“Will my lack of formal qualifications ruin my chances of an Australian visa?” This is one of the most common queries we come across at The Immigration Agency, particularly from people with several years of experience in an occupation on the Australian government’s skilled occupations list. The answer, if you’ll briefly indulge its vagueness, is ‘not necessarily.’
For certain skilled occupations, formal qualifications are an imperative. As you might expect, there isn’t really any way around the need for a medical degree when applying for a visa as a cardiothoracic surgeon. But for many occupations, there is a pathway to permanent residence for those with no ‘papers’. This pathway is called the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). Among the many occupations that can be assessed for prior learning, are various construction trades such as; bricklayer, carpenter, plasterer. This also includes the metal trades such as; metal fabricator, welder and fitter. We have been contacted by several stonemasons and painter and decorators, who have told us that there aren’t really any qualifications for their occupation, and that the only way to learn their trade is on the job. Fortunately, we were able to tell them that they were eligible for RPL. The other vocational occupations that recognition of prior learning exists are; hairdressers and chefs.
The process for the above occupations works as follows. Certain organisations are authorized by the Australian government to assess the ability of applicants to practice their chosen occupations. If the assessment is successful, applicants are awarded the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) Certificate III. This qualification is broadly equivalent to the Irish National Craft Certificate. While the methods of assessing organisations vary, assessments generally involve a paper application. This is supported by evidence such as references, membership of professional associations, photos of previous work etc. Upon successful completion of this initial stage, candidates usually proceed to a technical interview or practical assessment. Successful applicants are then awarded their AQF Certificate III. The AQF Certificate III can then be used to support a skills assessment application to the relevant assessment body for the occupation in question (eg TRA, VETASSESS), in the same way as someone who already held a suitable UK or Irish qualification.
Recognition of Prior Learning isn’t restricted to trade occupations either. For instance, the Australian Computer Society performs skills assessments for IT professionals without third level ICT qualifications. Such applicants can have their experience assessed by submitting two detailed reports relating to projects carried out while working at their nominated occupation.
Not having formal qualifications needn’t put an end to your dreams of living and working in Australia. At the very least, you owe it to yourself to find out if your occupation is eligible for RPL. So don’t hide your light behind a bushel, give us a call to see if you’re eligible and try to think about yourself in these terms: Australia would be lucky to have me!