the job description shows that part of the job was not relevant to IT, or not requiring sufficient level of expertise (such as hauling boxes with computer equipment), then the work experience will be deemed “part relevant” and pro-rated. After all this, all that matters, is that you have requisite number of years or not. Note, that work experience prior to graduation may not be considered to be at “professional level” and as such, could be reduced, or even ignored. Same applies to working while studying, so these situations require careful consideration.

It is also important that the duties mentioned in the work reference letter, match to a decent degree, the occupation nominated against assessment. For example, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the job description mentioned under 261313 (Software Engineer) is quite different from the standard designation of 'Software Engineer' used by most IT companies. It is important to understand the duties expected for the nominations mentioned above and decide which one is best suitable depending on the nature of your work. It is not important for your designation to match the nominated occupation, rather their tasks should match.

Proof of work experience must be provided to the ACS as a basis for your claims, and is arguably the most important part of the application. The job reference letters should ideally be on the company letterhead, signed by someone with authority, with good knowledge of your position – e.g. direct manager is the most solid referee. HR personnel are also accepted where direct managers may not be free to make statements on company letterheads. The descriptions of your duties have to be quite detailed, to show exactly what you did, what technology you have worked with and for how long. Some companies do not provide official statements of the job description, in which case those could be substituted by peer references. It is very important to be descriptive about what you did on the job, because vague statements could lead to making this job either part-relevant or, worst case, not count at all.

It is commonly agreed that the dates of employment should be specific to the date, not just month/year. The latter could be a cause for deduction of a month – and overall could make you fall short of the years needed.

Obviously, the references must be verifiable – the contact details of the referee should be there.

Note that Australian Immigration work experience requirements are not the same as those of the ACS. You must meet both!

Some situations that are unfortunately not that uncommon and that need special consideration:
Company merged and/or changed name: if you could provide a letter from a company, showing this, that would work fine.
Company went out of business:– try to locate your peers/managers and obtain a personal reference from them, write a note the company is defunct.

Self-employment:

Contracts are not considered by the ACS as a substitute for the work experience claims, according to their website, so references from the customers are best.

No contact with company or referee/company not willing to sign references/too afraid to admit intention to migrate: It so happens that some references can not be obtained. It is a shot in the dark really, but you or your peer could write a self-reference in form of a Statutory Declaration, explaining reasons and providing missing details. Whether it will be accepted as a valid reference or not, is anyone’s guess, but not doing this is denying yourself a chance. It must be said, that an application based solely on self-declarations would look far more questionable than the one with substantial verifiable base and one-two matters being self-declared.

Migration Occupation on Demand List [No longer applicable for new applicants]

The DIAC lists several occupations in the IT industry on the MODL list. If you can demonstrate work experience in the listed occupation (reference letters, eh?), 1 year out of 4 immediately before your application is made, then ACS will add the statement to the successful assessment advice: “Based on the provided certified documentation, it is my opinion that the applicant has 12 months experience in (name of specialization)”. If you intend to claim MODL points, you must specify the 2231-79 for the occupation code in your application and add a note to the cover letter, requesting consideration of the MODL nomination in (your specialization). Note, that occupation code 2231-79 in itself does not allow you to claim the MODL points, it only works if you have that magic statement in your result letter.

As at May 2008, the following list of specializations is recognized by the ACS: CISSP, C++/C#/C, Data Warehousing, Java/J2EE, Linux, .NET, Network Security/Firewall/Internet Security, Oracle, Peoplesoft, SAP, Siebel (especially Siebel Analytic), Solaris, UNIX.

MODL is reviewed by the DIAC twice a year. Current DIAC policy is such that the MODL points are counted against the point test if your occupation is on the MODL either at the time when you lodge your visa application, or at the time when the decision is made, i.e. it works in your favor.

Recognition of Prior Learning
For those without formal qualifications in IT there is a way to be assessed as suitable if you could provide prove 8 years of experience in IT (6 years if you have another qualification equivalent to an Australian diploma). In addition to the documents required for all applications, there is an RPL form plus project reports. The RPL form is an essay, describing your learning path, rather than repeating what is already said in the reference letters, soit is an additional piece of work, sometimes resulting in 100+ pages. It is advisable to write a detailed essay in chronological order,then chop it up into categories, as prescribed by the ACS’s Core Body of Knowledge.

There are three mandatory groups of the CBOK to be covered in the RPL form:

  • Interpersonal Communications
  • Ethics/Social Implications/Professional Practice
  • Project Management and Quality Assurance

And as much as you can from the rest:

  • Data Structures and Algorithms
  • Computer Organization and Architecture
  • Conceptual Modeling
  • Program Design and Implementation
  • Database Management
  • Data Communications and Networks
  • Systems Analysis and Design
  • Systems Software
  • Software Engineering and Methodologies
  • Discrete Mathematics
  • Security

The link to the detailed description of each area is in the current version of the CBOK is at the end of the article. As to the project reports - those should be real relevant cases (projects, career episodes) from your own experience where you should describe in sufficient level of detail what your responsibilities were, how long have you worked and what exactly have you accomplished, to support the claims of your learning experience.

Personal grunt. Everyone’s experience is different. There are some sites in the Net that provide, erm, “examples” of the RPL reports, job descriptions and reference letters, only to be ever slightly changed and shot at the ACS. Not only that is borderline indecent, that makes lives of all other applicants more and more difficult, due to constant tightening of the assessment guidelines. First commandment of the would-be immigrant – “Thou shalt not lie on your application”. ‘nuff said.

