This is the story of Rankaj Khurana and his family and their struggles against the department to get Skilled Independent Visa. Rankaj, an Electrical Engineer by qualification, a 2002 graduate from Kurukshetra University. He applied for a class SI 189 Skilled Independent visa on 8 December 2014. On the visa application he provided details of a skills assessment conducted by Engineers Australia on 4 August 2014 and he declared that he had provided complete and correct information in every detail on the form and attachments.

Dipak Pathod, Qualifications Assessor, Engineers Australia, assessed his qualifications and issued a letter on 4 August 2014, which advised that Rankaj had been assessed as meeting the current academic requirement for standing as a Professional Engineer (Skill Level 1) in Australia and his occupational classification for migration purposes is Electrical Engineer ANZSCO 233311.

Rankaj was granted a Skilled Independent visa on 6 March 2015.

However, on 12 October 2016 Engineers Australia wrote to the Department and Rankaj and advised that Rankaj’s migrant skills assessment was invalid due to plagiarism.

Upon receiving that information, the Department took it as Rankaj having provided incorrect answers on pages 9 & 16 of the visa application form as if he did not hold a valid skills assessment from a relevant assessing authority. Also, as if he had provided a bogus document from Engineers Australia, dated mistakenly noting 8 December instead of 4 August, 2014 (sic).

The Department issued a Notice of intention to consider cancellation (NOICC) on 11 November 2016. The Notice incorrectly referred to the letter of Engineers Australia dated 8 December 2014 from Engineers Australia. At that time Rankaj was unaware of this Engineers Australia letter dated 8 December 2014 and thus could not have submitted it to the department with his application.

Rankaj claimed at the Tribunal that the delegate failed to give him the notice with the correct grounds of cancellation as the delegate did not specify which particular provision under s.103 Rankaj did not comply with. Rankaj has never held a document from Engineers Australia dated 8 December 2014 as alleged by the delegate. The document which Rankaj had provided from Engineers Australia with his visa application had been dated 4 August 2014.

After receiving the NOICC Rankaj contacted Engineers Australia and learned that their letter (dated 12 October 2016) to him regarding his skills assessment being invalid had been sent to his previous address in India although Rankaj was residing in Australia. Thus he had not had the opportunity to respond to Engineers Australia correspondence until it was brought to his intention by the NOICC.

Rankaj responded to the NOICC on 25 November 2016 and advised that he was in contact with Engineers Australia.

However, the delegate cancelled Rankaj’s visa on 30 November 2016 and in the decision record.

Engineers Australia letter dated 12 October 2016 stated that “our re-assessment has identified that your career episodes have been copied – either from a standard work reference, all from another client’s application(s).”

Rankaj used the word “re-assessment” to his advantage to submit to the Tribunal  that the letter dated 12 October 2016 from Engineers Australia was the result of a re-assessment of his application and that this means that the positive skills assessment letter dated 4 August 2014 remained in force until the reassessment took place, which was approximately two years and two months after the positive skills assessment was issued. Therefore, Rankaj provided a valid and non-bogus skills assessment document with his visa application.

Engineers Australia also asked Rankaj to apply for a reassessment online, which he did.

Engineers Australia again on 3 May 2017 provided Rankaj with a letter, again by Dipak Pathod, Qualifications Assessor, Engineers Australia, which advised that Engineers Australia was pleased to advise that on the basis of the competencies Rankaj has demonstrated, taken in conjunction with his qualification, Rankaj meets the requirement for the occupation of Professional Engineer (Skill Level 1) in Australia and his occupational classification is Electrical Engineer ANZSCO 233311, and the date is June 2002. Rankaj’s highest relevant qualification is his bachelor degree completed in June 2002 from Kurukshetra University.

The Tribunal verified the letter dated 3 May 2017 from Dipak Pathod, Qualifications Assessor, Engineers Australia, on the Engineers Australia website. The Tribunal was satisfied that Rankaj has a positive skills assessment from Engineers Australia for the occupation of Electrical Engineer ANZSCO 233311.

Accordingl to the Tribunal, the department got it wrong in Rankaj’s case. The document from Engineers Australia with positive assessment of his qualification dated 4 August 2014 was valid at the time of lodgement. Cancelling his visa based on re-assessment by Engineers Australia in October 2016 should have been under provisions of s.116(1)(a): circumstances which permitted the grant of the visa no longer exist, would have been more appropriate.

However, as Rankaj now has, and had at the time of visa lodgement, a positive skills assessment, it is clear that Rankaj never gave incorrect information on the visa application or that he provided a bogus document.

The Tribunal decided not to cancel Rankaj’s Subclass 189 –  Skilled – Independent visa.

The case does raise questions on the procedures and practices of Engineers Australia employed to assess overseas qualifications. How can a positively assessed qualification look genuine in 2014, then ‘plagiarism’ in 2016 and then genuine again in 2017? Do the assessment procedures employed change from year to year?

If yes, why? Should the prospective migrant remain on tenterhooks – indefinitely?

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