Did you know that in order to qualify for certain skilled visas, you need to pass a general skilled migration points test? And importantly, it is most often the case that simply achieving the minimum baseline points score is not enough to enable you to receive an invitation to apply for the relevant visa.

If you are interested in applying for a general skilled migration visa to Australia, it is therefore important to have a good understanding of how the migration points test works, so that you can help maximise your chances of being eligible to apply for a skilled visa.

The General Skilled Migration Program

A general skilled migration visa is an option available to skilled workers who are seeking to qualify for a skilled visa independently, or under a state or family sponsorship. It is an alternative to an employer sponsored visa.

One of the key criteria to qualify for a general skilled migration visa is the points test (a criterion that does not apply to employer sponsored visas). This is often the most challenging aspect for prospective skilled visa applicants to overcome when seeking an invitation to apply for the relevant skilled visa.

If you are considering applying for a general skilled migration program visa, an important concept to understand is the Expression Of Interest (EOI).

What Is An Expression Of Interest?

If you are considering applying for a general skilled migration visa, it is important to be aware that for certain visas in this visa class, you will first be required to lodge an EOI with the Department of Home Affairs (the Department) through SkillSelect. The EOI is not a visa application, but rather, it is the process by which you can express your interest in applying for the relevant skilled visa.

This requirement applies to the following skilled visa subclasses:

  • Subclass 189 Skilled (Independent) visa
  • Subclass 190 Skilled (Nominated) visa
  • Subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) Visa

Let’s take a brief look at each of these visas below.

Subclass 189 Skilled (Independent) Visa

The subclass 189 visa grants automatic permanent residence in Australia. It is subject to nil visa conditions or obligations. For this reason, it is often considered to be the most flexible of the skilled visa options available.

A subclass 189 points-based visa allows you to live and work in any state or territory permanently.

Subclass 190 Skilled (Nominated) Visa

The subclass 190 state sponsored permanent residence visa is another points-based visa for which invitations are issued throughout each month by individual states and territories. One of the benefits of applying for state nomination is that you will be granted an additional 5 points.

An important aspect to consider, which does not apply to the subclass 189 visa is that there is an added step in the application process. In this case, you must also apply for nomination approval to a state or territory government. Only upon receipt of an invitation from the relevant state or territory to which you apply can you then apply to the Department for the visa itself.

Your obligations as a subclass 190 visa holder are that you must commit to your nominating jurisdiction’s obligations and commit to residing in your nominating State or Territory for two years from visa grant.

Subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) Visa

The subclass 491 visa is also points-based. It is a regional state or family sponsored visa with a term of five years. The Department issues invitations for family sponsored EOI applications only (in invitation rounds). Invitations for state sponsorship are issued by individual states and territories throughout each month. This will grant you an additional 15 points for the nomination.

Being a provisional visa, this means it provides a pathway to permanent residence in Australia with the Subclass 191 Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa, subject to meeting specified requirements.

Be mindful that as a subclass 491 visa holder, you must abide by visa condition 8579, which requires you to live, work and study in a designated regional area of Australia.

How Can You Receive An Invitation To Apply For A Skilled Visa?

If your EOI is successful, you will receive an invitation to apply for the visa, as specified in the invitation letter. This then enables you to proceed with lodgement of your visa application (provided you meet all other visa lodgement and visa grant requirements).

Invitations are issued by the Department once a month,* in what are called ‘invitation rounds.’ Invitations rounds are expected to run on the 11th day of each month, but this is subject to change. The results are made publicly available. These results are a very useful source of information for anyone who is considering applying for, or who may have already applied for, an EOI. It can help you to assess your prospects for a successful visa application and to plan your pathway based on your own individual circumstances.

*Department Of Home Affairs Update

The Department has issued the following statement:

The Government is closely monitoring migration and visa settings to ensure they are consistent with public health measures, are flexible and do not displace job opportunities for Australians, so that Australia can effectively respond to the immediate and subsequent impacts of COVID-19. As such, targeted invitation rounds have occurred since May 2020.

The Department will run quarterly invitation rounds for the remainder of 2020-21 program year. 

This means that until June 2021, the usual monthly invitation rounds have been replaced by quarterly rounds (12 rounds per year has become 4 rounds for a temporary period).

Note that these invitation rounds are used to issue invitations for visa subclasses 189 and 491 only. The subclass 190 is treated differently in that individual State and Territory Governments issue their own invitations to applicants independently of these invitation rounds at various times throughout each month (i.e. these are not set dates) based on their own individual needs and allocated places (they too are subject to annual limits as set by the Department).

So, in summary. the Department issues invitations for subclass 189 and 491 family sponsored visas in periodic invitation rounds. Invitations for the subclass 491 state sponsored visa are issued by the individual states and territories throughout the month.

