The Good The Bad And The Ugly

May 28, 2021
Myer Lipschitz

We’re talking occupations for Australia, not the movie. The question we constantly get from people we consult with is “what are good occupations to immigrate to Australia?”. By that they usually mean ‘what occupations does the Australian government want for the purpose of securing residence?’

A ‘good occupation’ is critical to your chances of success under a number of different residence scenarios. Why? Because Australia has a plethora of occupational lists of which one or more may apply to you and which will directly impact your ability to either secure state sponsorship (for most people that is now critical if the end game is residence) or to create a pathway to residence through working for an ‘eligible’ employer.

Because most of IMMagine’s clients leave home with provisional or permanent residence and they do not require jobs to secure their residence visa, we will focus on general skilled (‘points’) migration visas.

To be clear, if we describe your occupation as good, bad or ugly it has no bearing on the ease with which you could secure employment in Australia. Occupation lists are something of an artificial construct which may or may not reflect demand for those skills in the labour market.

Our focus today (and when we consult) is on those occupations that have a history of appearing on state sponsorship lists in the recent past.  As Advisers we spend a lot of time looking in the rearview mirror – if a state has a history of sponsoring an occupation in the past year or two, this can be a strong indication they will continue to do so in the immediate future. Readers should bear in mind that at present very few states are sponsoring applicants based overseas (although in the past two weeks we have had two clients sponsored by a state government which is surprising as they are not living in Australia – we took that as a welcome signal that things are starting to ‘thaw’). We expect that a return to ‘normal’ will intensify over the next few months given the fact that the government recently announced that Australia’s borders will open to skilled migrants next year and Australia is experiencing worsening skills shortages.

One should also bear in mind that we can never know with 100% certainty which occupations will appear on state sponsorship lists in future because these details are never released in advance of the new ‘immigration year’ which begins on 1 July. We have had unexpected surprises, both positive and negative in the past. However, there are some occupations that always seem to appear on state sponsorship lists. We a few years ago we had a consultation with an Industrial Designer. We could not recall that occupation ever appearing on any state sponsorship occupation list but to his credit this client went ahead and obtained a skills assessment and lo and behold his occupation appeared on a state sponsorship list, and we’re happy to say he now calls Australia home.

As Randy Jackson of American Idol fame used to say: “you’ve gotta be in it to win it”. By that we mean you can’t wait until such time as your occupation appears on a state sponsorship list to make the decision or you’ve probably left it too late. That’s because each state sponsors a limited number of any particular occupation in any immigration year – they have strict quotas. If you wait until your occupation appears on a state sponsorship list to begin the entire process, chances are you’ll have missed the boat as the quota for that particular occupation is likely already have been filled. Cart before horse stuff. You’ll end up waiting another year to see what occupations appear on these lists in the next immigration year. That could delay your migration by 12 months.

There are 504 occupations that are suitable for general skilled migration ‘points’ based visas and we can’t hope to mention all of them here. We’ve only singled out certain standout occupations.

If the state governments are aware of the federal government’s initiative (and it’s a big ‘if’) one would assume that the 19 occupations on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) should appear on state sponsorship lists.

The list is based on expert advice from the National Skills Commission and in consultation with Commonwealth departments:

  • Chief Executive or Managing Director
  • Construction Project Manager
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • Veterinarian
  • General Practitioner
  • Resident Medical Officer
  • Psychiatrist
  • Medical Practitioner nec
  • Midwife
  • Registered Nurse (Aged Care)
  • Registered Nurse (Critical Care and Emergency)
  • Registered Nurse (Medical)
  • Registered Nurse (Mental Health)
  • Registered Nurse (Perioperative)
  • Registered Nurses nec
  • Developer Programmer
  • Software Engineer)
  • Social Worker
  • Maintenance Planner

We wouldn’t put too much faith in the state governments following the PMSOL and imagine that the state sponsorship lists will reflect the needs of their own economies just as they have in previous years.

The good occupations

Any trades or anyone in a technical role, construction managers, environmental consultant, internal auditor, actuary, economist, management consultant, architect, engineers, quantity surveyor, agricultural consultant, chemist, food technologist, life scientists, medical laboratory scientists, veterinarians, teachers, most healthcare related occupations (but sometimes registration issues may complicate matters), IT occupations (but numbers are usually quite low meaning it’s highly competitive but if Australia doesn’t want you, New Zealand almost certainly will), solicitors, psychologists, farmers, corporate services managers, specialist managers, senior managers, manufacturer, production managers, supply and distribution manager, quality assurance manager, laboratory manager, customer services manager, facilities manager, mathematician, statistician, social workers and anyone in a related occupation.

The bad occupations

Flower growers, music professionals, photographers, book or script editors, directors, film and video editor, program director, stage manager, technical director, video producer, print journalist, technical writer, television journalist, commodities trader, ICT trainer, gallery or museum curator, patents examiner, fashion designer, meat inspector.

The ugly


A great example of the swan becoming the ugly duckling. Around five years ago accountants used to account for 30 – 40% of all the skilled residence visas but successive cuts to the annual migration quota or occupational ceiling have seen the annual quota fall from 14,000 a year to just 1000 in the current immigration year under general skilled migration OR the work to residence pathway.

That’s not to say that there is no demand for accountants in Australia, ask any employer in an accounting practice and they will tell you that they cannot find experienced accountants in Australia. In fact, the Australian Tax Office recently granted extensions to companies to allow them to file their audited financial reports because of the severe shortage of auditors in Australia. Yes, I know that it’s technically a different occupation but related in the visa sense.

We have no doubt that accountants will make another comeback, just as hairdressers, cooks and chefs have done. These occupations too were ‘ugly’ occupations circa 2012 but have made a strong comeback.

Of course some accountants can be ‘packaged’ and presented, quite legally, by the better immigration advisers as finance managers which has been a reasonable occupation as far as state sponsorship is concerned, and New Zealand has always welcomed accountants in the past if it doesn’t work for Australia (New Zealand is also particularly short of auditors)

Some occupations with a bit of cosmetic surgery can become beautiful and just because you are working in a particular occupation doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to obtain a positive skills assessment in that particular occupation. The tasks against which an occupation is assessed can often overlap with other occupations opening up opportunities for ‘repackaging’. The accountant/finance manager is a good example. Or you might find someone had previously worked as a tradesperson/artisan who went on to be a production supervisor or workshop manager. The trade occupation would be a much ‘better’ occupation than production supervisor or workshop manager and that person might still be able to obtain a positive skills assessment in the trade occupation and state sponsorship, thereby enhancing their chances of obtaining residence.

As with all this stuff it is seldom black and white and expertise an be the difference between success and failure. Given you cannot get the process 98% right and get a residence visa (it is a test you only pass if you score 100%) understanding these issues is what leads to the solutions we offer.

If you’re interested as to whether your occupation is good, bad or ugly for Australia you can complete one of our free preliminary questionnaires on the following page of our website and within 24 business hours we will provide you with a preliminary assessment report to tell you whether it’s worth your while paying for a detailed and private 90 minute eligibility and strategy consultation.

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