Hello and welcome to our August edition of Immigration News,

At the time of writing, the migration industry is still awaiting the outcome of the 457 program review, and we are hopeful that the proposed changes will be announced next month. Personally, I was extremely disappointed to see that the SA Government has made recommendations that would make it harder for local businesses to use the program to address skill shortages, and  have also recommended that English-language requirements for the 457 program are increased for visa applicants.

In this month’s newsletter we have a strong focus on international students and the international student visa program, including with a candid interview with Federal Education Minster, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP. The Minister openly discusses the importance of the international student program to Australia, and his views regarding opportunities for international graduates to obtain residency in Australia after completion of their studies.

I have been involved in the migration profession for 18 years and during this time have seen many changes to the student visa program and opportunities to graduates to obtain residency in Australia.  I can honestly say it has never been more difficult than it has been in recent times. Whilst the current Federal Government have initiated many beneficial changes since coming into office, there are still many students finding it incredibly difficult to have a student visa granted by the Immigration Department.

Recently, I met with a student who is looking to study a 2-year Master’s degree in Adelaide. The cost of the program (plus living costs for her and her family) mean that she will be investing over $100,000 into living and studying in Australia. This is a hugely significant investment, however, due to Ministerial Direction 53 – the genuine temporary entrant (GTE) provision, her application could still be refused by the Immigration Department.

I do not see the benefit of Direction 53 or the GTE requirement. Why limit students who want to study in Australia based on a case officer’s assessment of whether they think they are a genuine temporary entrant in Australia? I have seen applications refused simply because a student was unable to give names of potential employers and wages that could be achieved after completing a 3-year degree in Australia.

The GTE requirement may have been beneficial if it was introduced prior to the commencement of Skill Select and the Expression of Interest (EOI) requirement for a skilled migration visa back in July 2012. This is when applicants could obtain permanent residency in Australia so long as they had completed an Australian qualification from an approved range of occupations and met the points test criterion.

The current EOI process requires someone to seek Departmental approval to apply for a skilled migration visa. This is a very selective process, which only sees some potential applicants granted an invitation to apply for PR in Australia. If you don’t receive an invitation, you can’t apply.

I believe that the EOI process means that the GTE requirement should be removed or significantly changed for the assessment process for a student visa, due to the selective nature of the EOI process.

As a migration agent with nearly 20 years’ experience in the profession I thought I had seen it all, but recently during a presentation to 6th year medical graduates from Adelaide University I was shocked to hear that there are 23 less internship positions available this year for international medical graduates. These international medical graduates paid $300,000 to study medicine in Adelaide when the course commenced the program 6 years ago, which today is worth upwards of $400.000. Fewer internship positions mean that 23 international students will be unable to complete their qualification and obtain registration as a Doctor in Australia.

This is a serious problem these students are facing, who have dedicated the last 6 years of their life to living and studying in South Australia. I have written to several senior Federal Politicians to raise this concern and have offered a number of solutions for them.

It is very often misunderstood the extent of the benefits that international students provide to education providers and the wider economy. They live in houses or apartments, they purchase local produce, they eat in our cafes and restaurants, the shop in our local stores, drive cars on our roads. Many families of international students will visit South Australia throughout the duration of their stay and for graduation ceremonies – supporting our ailing tourism market. International students also create awareness of South Australia and can open the door to more international students and international trade links. The fees paid by students to education providers allows them to offer more places to domestic students, and creates demand for more teaching positions to be filled.

International students provide fantastic benefits to South Australia but do we really know what an international student will go through whilst studying in Australia? Do we really know what personal sacrifices they endure and the costs involved? Over the coming months we will speak with a number of international students whose stories will surprise and inspire you.

I hope you enjoy our August newsletter.

All the best,

Mark.

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