Anyone who has been involved in Australia’s migration system, whether it be applying for a visa or working in the sector, will understand the true meaning of ‘red tape’.
Despite the Coalition’s promises to ‘deregulate’ the industry, mindless bureaucracy and monopolies are so prevalent in the migration sector that one wonders whether there is any incentive for key stakeholders to ‘cut the red tape’.
Let me give you an example.
On Tuesday, as part of a routine assessment of a client’s eligibility for a visa, I had to consider whether they qualify for a Skills Assessment. A Skills Assessment is a process whereby a foreigner will have their qualifications and work experience assessed to ensure whether they are ‘Australian Standard’. This process ‘ensures’ that migrants can adequately perform the occupations they have nominated as part of their visa application. If a positive Skills Assessment cannot be obtained, the relevant visa cannot be approved.
In this particular scenario, my client nominated a trade occupation. The relevant Assessment Body is Trades Recognition Australia, who have delegated this job to a number of different companies including Victorian University and VETASSESS.
My client did not hold Australian qualifications, but had completed a trade overseas and had a number of years of work experience. However, in the last couple of years he had not been working in his trade for various reasons.
According to the Skills Assessment criteria, if a person does not have an Australian qualification, they must have at least 5 years’ experience in their occupation. This all sounds well and good, but my instinct for dealing with government bodies warned me that I ought to check whether those 5 years can be at any point in a candidate’s work history, or whether that means ‘the last 5 years’. Naturally, either of these scenarios paints a different picture for my client’s eligibility for a Skills Assessment.
Having looked everywhere on the Skills Assessment website and receiving no satisfactory answer, I called the Skills Assessment bodies. Two advised that they did not know the answer to this question (not, “I don’t know but I’ll ask”, just “I don’t know – full stop”).
This frustrates me enormously.
If you, THE ASSESSMENT BODY, whose job it is to DECIDE whether my client is ELIGIBLE, or NOT ELIGIBLE and you charge a FEE for this service, SURELY you must know what your own criteria is. Not so.
Several [infuriating] telephone calls later, I was informed that my client would be required to show at least one year in the last three years. Apparently, this is a government requirement (despite the fact that several of the Skills Assessment bodies don’t seem to know it).
Interestingly, of the 3 Skills Assessment bodies performing Skills Assessments, only one of those bodies was able to confirm this requirement and point me to the section of their website where this requirement was explained.
This reminds me of a further incident where I had another enquiry on a technical point regarding recognition of prior learning. I rang the TRA, who informed me that they couldn’t answer this question (despite the issue originating from a TRA form) and that I needed to speak to VETASSESS. I contacted VETASSESS who informed me EMPHATICALLY that as the form was designed by the TRA, that only TRA could answer my question. The endless loop begins.
As an Immigration Lawyer, I take my job seriously. I work long hours and prepare every application to the highest possible standard to ensure my client’s applications have the highest prospects of success. Clients look to me every day for answers to their migration questions. Unfortunately, on many occasions I am forced to admit I simply don’t know.
I don’t know because the answers to those questions are not even known by the entities whose job it is to know, and who charge a very steep fee for the privilege of making a decision.
I call on the Skills Assessment bodies to provide clear and concise information about their own requirements. If you require a certain number of years of work experience, tell us how many and when that experience must have been completed. If you require a relevant qualification, tell us what that qualification is. If there is scope for flexibility, tell us that.
Given that VETASSESS assesses more than 1,500 occupations both general and trade, surely your decision makers must have comprehensive guides to assist them to assess whether an applicant is eligible or not. Why then is this information not publicly available?
Interestingly, if a person applies for an assessment under a particular occupation, and is assessed as having skills and qualifications relevant to another occupation assessed by the same body, then the Skills Assessment body must REFUSE the application and you must re-lodge the same application and the same supporting documents under that different occupation.
Am I being cynical when I point out that this all appears to be a money making scam?
Oh wait. That’s because it is, and these companies should be ashamed.