A Rough Guide to Australian General Skilled Migration

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  • 1. Check the SOL/CSOL;
  • 2. Calculate points;
  • 3. Agents;
  • 4. Obtain a positive skills assessment;
  • 5. Take the IELTS test (if applicable);
  • 6. Work experience evidence;
  • 7. If applying for state/territory sponsorship, ensure that you meet the individual states' criteria;
  • 8. Select visa type & submit EoI;
  • 9. Wait (for invitation);
  • 10. If invited, lodge application;
  • 11. Obtain medical & PCC;
  • 12. Wait;
  • 13. Wait some more;
  • 14. Wait again;
  • 15. Receive a decision.

Check the SOL/CSOL:

Before you can go any further, you need to make sure that your occupation is on either the skilled occupation list – schedule one (SOL) or the consolidated sponsored occupation list (CSOL). If it's not on either of those, then you'll be unable to progress any further.

If your occupation is on the SOL, then you have more options open to you. With an occupation on the SOL, you would be able to apply for an independent or sponsored visa. (assuming you meet all the other criteria). If it is only on the CSOL, then you will need state or territory sponsorship. Family sponsorship is only available for people with an occupation on the SOL and only for a provisional visa.

Calculate Points

The 189/190/489 are all points tested visas. This means that there is a minimum pass mark that you would need to meet before you could apply. The minimum score required to apply for these visas is sixty points. The points are obtained by a mixture of age, work experience, qualifications etc. The more points, the better your chance is for an invitation. DIBP do state that simply meeting the pass mark does not guarantee an invitation to apply.

You have to be very careful when calculating your points score to ensure that it is absolutely correct. If your claims are incorrect, they will refuse your application. If they think that your points were deliberately embellished, they will refuse your application & may well ban you for three years under the fraud public interest criterion (fraud PIC). Some wonderful agents on the forum have kindly explained about how to ensure your claims are correct. There is more information from DIBP about how to check if your claims are correct here. If in doubt, check with a MARA registered agent. They'll be able to check over your claims/application. You should be prepared to pay for this service.


It is not mandatory to use an agent to apply for a visa. Some people find that they can manage the application and associated paperwork with no trouble, but others find that they prefer to have an experienced hand to help them through the process. Agents can be extremely knowledgeable & are very useful for complicated cases in particular. For example, if there are complicated health or character issues, like convictions, that need to be disclosed, an agent can help you to present the case in the best light. Obviously agents do this for a living, and so you should expect to pay. Their fees can vary, so you might want to shop around. If you do decide to use an agent, make sure that they are MARA registered. The Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA) regulate agents, and are the people to go to if you have problems with an agent. If you use an unregistered agent, you have no such protection.

Before you attempt to lodge an expression of interest (EoI), you must have evidence of your skills (skills assessment) & your ability to use English (IELTS/OET/relevant passport).

Skills Assessment:

You must obtain a positive skills assessment for your nominated occupation. Obviously the different skills assessment bodies will have different requirements, so I won't attempt to go through the details. I suggest you read the website for your skills assessment body very carefully. This is a list of some of the assessment bodies:

These are just some of them. There is a more comprehensive list available here.

Proof of English Language ability:

All applicants need to prove their ability to use the English language. This is typically done with an IELTS test (the general test is usually sufficient, but if in doubt, double check). If you are a passport holder from an eligible country (UK, Canada, US, New Zealand, or Republic of Ireland), then you can use your passport as proof of your English language ability. However, you will receive no points for that. If you find that you are short of points (which many people seem to), then you can take the IELTS test to boost your points score.

The points awarded will depend on how well you do in the test (obviously). You can receive zero, ten or twenty points.

  • Twenty points = Score eight in each of the four bands;
  • Ten points = Score seven in each of the four bands;
  • Zero points = Score six in each of the four bands.

For all other applicants, taking IELTS isn't optional. You must take it & score at least six in each band before you submit an EoI.

If you are a health practitioner, you may be able to take the Occupational English Test (OET) instead.

