INTERNATIONAL students can protest against the Federal Government’s approach to its migration reform in an online petition.
More than 150 people have already signed up in the month since it was launched by the Australian Federation of International Students.
In early February, the list of 106 occupations eligible for permanent residency was revoked in favour of a new, demand-based list of professional and trade occupations subject to annual review.
More than one third of jobs on the old list were scrapped, including popular courses like cooking and hairdressing, which together made up three quarters of all skill visa applications in 2007-08.
The changes mean students who applied for a skilled-graduate visa after February 8 and whose courses have been scrapped from the skilled occupations list would no longer be eligible for permanent residency, unless they found an employer to sponsor them.
While supportive of the reforms, AFIS honorary president Wesa Chau criticised the “abrupt and chaotic” way the changes were implemented.
Ms Chau called on the Federal Government to review measures so those already in Australia could gain permanent residency even if their course was no longer on the revised list.
“Many such students have invested a substantial amount of time, effort and money to enhance their skilled area of practice, only to find their options to further a career in that chosen field is now severely limited. Some are literally days off the July deadline,” she said.
“My concern is that students will now be rushing to find employers to sponsor them, making them highly vulnerable to exploitation. At the same time, international students are less attractive to employers, not because of their skills, but because of their temporary status.”
In a statement, immigration minister Chris Evans said the new skilled occupation list ensured Australia’s skilled migration program was demand-driven rather than supply-driven.
“Australia’s migration program cannot be determined by the courses studied by international students,” he said.
“International students who have the skills our economy needs will still be able to apply for permanent migration or be nominated by employers, but we will no longer accept the thousands of cooks and hairdressers.”
Immigration law specialist Jensen Ma from Tan & Tan said employer sponsorship wasn’t the only avenue open to students affected by the changes.
“While not the best option, students who want to stay in Australia, can consider changing their course to study something that’s on the new list,” Mr Ma said.
“They should also find out if they are eligible for any other temporary visas, as many remain unaffected by the changes,” he said.
“But the best advice I can give students is to lodge their temporary visa no matter what. This visa lasts for one and a half years. A lot could happen in that period.”