The threat of changes to the Australian visa application process has led to a surge in applications by Britons to move Down Under, according to a migration agency
VisaFirst.com is using Australia Day (January 26) to launch a campaign raising awareness of the changes, urging prospective migrants to act now or risk missing out.
The latest changes, which come into effect on July 1 this year, are set to lengthen the application process and make it harder to obtain permanent residence.
Nearly 24,000 UK citizens were granted permanent resident visas for Australia in 2011, despite a toughening of the “points system” in July of that year. The prospect of further changes has already sparked a rise in applications from would-be emigrants, claims VisaFirst.com, which registered a three-fold increase in applications in January alone.
“Currently, if you meet the points requirement you can lodge your visa application,” said Edwina Shanahan, director of the company. “After July 1, applicants will have to achieve the pass mark and will then be entered into a skills pool. Australian immigration authorities will then decide which applications they want to invite for further processing from the pool. Applicants can languish here for up to two years, with no guarantee of ever receiving an invitation to apply.”
She urged would-be migrants to act quickly even if they do not plan to move soon, adding: “Once the visa is granted, applicants have a five-year window to relocate, so it’s worth submitting the application now, even if you’re not planning the move just yet.”
Under the new system, applicants over 32 years of age or with limited work experience are most at risk of disappointment, due to scoring less points, but families in the “middle road” category shouldn’t be complacent, warned Shanahan. “The immigration process is going to be a lot more selective, based on those who score the highest number of points. The Australian government will also be setting quotas on the number of skilled workers from each sector – carpenters, for example – in the pool at any one time,” she said.
Skills in demand vary from state to state, but nursing, engineering, trades and construction are among the most sought-after.
For would-be emigrants, Australia offers a better quality of life and higher living standards but the cost of housing in the major cities can be high, while the strength of the Australian dollar against the pound sterling affects the spending power of migrants who rely on sterling income or savings.