2016-17 Skilled Occupation List (SOL): submissions now being accepted

Sometimes stakeholders have the power to influence immigration policy. This is usually through the process of responding to requests for submissions by government departments. One of the most important of these in relation to Australian immigration policy is currently open until 30 October 2015. The Australian Department of Education and Training are now accepting submissions from stakeholders to assist them in considering and proposing advice to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) for the list of occupations that make up the 2016-17 SOL. They are seeking expert advice from professional organisations such as industry and employer associations.

The idea is to receive information to ascertain occupational supply constraints and then determine whether these occupation shortages will be for the medium and longer term, and would therefore benefit from being included in the SOL.

Why are these submissions important? They are very important to a vast number of people. From a potential migrant’s perspective the SOL determines the occupations that will allow independent skilled migration through the Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visa, a visa for skilled migrants that meet the minimum points test and do not require Australian employment or sponsorship. These occupations are therefore considered to be most in demand, with the assumption that a migrant under this program should have no problems with obtaining employment in their field. The SOL also dictates the people who can apply for a Skilled Regional Provisional (subclass 489) visa sponsored by an eligible relative, and which trades international students who study them can apply for a Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa under the Graduate Work Stream.

Other affected parties include: States and Territories, any occupations not on the list may need to be placed on their own occupations lists so skilled applicants can apply for a Skilled Nominated (subclass 190) visa; and to a lesser extent Australian employers as businesses will tend to pick up the slack by using employer sponsored visas where required.

Importantly, any submissions do not affect the Consolidated Skilled Occupation Lists (CSOL), which is the list that incorporates the SOL for various visa applications including: State Sponsored, Employer Nominated and Occupational Training visas.

Of course, there are always some inconsistencies, which can be seen with today’s SOL. Three examples come to mind. Law graduates would certainly be aggrieved by how hard it is to obtain employment in the legal industry yet the occupations of Solicitor and Barrister are on the SOL. Secondly, the only professional occupations that require labour market testing for a 457 visa, engineers and nurses, are also on the SOL. Although there are some reasons to explain this (different times of implementation, changes in labour market conditions when submissions have been called for), it is hoped that there would be some level of policy consistency across Australia’s different visa programs.