Application Process
Now, the real fun starts. Going by the definition of one of the Groups, you will need to send them an application form, accompanied by the following:
Who you are: copy of your passport or, at least birth certificate
Educational background: academic transcripts, vendor certificates. If you had an exemption from a course, an explanation on what grounds that was granted.
Employer references

And an appropriate fee, which from July 1st, 2008 are:
Group A/B: A$400
Group C (recent graduates): A$375
RPL: $450

The application can be made online or paper based. However, you still have to send the attested documents by post if the application was made online thereby making the online process rather redundant. While applying online, you can upload the scanned original documents and make the payment using a credit card. You can save an application which is valid for 30 days and submit it anytime with the payment. Once the application is submited, you will get a summary of your application in PDF form. Save this, as it needs to be sent with your attested documents. You will also receive an acknowledgement email. When this is done, you need to send them attested copies of the documents mentioned above, print and sign the application record (the PDF document that you saved after submitting the application online), the acknowledgement email you received and optionally your resume. For paper-based applications, all materials have to be provided in English and be certified, DO NOT SEND ORIGINALS. The ACS does not return materials back, so make sure not to send anything irreplaceable. The fee is payable by the major credit card, EFT or a money order in Australian dollars, payable to the ACS.

Once everything is packaged, it is best to send it off by a courier, then you can be sure the package made it there and have a track of the application date. ACS acknowledges the receipt of the application by email that you specify in your application within a week (plus or minus). The email will also contain a link, ID and password to the web page where you can check the status of your application.

Processing
New applications go in the queue, status shows “to be allocated”. Then it changes to “in progress”, then goes to one of the Assessors for final decision. Normally the processing takes around 10-12 weeks, but it may be more or less, depending on each individual case and their general workload. Note, that the ACS does not provide priority processing, so, if you were to lose points due to age, apply early.

The reviewers can make contact by email, to request additional documents or clarifications. They normally provide guidelines how they want the missing bits sent – electronically or by snail mail – depending on what it is. Once it is all up and done, the assessors make a decision on the result, which is one of the two: suitable or not.

Result letter and what to do next
The result letter is dispatched usually within a day or so after the status changes to “with assessor”. Note, that ACS does not send them off electronically or advise on the results by any other means. Which means that if you did not get your result letter in 21 days, you can request a copy, and, if you wish, specify a different address.

So, what is next? Once you have your positive assessment letter, you can apply for the skilled migration visa electronically - and count your points in the points test like so: 60 points for nominated occupation
extra 10 points for “specific work experience”, if you worked for 3 out of 4 years in the nominated (or closely related) occupation.
You can look for states that are willing to sponsor applicants for that nomination. If your nomination is accepted, then you can apply for the visa under state sponsorship (honouring the obligations put forth). Using a state sponsorhip can get you higher priority when applying without employer nomination.
Recent graduates could gain additional points on top of what is shown above, if they complete “Professional year” program with the ACS accredited partner – this will allow you to claim extra 10 points under “Australian work experience” category.

For those, who was unfortunate enough to be classed as not suitable, you could appeal (A$300), if you believe that the job was misjudged to be part-relevant or not-relevant. Should the education be classed as not relevant to IT (or less relevant, putting you into another group), additional details should be provided to support your claim, that the courses taken are equivalent to the group requirements you applied under. The appeal should provide more details on the subject in question, there is no need to re-send any materials that the ACS already has.

So that’s that, for the most. The positive assessment letter is valid for 12 months (24 months for Group C recent graduates) so it is advisable to apply for your visa as soon as possible. If your circumstances did not allow you to apply within its validity period, you can apply for the revalidation for $200 AUD to extend its validity for another year (ex. Group C).

Almost forgot – Good luck. It never hurts to have a little extra good luck.

Useful links:
Department of Immigration and Citizenship: www.immi.gov.au
MODL: http://www.immi.gov.au/skilled/gener...-in-demand.htm
ACS website: www.acs.org.au
ACS Assessment guidelines: https://www.acs.org.au/assessment/do...Guidelines.pdf
ACS application FAQ: http://www.acs.org.au/index.cfm?acti...conID=skillfaq
RPL form and the CBOK: https://www.acs.org.au/assessment/docs/RPL_Pack_2.pdf
Skills assessment form: https://www.acs.org.au/assessment/do...assessform.pdf
Professional Year Program: http://www.acs.org.au/index.cfm?action=show&conID=pyp
Country educational profiles: http://aei.dest.gov.au/AEI/CEP/Default.htm
Statutory Declaration page: http://www.ag.gov.au/www/agd/agd.nsf...ry_declaration

Kudos: For review and contributions: desperatehousewife; stellaman; AndyR; The_Griswolds; lloydk
For preparation and compilation of the article: newjersey

Acknowledgments:
Information on here was collected from publicly available sources, discussion boards, other publications, and copyrighted, where source is known. Information referred to and contained in the ACS website is copyright and intellectual property of the Australian Computer Society, and is subject to change without notice from either publisher of this article or the ACS.

Disclaimer: ACS assessment in itself merely provides a basis for the skilled migrant visa application as a way to gain points in the points test and is in no way a guarantee that the visa eventually granted, because applicants have to meet lots of other criteria. This article makes no representation to the accuracy of advice pertinent to any individual or case, and contains no express or implied warranty or condition, including fitness for any purpose in any jurisdiction. It is your sole responsibility to obtain professional migration advice from MARA registered agent and you will not hold neither publisher, nor authors liable for any actions or consequences arising out of practical application of the above materials. Copyrighted materials are property of their respective owners. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without express written permission of the publisher.


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