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  • Writer's pictureElan Rysher

All about ANZSCO occupations (Part 1)

Updated: Jun 4, 2020

A little while ago a new client came in to see me for a consultation. She was a senior consultant working at a large media corporation. She has been working and enjoying life in Australia and wanted to discuss her options to become a Permanent Resident.

Australian Sponsored work visa holder looking for options to become a permanent resident

Her company was sponsoring her to work on a TSS visa (subclass 482). You would normally think someone in her situation would have a clear path to PR, right? Unfortunately for Alice (that's not her real name), her story was quite different.

The trouble was that her company sponsored her as an Advertising Specialist (ANZSCO 225111). TSS sponsorship under this occupation does not lead to permanent residence.

When we started searching for solutions, we realised that Advertising Specialist was not the right ANZSCO occupation for Alice in the first place. There were other occupations which were more closely related to her job AND lead to PR.

Why did her company sponsor her for the wrong occupation? How do you choose the 'right' occupation? And what is ANZSCO anyway? In this series of articles, I will answer these questions.

What is ANZSCO?

ANZSCO is a shared project between the Governments of Australia and New Zealand. It is an acronym which stands for Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations. Essentially, it a dictionary of all occupations.

Graph showing Australian migration trends by ANZSCO occupations
ANZSCO is primarily a statistical tool

There are 1,023 occupations on the latest ANZSCO edition released in 2019. Occupations are organised according to 5 levels of groups and sub groups of similar occupations.

Each occupation is given a unique code which also indicates the major and minor groups it belongs to. Occupations are defined based on the purpose of the job, daily tasks involved and qualifications required.

For example, the ANZSCO code of Cook is 351411. According to the ANZCO, Cooks should have a qualification which is equivalent or higher than an Australian Certificate IV, or Certificate III + at last two years of work experience. The definition of Cook is someone who prepares, seasons and cooks food in a dining or catering establishment. Daily tasks involve:

  • examining foodstuffs to ensure quality

  • regulating temperatures of ovens, grills and other cooking equipment

  • preparing and cooking food

  • And so on.. (you get the idea)

ANZSCO sometimes includes additional notes to help users identify occupations correctly. In the case of Cooks, it states that "Chefs, Fast Food Cooks and Kitchenhands are excluded from this unit group." These occupations have their own definitions.

What is it good for?

ANZSCO was designed to be a statistical tool. Its main function is to collect and analyse information about people and the economy. Sounds a bit vague? I'll explain.

Think about the huge amounts of data collected in Australia's census every five years. By using ANZSCO, the Australian Bureau of Statistics can find out how many Welders there are in WA, or the average income of Primary School Teachers in NSW.

But how is all this related to immigration? ANZSCO is also the foundation upon which the skilled and sponsored-work visa programs operate.

Two women looking at their computer screen and selecting their ANZSCO occupation from the skilled occupations list
Do you know what is your ANZSCO occupation?

For migrants, a key step towards skilled and/or sponsored-work visas is choosing an ANZSCO occupation from the relevant Skilled Occupations List.

The Department of Home Affairs and State and Territory Governments use ANZSCO to:

  • make lists of occupations which are in labour shortage and therefore eligible for skilled or sponsored-work visas.

  • compare the qualifications and work experience of individuals to the ANZSCO in order to determine their eligibility for a visa, nomination etc.

Skills assessment bodies such as VETASSESS also use ANZSCO to check applicants' experience and qualifications. However, they often specify additional or different requirements. If you think you meet the ANZSCO definition of your occupation, that doesn't necessarily mean you can also pass a skills assessment.

What is it not good for?

Because ANZSCO is designed for Statisticians, it can run into trouble when being used in other situations, such as visa applications. For example, according to ANZSCO, ICT Sales Professionals:

"...Manage client accounts and represent companies in selling a range of computer hardware, software and other ICT goods and services to industrial, business, professional and other organisations."

I have once dealt with a Case Officer who seemed to think that in order to meet this definition, a person must be selling computer hardware AND software AND other products, to industrial AND business AND professional organisations. Quite an impossible definition to satisfy.

In reality, ICT Sales Professionals tend to specialise in niche products and sectors. A computer salesperson is unlikely to be also selling accounting software to large businesses. Eventually I persuaded the Case Officer agree with us and grant the visa.

A Cook being sponsored on a TSS visa by his restaurant, preparing asian food in the kitchen
Some occupations are easy to spot. Others aren't

Although the labour market is always changing and evolving, ANZSCO stays more or less the same. That's why you won't find occupations such as Mechatronics Engineer or User Experience Designer on ANZSCO. New or highly specialised occupations often have to use one of the nec (Not Elsewhere Classified) occupations. More on that in the next part of this series.

It is important to note that the creators of ANZSCO anticipated these issues by giving the following advice:

"The allocation of a particular occupation to a particular skill level should be seen as indicative only and should not be used prescriptively."

In other words, ANZSCO is meant to be used flexibly. Unfortunately this is too often ignored in the migration context.

One other blind spot on ANZSCO is that it doesn't tell you exactly what kind of qualification you need to do your job, just the minimum level. To be a Contract Administrator (511111), you need at least a Diploma level qualification. But in what field? Law? Business? Don't ask ANZSCO.

Mechatronics Engineer looking her her ANZSCO occupation
Mechatronics Engineers are not on ANZSCO

In short

Now you know ANZSCO is really just a statistical tool which has been borrowed for migration purposes. It has its limitations, but that is what we have to work with. So how do you go about picking the right occupation? And what ever happened to Alice?

In Part 2 of this article, I will discuss tips to select the ANZSCO occupation which is best for you, taking into account your work experience, qualifications and occupations list. I will also tell you the end of Alice's story (spoiler- happy end is coming).

Stay tuned and subscribe to receive the next article in your inbox. Just click on the Subscribe button in the menu.

Have any questions? Post them below! (or send us a message)

Details of real-life people in this article and their circumstances have been modified to protect their privacy. Any resemblance to reality is coincidental.


Information (or the lack of it) contained in ImmiUpdates should not be relied on as immigration assistance or advice. ImmiUpdates expressly disclaim any liability, arising at law, in equity or otherwise, for any information published or not published in past, the present or future editions of the blog. People seeking immigration assistance should seek advice from a registered migration agent and those seeking legal advice should consult a lawyer. The copyright in the newsletter belongs to Rysher Migration Services and no part of the blog is to be reproduced by any means without the written consent of Rysher Migration Services.


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