Applicants for permanent residency visas condemn the system as confusing and arbitrary

Marina Shatalova has been trying for years to get enough points so the Australian government will let her stay permanently.

“It has been a very emotional and difficult journey,” she told the ABC.

“I am Russian and there is no home for me in that country because of the political situation.”

With the unemployment rate at record lows, the federal government has made finding skilled workers from overseas a priority and promised to make the pathway to permanent residency easier.

But many qualified applicants already living here are struggling with a byzantine visa system in which they are given points based on their educational backgrounds, work experience, language skills, age and other characteristics.

Those with higher point totals are prioritized and have their applications processed more quickly.

Applicants say the system is confusing and occasionally arbitrary, and sometimes the goal posts are moved without warning.

Marina Shatalova sitting outdoors.
Marina Shatalova now works as a real estate agent on the Mornington Peninsula.(supplied)

A teacher in Russia, Ms Shatalova first tried to get a skilled independent 189 permanent residency (PR) visa for the same profession.

PR applicants first make an “expression of interest” and if they have enough points the government invites them to apply.

The 189 visa holders aren’t restricted to living and working in regional areas and don’t need a sponsor but have to be under 45 years old and have skills Australia needs.

Ms Shatalova, who immigrated 12 years ago and has a 10-year-old son, got an Australian teaching degree and passed her teaching skills assessment and English proficiency test.

She ended up taking the English test 11 times, costing about $400 a pop, before achieving a “superior English” result, giving her a total of 80 points.

But after lodging her expression of interest, she heard nothing from the government until her teacher skills assessment qualification expired two years later.

“I am educated, healthy, and paying taxes but was never invited to apply for a permanent residency visa even though there has always been a shortage of teachers,” she said.

Sean Dong smiles as he looks down the barrel of the camera for a head and shoulders picture.
Sean Dong says the government should tailor its immigration policies to meet market demand rather than creating rigid occupation lists. (ABC News: Kai Feng)

Sean Dong, a Melbourne-based migration agent, said getting a 189 visa had proven to be difficult in recent years.

“Australia’s immigration system is very complicated,” he said.

“The benchmark for PR invitation is 65 points but for the past two to three years, 189 visa applicants almost had no invitation even though some of them can reach 95 or 100 points.”

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