Each visa class is capped annually, meaning a maximum number of visas can be granted for each visa class in any given year. The 2020/21 migration program overall is capped at 160,000 places, with skilled visa places accounting for 79,600 (note this covers the period from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021). For the skilled visa class, the following maximum levels have been set for the current 2020/21 year:

Skilled visa class Number of places for the 2020/21 year
Subclass 189 Skilled (Independent) visa 6,500
Subclass 190 Skilled (Nominated) visa 11,200
Subclass 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) Visa 11,200


Skilled occupations are also each subject to a ‘ceiling,’ with a limited number of places allocated to each one annually (this does not apply to State or Territory Nominated visa subclasses. This ensures that the Australian general skilled migration program is not dominated by a small number of occupations. Once the limit is reached, no further invitations for that particular occupation group will be issued for that program year. Invitations will then be allocated to other occupation groups.

To help you to plan your own visa pathway, each month we publish a summary of the results for each invitation round. See the most recent invitation round results for more information.

Invitation Ranking

Invitations to apply for points-tested visas are issued based on the following order of priority (if all other points claims are equal):

Priority Level 1

  • Primary applicants with a skilled spouse or de facto partner
  • Primary applicants without a spouse or de facto partner

The above are ranked equally.

Priority Level 2

  • Primary applicants with a spouse or de facto partner who can demonstrate Competent Englishbut who does not have the skills for skilled partner points (age and skills)

Priority Level 3

  • Primary applicants who have a partner who is not eligible for either Competent English or Skilled partner points. These applicants will be ranked below all other priority levels where all other points scores are equal.

How Many Points Do You Need To Qualify?

The minimum baseline points score that you need to be eligible to lodge an EOI for a general skilled migration visa, as outlined above, is 65 points. This is however not always the case. The minimum points score required may also depend on the skilled occupation which you are seeking to apply for.

The baseline points score required for skilled occupations which have the highest demand for places is set individually for each applicable occupation. Invitations for skilled occupations with this level of demand are also pro-rated, to ensure availability of invitations across the program year.

What Occupations Are Pro-rated?

Occupations that are subject to pro rata arrangements are outlined below:

ANZSCO code Occupation
2211 Accountants
2212 Auditors, Company Secretaries and Corporate Treasurers
2334 Electronics Engineer
2335 Industrial, Mechanical and Production Engineers
2339 Other Engineering Professionals
2611 ICT Business and System Analysts
2613 Software and Applications Programmers
2631 Computer Network Professionals


The pro-rata arrangements do not apply to subclass 491 state sponsored visas. Invitations are instead issued based on the individual determinations of relevant state and territory governments.

How to get more points for General Skilled Migration

As discussed earlier, there is no doubt that the most difficult hurdle are the points when seeking to qualify for a general skilled migration visa outlined above.

For most occupations, there is a requirement that you must score a minimum of 65 points. However, in recent years there has been a major uptrend in many occupations that has seen a drastic rise in competition. Quite simply, for the many occupations, the 65-point threshold will not be enough to guarantee an invitation to apply for a visa.

To submit an EOI, you must achieve a minimum score of 65 points in the points test. Note however that this is not often enough to secure an invitation and is only the base level minimum required to apply. Be aware that the process for issuing invitations is very competitive, with the highest ranked applicants invited first (in conjunction with the order of ranking noted earlier in this article). Additionally, the subclass 189 visa is prioritised by the Department when it comes to issuing invitations, meaning that if all places are filled for this visa for a given invitation round, then no further invitations will be issued for the subclass 491 family sponsored visa class for the relevant occupations.  A point to remember here is that this does not apply to State and Territory nominated visas, with invitations being issued by each State and Territory Government independent of the Department.

This is why, as registered migration agents, we recommend to all of our clients to position themselves for a big points score. But how can you score more points towards your points test?

What Are The Easiest Points?

Points are awarded for a range of aspects, including age, English language competency, skilled employment experience (both in and outside Australia), educational qualifications (including for specialist education) and credentialed community language qualifications.

As noted earlier in this article, additional points are granted for nomination approval for a state or territory government sponsorship visa. This means if you are prepared to live, work and/or study in a regional area like South Australia, you will receive additional valuable points to add towards your points target.

Consider how scoring an extra 15 points, simply for agreeing to live, work/study in South Australia, for example, could make a significant contribution to your overall points balance, and help you to qualify for a skilled regional visa.

Even adding an extra 5 points to your points balance for a state nominated subclass 190 visa can mean the difference between getting over the line in some cases. We understand that 5 points may not be as attractive as the 20 points you can score based on your English competency results, or the 10 points you can receive as a result of your age. But it is clear that scoring 5 points for living in a certain area is the easiest points you will score.

But isn’t there a catch? Don’t I have to live in rural Australia?

It is understandable when reading this article to equate a ‘regional area’ to be in a country town. However, this is not necessarily true. Many of our clients from Perth and South Australia enjoy these 5 points, and an additional benefit is that they are living in a major city!

And this is why they are the easiest points – you can be awarded points for living in a major city within Australia!

Now that applying for a general skilled migration visa receiving an invitation through SkillSelect has never been more competitive, the importance of securing every single point that you are able to can not be underestimated. The bottom line is that these extra bonus points can be the most valuable points you score, as they may certainly be the points that secure your successful visa application!