Work Experience:

You need to have proof of your work experience to provide to DIBP. As you'll have already given quite a lot for your skills assessment, it shouldn't be too difficult to provide this to DIBP. References, pay slips, contracts etc, are all very useful to use as evidence. Some people do have difficulty in providing evidence for various reasons, so obviously this list isn't exhaustive. Double check with DIBP/a MARA registered agent for confirmation about what they require. When assigned a CO, they may ask for further details.

To receive points for work experience, you must have worked in your nominated (or closely related) occupation for twenty hours per week (in a paid position) for the requisite length of time that you are claiming points for.

State Sponsorship:

You may find that you require sponsorship in order to apply for a visa. Either because your skill is only on the consolidated sponsored occupation list (CSOL) or you may be short of points (for the 489, state sponsorship is worth ten points, but for the 190, it's only worth five). If that is the case, then you would need to obtain state sponsorship. Firstly, you would need to check the state sponsorship websites to see if your occupation is listed on their state migration plan (SMP). You would also need to check what other requirements the state have before they would consider sponsorship. For example, some states require higher IELTS scores (or academic IELTS instead of general), or a minimum amount of work experience. There are off-list nominations available in some states, but they are usually only available to people who have studied in that particular state.

The SMPs are available from these websites:

You may be required to show that you have a minimum amount of funds to the state. You are not required to give them the money, but it is to show that you are able to support yourself until you get a job.

An important point of state sponsorship that comes up frequently on the forum is the obligation to the state. In obtaining state sponsorship, you are committing to the state that you will live & work in that state for a minimum of two years. It's a fair obligation considering that they are facilitating your obtaining a visa. It is, unfortunately, only a moral obligation. If you renege on your commitment whilst on a provisional visa, I don't know if it will have any impact on an application for a permanent visa.

Family Sponsorship:

Family sponsorship is all but useless these days. You can only be sponsored for a provisional visa (the 489) with family sponsorship, and your occupation must be on the skilled occupation list (SOL) schedule one. It can be helpful if you are short of points, but for the most part, it's not much use anymore. Family sponsorship is worth ten points.

Submitting an Expression of Interest:

Your expression of interest (EoI) is how you let DIBP know that you wish to apply for a visa. It will contain the details of your experience, qualifications, age & all the other bits that DIBP will use to assess whether you are eligible to apply. It is imperative that you ensure that the claims you make in your EoI are correct. If you don't meet the points requirement, your application will just sit in the pool & never be selected for invitation. If you are invited to apply, but it transpires that your claims were erroneous (either deliberately or accidentally), your visa application would be refused & potentially banned for three years.

As already mentioned, simply meeting the points requirement is not a guarantee that you'll be invited. There are quotas for the individual occupations (called an occupation ceiling). Once that has been reached, no more invitations will be issued for that occupation. An EoI can sit in the pool for two years before it will be removed.

It may take some time before you are invited to apply. If you are invited, you will have sixty days in which to lodge an application. If you do not apply after receiving two invitations, your EoI will be removed from the pool.

In the EoI, you are asked which visa(s) you are interested in applying for. You can select as many as you like (and are eligible for).

Visa Types:

The three main general skilled migration (GSM) visas are the 189, 190 & 489. There are some differences between the three.

  • 189 – This is an independent permanent residence visa. It is probably the most flexible of the visas, as you have permanent residency immediately & you aren't tied to an employer or state;
  • 190 – This is a state or territory sponsored permanent residency visa. You would be required to obtain sponsorship to be able to have this visa granted (you can select an individual state or all of them during your SkillSelect EoI). As mentioned in the sponsorship section, you would be required to live & work in your sponsoring state for the first two years of your time in Australia;
  • 489 – This is a state, territory or family sponsored provisional visa. It is valid for up to four years. You would be required to live/work in a designated regional area for the duration of this visa. If sponsored by a state or territory, you would also need to fulfil the same requirement as the 190 (live & work in the sponsoring state for the first two years). Once you've lived for two years and worked for one year in the designated regional area, you would be eligible to apply for the 887 permanent residence visa.

Lodging Application:

If you receive an invitation to apply for a visa and choose to go ahead, then this is the big moment when you pay your money & lodge! You need to ensure that you have your evidence to upload with your application. There have been some technical difficulties with attaching documents, but DIBP are working on it. There's usually a notice on the SkillSelect page about any problems like that.

