Australian Migration Amendment [Visa Capping Bill] 2010 has been through the Lower House of Australian Parliament last month. It is currently with a committee of the Senate. People have been asked to send their submissions. I understand that people can still send their submissions.
Visa Capping Bill has caused severe anxiety among the International students as it has certain features which may have some serious impact on their chances to be Permanent Residents in Australia. Their anxieties are outlined very clearly in their comments to the National Interest programme of ABC Radio National, anchored by Peter Mares who interviewed Minister Evans. Mark Webster who is an expert in this area and is the chair of Migration Institute of Australia, NSW chapter and Peter Mares had also written summaries on this matter.
Here are the links of this Radio National programme and other relevant write ups.
I enclose the link from Dept of Immigration website on this matter too.
As we recall, Minister Evans has been saying that Australia wants to have a demand-driven Immigration programme, not a supply driven programme. He has mentioned that we have an oversupply of cooks and hair-dressers. Instead of them, we need doctors, nurses, engineers etc.
To achieve this result, he has done several things. One was to bring out this new Skilled Occupations List [SOL]. Others included putting a temporary freeze on granting Visa from the beginning of May 2010.
Visa Capping Bill is the latest instrument which Minister wants to have it passed by the Parliament. This will give him the power to manage the Skills categories and the types of migrants which are needed in Australia. With this power, Minister can outline “characteristics” of the applicants and apply a cap on the number of Visa given to that category in a particular year. After that number has reached, all remaining applications are “terminated” as if they have never been made. “Termination” is different from “rejection” because “terminated” applicants will not have a right to challenge that “termination”. The application fees for such applications will be returned but it will not include fees one has paid for migration advice, medicals and other associated expenses.
About 61000 places are available for the General Skilled Migration [GSM] places for the next year. There are already 147000 applicants for GSM in the queue right now and more than 25% of them  are from International students who have completed their studies in Australia. 17594 are cooks and hair-dressers alone. Quite a lot are on bridging Visa, awaiting the final decisions from the Immigration dept. Let me give an example to clarify things here. If Minister Evans picks the characteristic “Cooks” and applies a “Cap” of a certain number [likely to be a small number], then all remaining applicants from “Cooks” category will be “terminated” even though these applicants have been on the waiting list for decisions for years. These “terminated” applicants will have 28 days to leave Australia. This is where the anxiety is coming from.
If you see the comments in the Radio National programme and the submissions to the Senate committee, people have been in Australia for many years. They have sacrificed a lot. They had to arrange huge amounts of finances by taking loans, selling/mortgaging their houses/farms before they came to Australia on a student Visa. Australia allowed them to come and study here. Australian International education was marketed [marketed by those who were involved in marketing on behalf of International education in Australia] with the lure of PR visa because certain courses/trades were in the preferred list which would give them the almost certain chance of getting a PR Visa after completion of their diploma/course/training. Australia was a preferred place for international students because of this link. It is true that Australian Gov itself did not declare this link in a legal sense but this link was clearly used in the marketing. There was a practical link of getting PR after completion of certain courses because those courses were in the preferred list. By the way, it is not a serious argument today that previous Gov was wrong in linking education with immigration. This argument is not going to help the issue at hand. There is no denying that mismanagement has taken place. Many are now of the opinion that education and immigration should have never been linked.
New SOL has removed many of the low value courses which is a good thing. This will take care of future students. Visa capping bill gives powers to the minister to manage the waiting list of those whose trades are not in demand anymore and are not in the new SOL but whose applications are pending for PR at this point of time. Apparently, there is a massive backlog of >2 years for general skills migration [GSM] applications. Backlog is one thing but Minister also wants to make sure that people with low-value trades are not getting PR and distorting the overall mix of skills which Australia gets from GSM.
Australia has the sovereign power to decide who it will accept as immigrants and what skills it needs. Nobody can have an issue with this inalienable power.
As is true with every power, the powers of this nature should be used judiciously [and Minister admits it himself], keeping in mind the “human consequences” of those who will be affected. Powers of this nature should be used keeping in mind that “these” people came here because Australia allowed them through a smart [or was it?] marketing and they have invested huge amount of money and time in Australia over 4-5 years. We have to be mindful that many of the students and their families back in whichever country they came from will have very difficult times if their “investment” of money and time fails and they are forced to leave Australia in this manner.
If you read the comments as mentioned above, many Ex students are already in the relevant jobs after completing their training. There is no reason why they can’t get the PR. They will suffer too if the power from this Bill is used as they will be in that “characteristic” or “cap & cull” category.
Yes, people can go for PR via Employer Nomination Scheme [ENS] or get PR via State or regional sponsorship scheme if they can get such sponsorships [SOL does not matter for such sponsorships] but it is not going to be available for most.
The discussion on a topic like this will always bring the question of whether the changes should be prospectively applied or whether it is fair to apply them retrospectively.
Minister Evans has sought this power but has not declared which trades he is definitely going to target. Cooks and hair-dressers have however been mentioned repeatedly. Which “class or classes” will be subjected is not clear but this can be applied to any “class” as there is nothing in the Bill which excludes any “class” on which this “cap and cull” power can not be used. Protection visa is the only exception.
Minister Evans has his justifications for this power but I am concerned about the “human” consequences and with the plight of students. I am visualising very serious difficulties for affected international students and their families with possible impact on their physical and mental health.
When new SOL was declared, I thought the transitional measures were going to be useful for those who were impacted. With Visa capping Bill, it appears that the relief offered by transitional measures may be taken away for at least some trades like cooks and hair-dressers.
What is your view?
Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/June 11, 2010