Hold the line
I was prompted to write this blog by an email from a client in South Africa for whom we had filed a general skilled migration visa application (these visas don’t require offers of employment) asking me whether he should be sending out his CV because Australia is suffering critical skill shortages. My answer was for him to “hold the line” and wait for approval of the general skilled migration visa before circulating his CV.
With severe skills shortages in Australia and our current rate of unemployment at 4% (and forecast to fall lower) employers have turned from poaching employees from other businesses (which has been the current practice for the past year) to considering applicants who don’t have work rights, and even those who are overseas.
The preferred order of selection of candidates would be Australian citizens and permanent residents, those that have work rights such as students, New Zealand citizens and working holiday makers, those that don’t have work rights that are in Australia, and lastly those that don’t have work rights and are based overseas.
If you don’t have work rights, businesses have to act as your sponsor for a work visa which is onerous and costly from an employer’s perspective, but having said that, increasingly employers don’t have many options but to consider those without work rights due to a low unemployment rate.
There are some migrants that have filed general skilled migration visas and are waiting in a queue for their applications to be processed, considering circulating their CVs and some have been approached by employers in Australia. The lengthy waiting times has tested the patience of many migrants and receiving a job offer is perceived to be an option to speed up the visa process.
Historically it hasn’t taken that long to obtain a general skilled migration visa (in the region of six months from date of lodgment on average) but because of distortions associated with Covid border closures, processing times have ballooned to over two years in some instances. The Department is currently predicting processing times on average of seven – eight months from the date of lodgment so we will soon return to something approximating the average processing time of general skilled migration visas.
There are pros and cons of going through the employer sponsored pathway if you are currently waiting for your general skilled migration visa to be approved.
- Processing time of a work visa (more technically known as a temporary skill shortages visa) is considerably faster than general skilled migration visas with processing time in the region of two – four months on average. This would suit those wanting to migrate to Australia sooner.
- Depending on your particular occupation employers may be able to sponsor you for a permanent visa, either immediately through Direct Entry, or after three years of working for the employer
- Working in a particular state may improve your chances of receiving state nomination because the state government is more likely to nominate someone who is working in a skilled occupation with the region under the general skilled migration category.
- The Employer Nominated permanent visa is a residence visa which means you have the freedom to live and work anywhere in Australia, although you would be expected to work with the sponsoring company for at least two years. But you would have a job and permanent residence.
- If you are going to rely upon your employer to sponsor you for a temporary skill shortages visa then you are also probably going to rely upon your employer to nominate you for permanent residence. If you lose your offer of employment or the employer does not wish to nominate you for permanent residence, you lose your pathway to permanent residence and would need to find a new employer within 60 days of terminating the employment or leave Australia.
- If you are using a migration agent appointed by the employer to prepare and process the visa that agent is supposed to be representing both you and the employer, but if the employer is paying the migration agent I suspect loyalties are divided. If it is your intention to use the offer of employment to ultimately acquire permanent residence, make sure that the agent explains to you the procedure. Often migrants have permanent residence as their end goal whereas employers are often looking no further than temporary skill shortages visas – and why would they be interested in obtaining permanent residence for you? Whilst you are working for them on a temporary skill shortages visa you can only work for them whereas permanent residents have unlimited work rights
- While working in a particular state can garner favour for state nomination under the skilled visa, not all regions will do this, and if the region you are living in doesn’t nominate your occupation, then you will need to rely on the employer to nominate you for residence. State governments won’t sponsor you if you are living in a different region in Australia.
- Employer nominated residence visas (such as the subclass 186 visa) are unconditional permanent resident visas, however, the temporary visa requires that you work with the nominating employer only, and you are ultimately at the mercy of the employer to sponsor you for residence if the points test pathway is no longer an option.
- Pathways to residence via employer sponsorship is not so easy for those in occupations on the short term and regional occupation lists, often requiring that you work for a businesses for a further three years before getting a permanent visa, and also being restricted in terms of where one can live an work.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of a general skilled migration visa is that it gives you full work rights, hence improving your employability and the salary that you can command because you are not beholden to one particular employer as you would be on a temporary skill shortages visa. You would have the freedom to choose where you work and the visa is not subject to cancellation if you change or lose your job. In fact you could come to Australia and sit on the beach if you prefer.
Having the right job offer, at the right salary, for the right employer who has agreed to nominate you for permanent residence is a good opportunity, and it can also help grease the wheels for a potential state nomination pathway once you are living in Australia.
If you opt for the general skilled migration visa you are sacrificing short-term gains for longer term gains, and it’s important that you have a balanced perspective of the pros and cons of both options applicable to your specific circumstances.
Our view is that if you are still waiting for an opportunity to apply for a visa, and a good employment opportunity arises, it may be worthwhile investigating the employer sponsored pathway.
But if you have already submitted a visa application and are waiting for the result, you may wish to consider waiting for that to be approved, and moving over in your own time and have the freedom to choose the best offer of employment.
At the moment state governments are nominating more candidates under the skilled migration category after the dark days of the pandemic and border closures. So even those who are sick of waiting may wish to hold the line for a few more months before embarking on a job search mission to Australia, as an opportunity may become available through state nomination in the next couple of months.
In many countries such as South Africa with a sluggish economy, high rates of unemployment, and distortions in the labour market through government policy an offer of employment can be perceived to be the silver bullet to migration but be careful of silver bullets as they can sometimes miss fire. In my experience there is no substitute for discussing the pros and cons of both pathways with an experienced and trusted migration agent.
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