So don’t miss out on the easiest points for your points test. In fact, don’t miss out any points for your points test. Call and speak with a migration agent at PAX Migration so we can chat with you about all the points that are on offer for you. It might just be the best thing for your general skilled migration visa application!

Calculate Your General Skilled Migration Visa Points

Use our Points Test Calculator to work out your points balance.

Plan A Visa Pathway To Australia

If you are seeking a longer term or permanent visa pathway to Australia, PAX Migration Australia can help you to formulate a plan to achieve your migration goals. We will carefully review and examine your personal situation, including what you hope to achieve, and build a plan for you to maximise your chances of reaching your migration goals in Australia.

This can include formulating a strategy which marks a course for you to gradually work your way towards meeting the eligibility requirements for a provisional or permanent residence skilled visa. By doing so, you can gain points towards your general skilled migration points test during your time in Australia on another visa, for example, as a Temporary Graduate visa holder. Having a well considered and thought out plan can mean that you already have the points you need once you reach the relevant stage of your visa pathway.

The key is being prepared, organised, informed (visa rules can, and often do change) and adaptable to change.

This is where a migration professional can help.

A Registered Migration Agent Can Help

PAX Migration Australia are trained professionals in migration law. Our team of experts possess the skills, qualifications and years of experience to help people like you to apply for a general skilled migration visa for Australia. We know all the ins and out of the points test, and can advise you on how you can maximise your points, so that you improve your chances of obtaining an invitation to apply for a skilled visa.

Although we are experts in all things migration, wherever in the country you may be, and whatever state or territory you are interested in, being based in South Australia gives us an added edge in that we have a particular insight into this market, and are well placed to help you to secure a skilled visa to South Australia.

As part of the service, your registered migration agent will provide you with tailored advice that is prepared specifically for you, based on your individual situation, your goals and needs. Contact PAX Migration Australia to explore your options for an skilled visa.

Why Choose PAX Migration Australia?

To learn more about why you should consider speaking with PAX Migration Australia, reviews and testimonials from our clients about what they think about us, and why obtaining professional assistance and advice from a migration agent can be beneficial in achieving a positive outcome on your migration matter, please refer to the following articles:

Selecting a migration agent in Australia

Should I use a migration agent or immigration lawyer for my application?

Migration Agent in Adelaide

Immigration Agent Adelaide

Migration Agent Australia

Best Migration Agent Adelaide

PAX Migration Adelaide

Migration Agent Elizabeth

Migration Agent Aberfoyle Park

Migration Agent Glen Osmond 

For more information on what you can expect from PAX Migration Australia when you engage our services, including the process involved, please refer to the following articles:

Migration Agent Hallett Cove 

Migration Agent Kensington Park 

Migration Agent Morphett Vale

Migration Agent Oaklands Park

Migration Agent Reynella

Migration Agent Glenelg

Migration Agent Henley Beach

Migration Agent Noarlunga

Migration Agent Semaphore

A Note About The COVID-19 Pandemic

It is important to point out that over the past year, since around March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began to emerge in Australia, we have seen a substantial scaling back of the general skilled migration program, indeed there has been an impact on the granting of all visas generally, as the country deals with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions, especially those that affect travel to Australia, as well as the economic circumstances in Australia (significantly, the widespread job losses experienced by the local population) have severely impacted the visa program.

These effects are, however, expected to only be temporary, and should start to normalise as we emerge from the pandemic. Indeed, skilled migration is frequently talked about as as an important way to help the country to rebuild from the economic impacts of COVID-19.

Over this period, we have therefore been seeing volatility in the the number of invitations being issued, moving up and down from month to month, with no clear pattern emerging, especially when it comes to the invitations rounds run by the Department. These changes and variations are to be expected, however, given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, it is likely not a time to look for trends in the data, given the current climate we are in.

The more likely scenario in the foreseeable future is for more volatile results to continue, whether they be up or down. It is more a case of seeing what each month brings for the foreseeable future, as the Department responds to the immediate environment; an environment which is not what we see in normal circumstances.

Get More Information About The Skilled Visa

You can read about the various types of skilled visas available, the key aspects related to skilled migration and links to further information if you are considering applying for a skilled visa in our article on the Australian Skilled Migration Visa List.

Please also refer to our South Australian State Nomination Program for further information about the South Australian state sponsored options that are available.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

In conclusion, we note that the above discussion provides an overview of the General Skilled Migration Visa Points test. Australia’s migrations laws are complex, and each case is different. We recommend that you seek professional advice before you proceed with applying for a skilled visa to Australia, as being fully informed about the process and requirements that apply will give you the best chance of achieving a successful outcome on your application, and thus lessen the chance that it will be refused. A migration professional can help you to do this. Start off on the right foot by contacting PAX Migration Australia today.

For up-to-date advice on the General Skilled Migration Visa Points test, book your confidential consultation with a migration agent in Adelaide. PAX Migration Australia is a leading immigration advice service based in Adelaide.

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Australian Government – Department of Home Affairs – Immigration and citizenship – What we do – Migration program planning levels