Skilled migrants: the points test and other issues

A points test and thresh-hold requirements operates to filter out migrants with fewer desirable characteristics. International student categories have been tightened so students compete with all others under skilled migrants. Economic migration without sponsorship is now limited. Family sponsorship brings no points except for regional skilled migrants if the sponsor comes from outside Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong or Brisbane.

What is the points test?

The points test is a mechanism used to help select skilled migrants who offer the best in terms of economic benefit to Australia. As part of the new SkillSelect process, potential visa applicants will be tested in evidence and given a nominal score as part of the selection process involved in “inviting” an applicant to apply. The points test as part of the selection process, awards points to the skills and attributes considered to be in need in Australia. The points test focuses on:

English levels;

extensive skilled employment;

high level qualifications obtained in Australia and overseas; and

targeted age ranges.

Points are not awarded for specific occupations. Although, all applicants must nominate an occupation on the occupation list corresponding to their chosen visa subclass (the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL)) and have their skills assessed by a regulatory authority corresponding to their nominated occupation.

Since 1 July 2012, the points test pass mark for points tested skilled migration visas invited through SkillSelect (subclasses 189, 190 and 489) has been 60 points. However, it constitutes a “minimum” score and Home Affairs may only give invitations to those who score (for example) 70 to 80 points, if enough applicants in a particular occupational category can be sourced at that higher score. Older visa subclasses (e.g. 885, 886, 487) that remained open until 1 January 2013 used a points test minimum pass mark of 65 points. A table summarising the points awarded can be found on the previous page.

The points test applies to applicants for the following visas:

subclass 489: provisional skilled visa;

subclass 189: skilled independent visa;

subclass 190: skilled nominated visa.

A summary of how Home Affairs allocates points to potential skilled migrants – the pass mark is 60 points















English language * (or equivalent standard in a specified test)

Competent English – IELTS 6*


Proficient English – IELTS 7*


Superior English – IELTS 8*


Australian or overseas skilled employment in nominated occupation or a closely related occupation undertaken in the past 10 years

Note: The maximum points that can be awarded for any combination of Australian or overseas skilled employment is 20 points

One year in Australia


Three years in Australia


Five years in Australia


Eight years in Australia


Three years overseas


Five years overseas


Eight years overseas


Qualifications (Australian or recognised overseas)

Australian Diploma or trade qualification or other qualification recognised by a relevant assessing authority


At least a Bachelor degree




Australian study requirement

Minimum two years full-time (Australian study requirement)


Study in a regional area

Must meet the Australian Study Requirement while studying in a regional area


Professional Year

Completion of a recognised Professional Year


Credentialed Community language

NAATI accreditation


Partner skills

Primary applicant’s partner meets threshold requirements for skilled migration visa


Nomination by state or territory government (subclass 190)

Nomination by a state or territory government under a state migration plan


Designated area sponsorship or nominated by state or territory government (subclass 489)

Sponsorship by an eligible relative, or nomination by a state or territory government under a state migration plan, for living in a designated area


Threshold requirements

To apply for one of the above visas, applicants need to satisfy the following threshold requirements:

lodge an expression of interest in the SkillSelect online portal and receive an invitation to apply (visa subclass 496, 495, 487 or 475 holders applying under the Extended Stay Pathway Scheme are not required to submit an expression);

be under 45 years of age at the time of applying for a visa;

meet the threshold English language requirement of competent English;

nominate and hold a skilled assessment for an occupation on the MLTSSL at the time of lodging their expression of interest; and

provide evidence of recent skilled employment in a skilled occupation or have recently completed the Australian study requirement. Your nominated occupation is any occupation in which you have been employed for remuneration for at least 20 hours per week.

For the purpose of awarding points, Home Affairs considers skilled employment in the nominated occupation or a closely related occupation. In determining whether an applicant’s skilled employment is closely related to their nominated occupation, Home Affairs takes into consideration the occupations within one unit group classified under Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO). Further information about ANZSCO can be found on the Home Affairs’ website (

Generally, applicants can request an opinion about their skilled employment claims from the relevant assessing authority when seeking their skills assessment. For further information about this process, applicants should contact the relevant assessing authority. See

If you have never worked or if you have been unemployed for longer than 12 months in the past 24 months, you will not get any points in the skill sub-factor.


International students applying within six months of completing their onshore qualifications are the only people exempted from this basic work experience requirement and usually, only for the temporary visa subclass 485.

History of visa subclass changes in general skilled migration since 2007

Since 1 September 2007, a number of general skilled migration (GSM) visa subclasses were created for people to apply onshore and offshore who wished to migrate to Australia. Because of continuing changes in immigration law, the visa regime is very confusing for applicants wanting to apply or who are already in the system. In its efforts to simplify visa classes, the government has also introduced streams within subclasses of certain visas and has “folded” whole visa subclasses into these streams and under a single subclass. It is useful in the skilled migration area to list which visas have been abolished (even though thousands of applicants still await being processed under these former categories):

onshore visa changes post-1 September 2007:

old subclass 880 becomes subclass 885

old subclass 881 becomes subclass 886

old subclasses 883 and 137 become subclass 887

old subclass 497 becomes subclass 485

old subclasses 495 and 882 become subclass 487;

offshore changes post-1 September 2007:

old subclasses 136 and 861 become subclass 175

old subclasses 137, 138, 862 become subclass 176

old subclasses 495, 496, 863 become subclass 475

new graduate subclass 476 created;

visa changes post 1 July 2012:

old subclass 175 becomes subclass 189 (subject to SkillSelect)

old subclass 176 becomes subclass 190 (subject to SkillSelect);

visa changes post 1 January 2013:

subclasses 885, 886, 887 and 487 (for graduate international students) ceased to exist. They are now required to compete with all others under the SkillSelect system.

International student graduates

International students who are unable to meet the requirements for a permanent skilled visa under SkillSelect or under sponsorship from an Australian business, have an opportunity to apply within six months of completing their studies, for a skilled – temporary graduate visa (subclass 485) to build on their skills and work experience. There are two streams:

1 Graduate work stream: for international students who graduate with skills and qualifications that relate to an occupation on the MLTSSL. A visa in this stream is granted for 18 months.

2 Post-study work stream: for international students who graduate with an eligible qualification (minimum: a Bachelors degree; maximum: a PhD). This stream is only available to students who were granted their first student visa to Australia on or after 5 November 2011. A visa in this stream can be for up to four years, depending on the qualification; the MLTSSL is irrelevant.

The skilled – temporary graduate visa (subclass 485) visa has unrestricted work rights. The visa aims to ensure that overseas students who decide to stay on in Australia after completing their studies have an opportunity to gain work experience and eventually qualify under the new SkillSelect system or find and Australian business to sponsor them.

The availability of these visas to international students who complete their studies (which are specifically designed to entice them to Australia with the promise of a work visa when they finish their studies) sits uneasily with the criteria that to be granted a student visa, students must prove they will leave Australia at the end of their studies. Ministerial direction no. 53 (3 November 2011) specifically states that intending students must show an intention to return to their own country after their studies.