Employer SponsoredENS VisasGeneral Skilled Migration

The classification challenge in immigration: what is a Data Scientists as defined in ANZSCO?

By November 1, 2019 February 23rd, 2020 No Comments

In many industries, some of the most in-demand occupations or specialities did not exist 10 or even 5 years ago, and the pace of change is set to accelerate.[1]

In recognising that Data Scientists are a “new and emerging” occupation not currently covered by the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO), the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Department of Home Affairs (Department) have recently provided clarification about the most appropriate ANZSCO occupation for “Data Scientists” for immigration purposes.

In our dynamic employment landscape, this raises a broader question about the adequacy of Australian’s occupation classification system (ANZSCO) and its integration into Australia’s immigration system specifically with respect of work visas.

What is ANZSCO?

The ANZSCO is Australia’s occupation classification system developed in part by the ABS (and certain other stakeholders). There are various categories of occupations from major group, sub-major group, minor group, unit group and then the occupations themselves.  Each occupation has its own 6-digit code, a description, and a list of tasks and duties defining the occupation.

The development of ANZSCO commenced in 2002 with consultations undertaken between 2002 and 2005 and released in 2006. In July 2008, the first minor review of ANZSCO commenced by the relevant stakeholders. The second review was undertaken in 2012, with new occupations only added when they were found to be “statistically viable”.[2]

How do I know which ANZSCO occupation to nominate?

The Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Subclass 482 visa is the work visa to Australia. As part of the “nomination” process of this visa, having identified a position that needs to be filled by a foreign national the businesses must “nominate” an ANZSCO occupation for that position.

In determining the most appropriate ANZSCO occupation, generally speaking a business should have regard to the tasks and duties of the position and ensure that it contains a “significant majority” of the tasks and duties of the nominated ANZSCO occupation.

Often this can be a simple exercise where there are clear cut occupations. For example, there are occupations for Civil Engineers, Software Engineers, and Solicitors etc. For others, where there is not word for word likeness, this exercise can be trickier and many have to take the “square peg in a round hole” approach. The Department do not always agree with these classifications, which can result in refusals.

Data Scientists

With there being no direct ANZSCO occupation for Data Scientists, the ABS has now provided clarification that Data Scientists should nominate the ANZSCO occupation of Information and Organisation Professionals nec, ANZSCO: 224999. They’ve provided the definition of a Data Scientists as follows:

  • Utilise their analytical, statistical and programming skills to collect, analyse and interpret large data sets. They then use this information to develop data-driven solutions to difficult business challenges.
  • Data scientists commonly have a bachelor’s degree in statistics, math, computer science or economics. Data Scientists have a wide range of technical competencies including: statistics or machine learning, coding languages, databases and reporting technologies.

For the purposes of a TSS visa, this occupation is listed on the Short Term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) meaning that the visa applicant would only be eligible for a 2 year TSS visa that can be renewed once onshore, and has no pathways to employer-sponsored permanent residency.

By contrast, had the occupation been listed on the Medium to Long Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL), the visa applicant would be eligible for a 4 year TSS visa that can be continually renewed, and has pathways to employer-sponsored permanent residency.

Hannan Tew’s take

Given the known demand for Data Scientists, the decision is rather unfortunate due to the restrictions placed on that particular occupation. However, a quirk of the ANZSCO definition is that Data Scientist positions could still fall under (and have indeed historically been allocated) occupations such as Statistician, ANZSCO: 224113 or ICT Business Analyst, ANZSCO: 261111, both of which are listed on the MLTSSL. Ironically Data Scientists were potentially eligible for employer sponsored permanent residency until they had the “benefit” of being defined.

Another solution for businesses that may wish to sponsor Data Scientists, may lie under the Global Talent Employer Scheme (GTES), which allows businesses to move away from occupation codes for positions that can’t cleanly be fit into an ANZSCO occupation (or are considered hybrid-roles).


With many new emerging industries and jobs, Australian businesses risk facing issues with filling skill shortages where new specialised positions arise that cannot be filled locally, and the problems outlined above arise in sponsoring foreign nationals who have the requisite skill sets.

It’s clear that a review into the ANZSCO is needed (whilst recognising that this is a monumental task!). With the ANZSCO now being outdated, the Department have resorted to alternate solutions such as the GTES for this issue. Although we’ve made our concerns about the shortcomings of the GTES known – with indications from the ABS that such a review into the ANZSCO would cost over $4 million and be unlikely to happen before the 2021 census (and likely to take several years)[3] – it’s currently the most viable solution for businesses in such a situation. It’s also likely to be a vital data collection tool for the Department in learning where skill shortages lie for businesses operating in STEM fields, and the positions that are not captured by ANZSCO.

However, with the pace of emerging jobs likely to only quicken and exacerbate existing issues for the foreseeable future, there perhaps needs to be a change in the immigration legislation to recognise that not all positions can contain a “significant majority” of the set tasks and duties of defined ANZSCO occupations.

Please feel free to contact us by email at [email protected] or phone +61 3 9016 0484 if you have further comments or queries or would like some guidance.

[1] The Future of Jobs, World Economic Forum, available at: http://reports.weforum.org/future-of-jobs-2016/chapter-1-the-future-of-jobs-and-skills/#view/fn-1

[2] ANZSCO, Australian Bureau of Statistics, 26 Jun 2013, available at: https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Lookup/1220.0Chapter22013,%20Version%201.2

[3] Australia’s outdated official job list leaves students, businesses in limbo trying to get visas, ABC, 17 August 2019, available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-17/anzsco-occupation-lists-need-updating/11413518

This document does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Please consult an immigration professional for up to date information.

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