By Stephanie Anderson
CHANGES to the skilled migration visa could lead to the collapse of more private colleges, an international student welfare advocacy group has warned.
The Australian Federation of International Students has urged the Federal Government to take a “sensible and humanitarian” approach to its migration reform.
In early February, the list of 106 occupations eligible for permanent residency was revoked in favour of a new, demand-based list of professional and trade occupations subject to annual review.
The government said the occupations on the old list were less skilled and no longer in demand, and the new list would better meet the needs of industry and employers.
But the changes mean that some international students seeking permanent residency in Australia may find their chosen professions have been scrapped from the list, making them ineligible for a skilled migration visa.
AFIS honorary president Wesa Chau said although it was necessary to decouple the link between international education and permanent residency, a reasonable transitory period should be introduced to prevent fallout from the changes.
Ms Chau said the changes were “a little sudden”.
“It would reduce stress and anxiety on current students if the government did not apply the changes retrospectively, and hence only applied the new law to new permanent residency applicants,” she said.
“With the current amendments, students may be forced to rush into new courses, which is likely to cause the collapse of more colleges that cater only for international students.
“This could happen in a short period of time,” she warned.
In a statement, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Evans, said students should remember a student visa was no guarantee for permanent residency.
He acknowledged the changes would affect international students, but said students would still have opportunities for permanent residency.
Affected students can apply for a temporary skilled graduate visa on completion of their studies, allowing them to spend 18 months in the country to find sponsorship from an employer.
Immigration law specialist Jensen Ma from Tan & Tan, said his firm had been inundated with requests from international students whose visas were soon to expire.
“Employers are able to sponsor international students for temporary working visas for up to four years – and for permanent residence – (and) the Immigration Department has made it clear through priority processing arrangements that priority will be given to international student graduates who are able to secure employment in Australia,” Mr Ma said.
He said this could create a circular problem, as graduates would need employer sponsorship to qualify for a visa, and many employers would not consider applicants without permanent residency or work rights.
“We can only advise students to ‘watch this space’, as until the final changes are released, it is difficult to provide a clear way forward,” he said.