Record number of international students sticking around on visas with full work rights

More international students than ever are remaining in Australia for up to four years on graduate work visas following their studies.

The explosion has prompted concern from Labor, but the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University (ANU) has argued they are not displacing other workers.

In March 50,000 international graduates were in Australia on the 485 visa — an increase of more than 16,000 in just 12 months.

Labor’s immigration spokesman, Shayne Neumann, said international students are an important contributor to the economy, but rapid growth in a visa subclass could be cause for concern.

“It’s incumbent on the Turnbull Government to ensure the integrity of Australia’s migration program,” he said.

Last year 350,000 international students were enrolled in universities — an increase of 100,000 in the preceding three years.

The lag between a student’s enrolment and graduation, and the grant of subclass 485 visas, means the number of international graduates working in Australia is set to rise even further in coming years.

International students are allowed to work for 20 hours per week during semester under their visa, but no time or occupation restrictions apply to the “post-study” graduate visa stream.

This provides a visa of two years following study — or up to four years for some higher qualifications — to those who complete degrees of at least two years.

The visa may assist some towards a pathway to permanent residency, but the majority of international students return to their home countries.

‘Very high value people’
ANU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brian Schmidt told that the visa provides “flexibility” and “financial incentives” to students.

“But it also means the graduates we have here, who are incredibly well trained, have the opportunity to contribute to the Australian economy,” he said.
A 2015 report from the Productivity Commission stated “there is little doubt that immigration has boosted the supply of youth labour” and “continued monitoring of the impact of immigration on youth and graduate labour markets is warranted”.

Since this report was released, the number of temporary graduate visa holders in Australia has more than doubled.

Tweaks to the visa in 2013 gave longer and less restrictive post-study work rights to university graduates than those in vocational training.

According to the 2016 i-graduate International Student Satisfaction Survey, the opportunity to work in Australia following study was more important to students than the opportunity for part-time work during study.

This survey, partly funded by the Department of Education and Training, found the following factors were most important to students coming to Australia:

reputation of the qualification,
reputation of the institution, and the
reputation of the education.
Teacher reputation, opportunities for further study and social life were factors ranked immediately above the opportunity to work in Australia following studies.

 

Students left in a lurch by sudden visa policy change

International students from India have been left in the lurch due to the ACT government’s sudden change in their visa policy.

Earlier this year, Kanish Chug moved to Canberra and enrolled himself in a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) course at the University of Canberra, in the hope of getting five additional points required to beat the high competition in his occupation for skilled migration to Australia.

“I have 75 points. The competition is very high. Only a fixed number of accountants are invited each year and the cut off is very high. When I heard Canberra was giving state nomination for those who lived here, I moved to Canberra hoping it will help me gain five more points,” Mr Chug told.

In July 2017, the ACT government opened up state nomination for occupations which were not on the “open” list of in-demand jobs, if they already lived in the ACT.

If a person could prove they had been living in the ACT on a student visa or graduate visa for at least 12 months and had completed a Certificate III or higher education at a local institution, they could qualify for state nomination.

This prompted many like to move to Canberra.

Anjali* moved her family from Perth to Canberra upon learning this.

“I sold off everything and moved here in September 2017. I have enrolled myself in a Professional Accounting course here, paid thousands in fees, just to become eligible for state nomination.

“And now they tell us, this policy is no longer available. I can’t tell you how depressed I am,” she said.

Anjali and Kanish told that the news has been devastating, saying it’s leaving their futures bleak.

“I paid $50,000 for my Master’s degree in Melbourne. I enrolled myself in another degree to get five extra points and have paid thousands in fees.

“It is devastating to learn that all my effort to move to Canberra, my hard earned money was for nothing,” Kanish says.

Anjali says she would have qualified in September for state nomination had they not changed this policy suddenly.

“I don’t know what to do now. I feel cheated,” she says.

Anjali and Kanish are not alone.

Hundreds have signed an online petition demanding the ACT Government honour its original promise and allow international students enrolled in an ACT institution on or before the 29 June 2018, to apply for ACT nomination under the policy in place on that day.

This petition has received over 600 signatures over two days.
“ACT government to review visa program”
The ACT Government has now said it’s looking at a ‘more flexible way’ to help people who had moved there.

“Given that demand for the program is expected to continue to increase, there will be a need to find a more flexible way to manage the program within the limitations imposed by the Department of Home Affairs,” The Canberra Times quoted a spokeswoman of Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

Pathway to claim 5 extra points towards Australia’s skilled migration

Visa applicants in skilled migration program are keen to gain extra points after the federal government announced significant changes in the point system from 1 July 2018.

Australia’s skilled migration program is a points-based system designed to attract highly qualified and experienced professionals to best meet Australia’s skills needs.

There are a number of skilled migration visas that require applicants to score a minimum number of points to qualify for permanent skilled migration.

After the government’s recent announcement of increasing points threshold from 60 to 65, many prospective applicants are looking for alternative ways to boost their chances in the General Skilled Migration (GSM) visa point system.

Some of the new applicants now rely on boosting their points by clearing language test from National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI).

NAATI offers Credentialed Community Language (CCL) Test that gives 5 points to the prospective applicants for their point-based GSM visa.

CCL Exam determines an applicant’s ability to interpret the conversation between two speakers speaking different languages.

Harpal Singh is a NAATI accredited translator and interpreter for Punjabi-English and he also serves as a member of the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT) and the New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters (NZSTI).

Mr Singh told SBS Punjabi that in the last month only there has been an increase in the number of people who wish to take NAATI’s CCL test to gain five points for skilled migration point test.

“This follows government’s recent amendment to the point test threshold, and now everyone is keen to meet the desired criteria by taking up this examination,” he said.

“There’re two options, either you score 7 each in the English proficiency test IELTS or you clear NAATI’s CCL test. Often people find the second option easier as it is conducted at a conversational level compared to the academic nature of IELTS.”

Mr Singh explained that it should be clear that an individual who passes a CCL test is not certified to work as an interpreter or translator.

“This system is designed to benefit people who have multilingual skills. It is only supposed to help them gain five bonus points for their points-based visa applications made to the Department of Home Affairs. This does not provide them with a work opportunity in this field,” he says.

“The overall pass rate of the CCL test is above 50% and that’s why we see a large number of applicants opting for this test.

“It looks quite promising compared to the pass percentage of the test conducted to get certification as an interpreter or translator, which sits well below 15%.

Mr Singh explained that an overwhelming number of candidates take the CCL test lightly and come unprepared for the exam. “Just don’t be overconfident… It is only the practise that will make you through, so put some time and sincere effort if you wish to succeed,” he suggests.

Melbourne-based migration agent told that the recent change in the point test could be attributed to the high calibre of prospective applicants who express their interest in the GSM program.

“I often deal with Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu speaking clients from Indian-subcontinent and I see a huge interest in them to take the NAATI test to gain 5 extra points,” he said.

“The test success rate seems ok but the problem lies in registering for the examination. My clients are struggling to book sessions as there’re no seats available until December.

“It seems like a poorly organised system. I went to check NAATI’s Melbourne office who suggested they don’t have enough resources or manpower to cope-up with this huge increase in the number of applicants.

“The applicants who are desperate to gain this bonus may think of taking this test in the less crowded cities rather than doing it in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. But I seriously doubt if there are any seats left in those cities.