28 March 2007

Visa changes imminent as report highlights loophole

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The Australian Government is considering making changes to its Skilled Migration Programme after a report found that students were exploiting a major loophole to gain permanent residency visas.

A study by Monash University's Centre for Population and Urban Research, found that thousands of foreign students are taking up cooking and hairdressing courses to exploit the skilled points test that makes an extra award points for studies completed in Australia. International enrolments in cookery and hairdressing nearly tripled between 2004 and 2006.

Both cooks and hairdressers are on the Government’s Migration Occupations In Demand List (MODL) which sees more points awarded to visa applicants applying under those skills

According to the People and Places study, though, few graduates end up actually working in those trades and the loophole has seen a boom in the number of private registered training organisations.

Demographer Dr Bob Birrell co-authored the study and claimed the loophole is offering very little value in terms of solving Australia’s skills shortages.

Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews commissioned the study and said changes to the Skilled Migration Programme will be announced soon, partly as a result of the findings of the survey. These would include requirements for previous trade experience and better English skills.

The Minister told ABC’s AM programme: “One of the things which we're looking at is the level of English comprehension and understanding and adequacy of students. Dr Birrell made some suggestions in relation to this, which I'm currently looking at.

“The other suggestion he made was that in order to qualify for a visa, then a person doing such courses would need to have at least 12 months job experience at a professional or trade level in their occupation. And that's something which I'm working through at the moment as well.”

The minister dismissed the notion that hairdressers and cooks should be dropped from the MODL to prevent abuses of the Skilled Migration Programme, adding that these skills were still very much in demand by employers.

Cooks and hairdressers looking to emigrate to Australia should firstly see if they qualify for emigration under the Skilled Migration Programme. The Australian Visa Bureau offers free online assessments for all permanent and temporary migration to Australia.

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