Skills Assessment

To date this has proved the most challenging aspect of the visa process.  There is a lot of evidence gathering and cross-checking needed.  You also need to craft your application carefully with one eye on the ANZSCO role description.  On  difficulty level, I scored this 8 out of 10.  This is also the first stage where you’ll need to reach deeper into your pocket. With Vetassess, it took a little over 12 weeks, and that was with prodding to get them over the line.




Having your skills assessed

One of the most important activities you’ll have to undertake in order to receive a skilled migrant visa (for both 189 and 190 visas) is a valid skills assessment.  The skills assessment is a major piece of evidence you have to provide to back up your claim that you are a suitable candidate for a visa under your nominated occupation.

There are a number of assessing authorities for points-based migration, and the criteria for assessment differs between assessing authorities and between occupations.  Some trade occupations require not only evidence of training and employment, but also have a practical component where you have to physically prove that you have the skill set you are claiming in your written application.  All skills assessments have a defined validity period, either explicitly stated on the assessment, or if not, then for three years from the date the assessment is issued.  The relevant assessing authority for all occupations can be found on the the skilled occupation lists (SOL) and the consolidated sponsored occupation list (CSOL).

As mentioned, the different assessing authorities have different requirements, but in almost all cases, what you can expect to have done is an assessment of your post-secondary school education (e.g. university or trade qualifications) and your work experience.  In some occupations, even though a degree might be required, people with suitable occupational experience can by-pass the degree requirement.  My brother was able to do that in his application as a software engineer, but a warning – you basically exchange your work experience for the degree.  I’m not sure if it is a one for one exchange, but as a hypothetical example: if you require a degree and don’t have one but have 8 years work experience, you could potentially exchange 3 years work experience as the equivalent of degree training to get you over the threshold of needing a degree.  You wouldn’t however be able to still claim 8 years for points, you’d only be able to claim 5.  That’s assuming its done on a 1:1 basis, if they do it on a 2:1 then you’d have to sacrifice 6 years of work experience, dropping you to 2 years eligible employment for points.

As my experience is limited to my own application, I’ll only give an accounting of what I experienced and what I did to maximise the points I could claim in the expression of interest.  If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know I applied to emigrate as an Research and Development Manager (ANZSCO 132 511).  The assessing authority for this occupation is Vetassess.  Vetassess cover a fairly broad range of occupations, from professional occupations like actuaries and psychotherapists, to more hands on occupations like fruit growers, fashion designers, and fire fighters.  They require a lot of documents from you.  These include:

  • Photograph
  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of any name change
  • Qualification award certificates
  • Academic transcripts
  • Employment evidence
  • Resume / CV

If you are applying to Vetassess for a trade applications, they’ll want additional things from you, such as first aid certificates if you are applying for a position in the hospitality industry, or video evidence of you performing a number of activities if you are applying for a visa as a hair dresser.  I can’t shed any light on these, so I’ll just stick to my application.

A lot of the evidence is fairly straight forward and easy to provide.  Photos and the such are obviously included in this category.  When it comes to providing the documentation, you simply upload scans to their servers via an online application process.  There is a file size limit so make sure you are scanning as PDFs and not at silly resolution levels.

Proving your academic credentials is pretty straight forward too, you just need to upload your qualification certificates and academic transcripts.  There are some additional requirements if your degrees are from Europe (have to provide a ‘Diploma Supplement’), Nigeria, Pakistan, China and the Philippines, details of which can be found on Vetassess’ website.

The most onerous task is your employment evidence.  There is a certain amount of skill and strategy that need to be employed here.  First and foremost you must remember the reason behind the skills assessment – to prove that your skills match an occupation on either the SOL or CSOL lists.  These occupations are clearly defined by ANZSCO, the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations.  Throughout the process of compiling your evidence to employment keep the main roles and duties, as defined by ANZSCO in mind.  Print them out, stick them to your wall, know them inside out, and craft your CV, statement of service, reference letters around these descriptor.  Put yourself in the role of the assessor.  Chances are they aren’t experts in your field.  They have the role description, they may have seen other applications and they are going to be scoring you based on that knowledge of your field.

Take me for example, my job title is Chief Operating Officer.  The title implies that my day-to-day activities would revolve around business operations and implementing the company strategy as set by the CEO and Board of Directors.  So how did I get a positive assessment as a Research and Development Manager?  I positioned my work duties in line with the descriptions for ANZSCO 132511 R&D Manager.  ANZSCO define the role as Managers that plan organise, direct, control and coordinate research and development activities within organisations”.  With that as the frame of reference, I then explained in my supporting documents that the company I work for is a specialist R&D company  and that the day-to-day operations that I had oversight and responsibility for is the research and development of new drugs.

