11 April 2012

Australia visa cap could narrow students' path to residency

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The Australian government will launch their new immigration scheme, SkillSelect, in July in an effort to streamline the application process and combat skill shortages. However, some have warned that the Australia visa caps included in the scheme could make it harder for international students to gain permanent residency.

Australia visa

Some are worried the Australian government's new SkillSelect scheme will make it tougher for students to gain permanent residency.

The SkillSelect scheme will introduce limits to the number of people applying for an Australia visa for a number of different categories. This is to allow the Australian government to account for shortages in a variety of different industries and occupations and the caps will be subject to change to compensate for any changes in the labour market.

However, Bob Birrell of Monash University in Melbourne says that the changes could discourage prospective students from applying to Australian universities if they cannot choose a course which will guarantee them permanent residency after they graduate.

Taking accountancy as an example, Dr Birrell explained that despite it being on the skilled occupation list, which prioritises needed occupations, its movable ceiling would result in uncertainty for applicants.

"So even if accounting remains on the list, there is no guarantee that the applicant will get a place," said Dr Birrell.

"The immigration department will take the best candidates, presumably based on points."

The new system will analyse candidates based on language skills, their qualifications and work experience while the caps will affect Australia visa applications in the independent skilled migrant category, typically the category favoured by international students.

Education has been a widely used, and often controversial, route to permanent residency for many foreign nationals, who would take short courses before winning a visa.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) is attempting to curb this behaviour although a spokesperson for the DIAC said the caps will be introduced to regulate the distribution of visa grants, but they will have 'little impact' on international students.

"The purpose is to avoid the occupational distributions of visa grants in the skilled stream being heavily skewed to a narrow range of occupations," said the spokesperson.


The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian Embassy.

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