06 April 2009

Studying in Australia now a popular pathway to permanent Australian visa

A permanent Australian visa is fast becoming a hot item for many people trying to escape the effects of the global financial downturn, considering the Australian economy is proving to be more resilient to the recession than many others.

To obtain a permanent Australian visa under the General Skilled Migration (GSM) program, it requires skills in a particular occupation and applicants must also meet basic criteria relating to age, English language ability and work experience (at least 12 months of skilled work experience in the previous two-year period). 

However, overseas student graduates who have completed at least two academic years of study in Australia are an exception to this work experience requirement for permanent Australian visa applications.  So, for many people who do not qualify for a permanent Australian visa under the GSM program, due to lack of recognised skills and/or lack of recent skilled work experience, studying in Australia becomes the quickest avenue to obtain a permanent Australian visa. 

For example, the Trades Recognition Australia (TRA) assesses the skills of cooks for migration purposes and to recognise an overseas-trained cook, a minimum four to five year period is required by the TRA.  A further 12 months of skilled experience is then also required, taking the permanent Australian visa plan for cooks up to five to six years. 

Meanwhile, the TRA requirements for Australian-trained cooks need usually a 12-month Certificate III course plus 900 hours of related trade experience.  Although recognition by the TRA could be done in 12 months, DIAC require a minimum total of two years of study in Australia to apply for a GSM visa and qualify for an exemption of the recent skilled work experience requirement.  So, the Australian education institutions are tailoring trade courses to meet the DIAC requirement.  This can mean studying a related second certificate course or a related diploma course for the second year. 

Essentially, this means that after two years the majority of the overseas students can apply for a permanent Australian visa and have full permission to work from the time they complete their second year of study.  However, during the two years of study, they have had restricted work rights of no more than 20 hours per week and unrestricted work between semesters.

Studying in Australia not only means that the permanent Australian visa process is shortened by three to four years, the overseas student can work as soon as the course is commenced and is in Australia for the processing of the permanent Australian visa application

The overseas applicant, however, takes three to four years longer to qualify for a permanent Australian visa, and also has to factor in processing time to their overall timeline.

Monash University demographer Bob Birrell says that more than 3,200 people gained permanent residency by studying cookery in Australia in 2007 to 2008 and that only a small minority of them are actually capable of gaining trade-level work, because the training simply does not prepare them to do that work. 

"These students are extremely vulnerable. They're desperate to gain permanent residence. They are likely to accept wages and conditions which would be unacceptable to local workers," he said in an interview on ABC News.

They are desperate because unless they can get 900 hours work experience in addition to their 12-month cookery course, they will have wasted their time and money in their attempts to obtain a permanent Australian visa.  Desperation has led to forged work documents and even working for no pay as the proof of the 900 hours work becomes the culminating goal.

Despite there being a shortage of skilled cooks throughout Australia that is not being met by the vast overseas student contingent, recent changes to the Critical Skills List (CSL) means that skilled cooks are no longer considered a high priority under the GSM program and will not be processed quickly, unless they are being sponsored by States/Territories.

With rising unemployment in Australia, Bob Birrell thinks a solution to the shortage of cooks and local unemployment levels is to attract Australians into training for the industry.

"In the medium term, we have a serious predicament in Australia that there are far more jobseekers than there are jobs, and the Government is trying to encourage young Australians to take on trade-level work.

"Now cooking is an important occupation; it's in the service sector and is likely to grow, so I think it's important that we diminish our reliance on overseas people for the cooking trade and try to ensure that the terms and conditions for cooks are such as would attract young people into the industry."

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people get their permanent Australian visa grant.

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