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT MANAGERS plan, organise, direct, control and coordinate research and development activities within organisations.

ANZSCO go further than giving a one line description of a role, they break it down further into typical tasks that someone employed in that occupation would typically do. For me these were:

  • determining, implementing and monitoring research and development strategies, policies and plans
  • developing and implementing research projects, priorities and targets to support commercial and policy developments
  • leading major research projects and coordinating activities of other research workers
  • assessing the benefits and monitoring the costs and effectiveness of research and development activities
  • interpreting results of research projects and recommending associated product and service development innovations
  • providing advice on research and development options available to the organisation
  • monitoring leading-edge developments in relevant disciplines and assessing implications for the organisation
  • may publish results of significant research projects

I now needed to demonstrate that the above points were all part of my general duties as COO, and so that even though the job title sounds wrong, my activities actually fit an R&D Manager, albeit a very senior one in a company. Being cynical, I didn’t trust that the assessors would just believe what I said, so where ever possible I provided verifiable evidence to support my application. For example, one of the typical activities is “leading major research projects and coordinating activities of other research workers”. This would be something quite difficult for an assessor to verify based on a CV or job description. How I positioned it was to use an example of grant-funded research project that involved a consortium of companies that I lead as an achievement in my CV, then as part of the supporting evidence I provided copies of the grant confirmation letter from the UK government funding agency that showed me as the project lead, the sizable grant budget, the major research goals and the collaborating research companies and university. I also tied this project into demonstrating sound budgeting and cost management as costs and budgets are closely monitored and controlled in government funded projects. Other things I did to demonstrate that I was involved in research activities throughout the timeframe of my application was to provide examples in the public domain of published research, conference presentations, patents filed with me listed on the application as an inventor, and YouTube videos of me presenting at conferences. I used all of these verifiable things to link back and prove what I was saying in my CV and other documents, and wrote a fairly lengthy cover letter to lead the assessor through my application and show how the supporting evidence backed up my credentials.

So on to the specific evidence that is required. To satisfy the employment test, you need to provide a 3-4 page CV, reference letters, statement of services, and evidence of paid employment of more than 23 hours per week. This created another problem for me, as I didn’t want to inform my employer that I was looking at leaving the company (even though it would be a couple years in the future) as it would have impacted my remuneration potential at the company. Vetassess must get this a lot as they allow you to make a statutory declaration in lieu of a statement of services. A statutory declaration is similar to an affidavit. In the UK there is a Statutory Declaration Act (1885) and it spells out the dos and don’t. They need to be witnessed by a solicitor, Justice of the Peace, Notary Public or similar individual. I used a Notary Public. Again, with the task list and duties as defined by ANZSCO firmly in mind, I crafted my statement of services around these activities. Of course I was truthful in the application, but positioned it to give me the best chance of success. I submitted a single statutory declaration for all my roles that were relevant.

The next thing I did to support my application was to get a reference letter from a previous line manager who had left the company but who I was still friendly with. Again, I wrote the reference letter for him to top and tail. I also included copies of my contract of employment, which specified my working hours, a selection of payslips (at least 3 per year), and copies of my tax records covering the period of my application.

By the end of it all, my application included 45 documents (including the mandatory things like photos, scans of passport etc), although there were lots of duplicate things like 8 batches of payslips. Everything is uploaded onto their servers and its an online application (or at least it was in my case).

So how long did it all take. It took me about a month to put everything together, but then I was only really working on it on the weekend. Its not a cheap exercise. The assessment itself cost AUS $810, plus then £90 for the statutory declaration. I did my own photos using one of the online services for a couple of pounds. The important thing is to make sure you get it right as Vetassess are VERY slow in turning around applications. They say the process takes up to 12 weeks. After 12 weeks I hadn’t heard a word from them so I emailed for a status update. The next day I had an email informing me my application was in the final stages of assessment, and two days later I received a positive outcome. As I said earlier, I’m a cynic and suspect that the first time they looked at my application was when I sent them the status update email. So my advice is to contact them as soon as the deadline is up, as they don’t seem to be overly proactive in review applications!

A word of caution – don’t be surprised if they credit you with less years experience than you think you are entitled to. In my application they docked me a year claiming that my role would require one year on the job experience before I had the requisite skills to perform all the duties of an R&D Manager. What sucked badly for me is that it dropped me from maximum points for work experience, to 7.8 years. Luckily I still had enough points to meet the minimum points threshold.

Once you have a positive skills assessment and your English test, you are set to go. You need the results of both for State Sponsorship application and to complete your expression of interest.