WA halts Regional Certifying Body applications, set to review Skilled Migration Programme

With the landslide victory for the Labor Party in the Western Australia State election over the weekend, it seems the bureaucracy is already implementing election policies before the new government has even been sworn in.

With the highest unemployment rate in the country (6.5%), the McGowan government committed to reining this in partly by reducing the State’s skilled migration intake. Specific policies were to:

  • Demand to have Perth removed as a regional area under the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) (subclass 187) visa, and

  • Immediately replace the list of occupations to be nominated by the State under the Skilled Nominated (subclass 190) visa.

As immigration is the purview of the Federal Government, State governments are limited to what they can do. These are, however, the two most obvious possibilities, affecting employer sponsored and independent skilled permanent visas.

The administrators of WA’s migration programmes did not waste any time. New applications to all WA Regional Certifying Bodies (RCB) have been suspended.

RCBs are important as they are local statutory approved bodies that approve or refuse applications from local employers who wish to nominate an overseas worker for an RSMS 187 visa under the Direct Entry Stream. RCBs have no part to play in nominations under the RSMS's Temporary Residence Transition or Agreement Streams. Importantly, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) must be advised by the relevant RCB as part of the Direct Entry Stream nomination application, meaning that an outcome for this application must be submitted.

While technically the DIBP could approve a nomination if the RCB advice is negative as the Regulations only require advice (positive or negative), they are unlikely to do so. RCB advice is not required at the time the nomination is submitted, however, given the rhetoric of the incoming government, confidence of an approval by the RCB may be waning.

One of the primary requirements for any RSMS nomination is that the business operates, and the nominee’s position, is located in regional Australia. Regional Australia is determined by postcode, for which all of WA is currently deemed regional.

If Perth is removed as a regional area by the Federal Government, the only recourse for employers in Perth would be a permanent Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa or a Temporary Work (Skilled) (subclass 457) visa.

For those with long memories, Perth only became part of “regional Australia” on 12 September 2011 when the State’s economy was in much better shape.

As for the Skilled Nominated (subclass 190) visa, WA has suspended invitations pending a review of the programme and their occupation list. State occupation lists are obviously critical as they determine what professions they are willing to nominate.