21 April 2009

Important changes for welfare workers emigrating to Australia

Welfare workers emigrating to Australia will need to be aware of impending changes to the English language requirements and professional experience requirements for their Australian visa application.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) and the Australian Institute of Welfare and Community Workers (AIWCW) have held discussions regarding the English language requirements for welfare workers emigrating to Australia using that occupation as their nominated skill in the General Skilled Migration program. 

AIWCW are arguing that the English language requirements for welfare workers needs to be adequate enough to make them "work-ready" and able to communicate using English at a high enough level to maintain sensitivity when counselling. 

Results from a study into the level of English required for working in welfare (which has been developed by AIWCW) are expected by June 2009, and the new English language requirements for welfare workers are expected to be implemented no later than September 2009. 

Further, welfare workers with a diploma qualification (as opposed to a bachelor degree) are likely to need at least three years' professional experience as a welfare worker in order to gain necessary points towards their Australian visa application (through the General Skilled Migration program). 

These work experience changes are likely to be implemented in 2010, and are also unlikely to affect those welfare workers with a bachelor degree.

These changes will have a huge impact on those overseas students currently in Australia studying towards a welfare work diploma.  This two-year course was seen as an 'easy' avenue to a permanent Australian visa and was sold overseas as such, resulting in thousands of international enrolments.  These students then often qualified for a permanent Australian visa with an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of average 5.5 coupled with regional sponsorship, or they qualified with a minimum 6 IELTS score and no regional sponsorship. 

It would appear that there will be no transitional provisions in place for those already studying in Australia, so the only option for international students in this diploma course would be to enrol for an extra year and gain the relevant degree.  This will be fine for those with excellent English language skills; however, non-native English speakers who will then need to attain a minimum IELTS 7 score in an ACADEMIC IELTS test may find it a step too far.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with emigrating to Australia.

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