In September 2013, DIBP changed the pricing structure, in addition to increasing the fees. Basically, there is a base charge of AUD $3520 for the main applicant, and a charge for each dependent adult (AUD $1760) and child (AUD $880) for the 189/190/489 (the 489 first provisional visa stream). If any of your adult dependents have less than functional English (i.e. less than IELTS 4.5), then you will be required to pay an additional fee to DIBP to cover the cost of up to three years of English language tuition through the Adult Migrant English Program. The additional fee is not cheap (AUD $4885 per adult dependent), and it really is an incentive to make sure that your dependents have functional English before you apply.

An important thing to note is that if you change your mind about applying, you won't be able to obtain a refund. There are very limited circumstances in which you can be refunded a visa application charge (VAC), and simply changing your mind is not one of them.

After Lodging:

Once you have lodged your application, paid & submitted your documents, then the fun of waiting starts! There is really no point in obsessing over how long it will take, as there are multiple factors that can affect that. That also goes for comparing your application “timeline” with someone else's. Even if they appear to have identical circumstances & occupations – THEY ARE STILL DIFFERENT! Sometimes the wait can take a while, and it's for that reason it is not advised to go for your medicals (meds) and obtain your police checks (PCCs) until requested by your case officer (CO). This is because both the meds and PCC have a limited validity of up to twelve months. If your processing takes longer than that time because of extended security checks, for example, you would need to repeat them and that is an added expense and hassle that is best avoided.

Once you have received the request from your CO for you to undertake your medicals, you would need to select a panel doctor that is authorised by DIBP to conduct medicals for immigration purposes. For applicants in the UK, there is a list of authorised clinics and fees on this thread. It has been checked recently (September 2013), but for obvious reasons, I can't guarantee them. I would always recommend that you check with the clinic directly for an up-to-date & accurate costing, and use the information in the thread as a guide.

For the PCC, you would need to request it from the relevant authority in your country (and whichever other countries you have lived in during the last ten years, if you are over sixteen). DIBP have a booklet which describes how to obtain your police check & lists the various countries/agencies that deal with such requests.

For UK applicants, you would request the PCC from the ACPO Criminal Records Office. The fees (as of the 16th January 2013) are £45 per person for standard service (ten working days), or £80 per person for premium service (two working days).

The Waiting:

Once you have completed all the requirements, such as medicals & PCCs, etc, then you just have to wait. No-one will be able to tell you how long it will take. It is very much a “how long is a piece of string?” question, and people asking it on the forum will usually receive that as a reply. I know it can be frustrating to not know when you'll receive a decision, but unfortunately, that is just a part of it. DIBP do have service standards and rough guides to processing times, but that is all they are – rough guides. They are estimates of how long it could take. It may be quicker, or it may be a lot longer. As already mentioned, multiple factors affect processing, including character issues, medical issues and if you are from a high or low risk country. From my own personal experience, the best piece of advice I received on the forum was to try and put it to the back of my mind & carry on with day to day life. If you obsess about it, it will drive you potty! That being said, if you want to check on where DIBP are with processing, they publish allocation dates once a fortnight (more or less). That will tell you what lodgement dates DIBP are up to (roughly). You can also check your application online for updates & messages. Be warned though, many people worry about their online statuses not changing, but there are a lot of people that receive grants whilst everything still states “required”. So they may change to “requested” or “met”, but equally, they may not. Keep an eye on your application in case of messages from DIBP, and also on your e-mails for the same, obviously, but try not to worry too much if it doesn't change.

Another thing to bear in mind whilst waiting is this - be very careful about making huge commitments like quitting your job(s) or selling house(s) until you've received a decision. If, for some reason, your visa is rejected, you would still have a house & job! Obviously the decision is yours & yours alone though.

The Decision:

Hopefully it won't take too long for you to receive a decision. Whether it does or it doesn't, feel free to pop onto the forum for advice or a bit of moral support. It's not an easy journey to take, but there are lots of people who have already taken it & know the mixture of mind-blowing stress, confusion and sheer excitement & terror that you'll be going through.

Good luck!

Many thanks to BE Moderator mrsgreenstar76 who put together the above information