NSW should take adantage of Visa changes for overseas students and market itself aggressively.

Minister Chris Bowen [Minister for Immigration and Citizenship] and Senator Chris Evans [Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations] have unveiled The Knight report and announced new changes in Visa rules for international students. These changes have been hailed by the key players in the International Education industry.

Bowen-Evans-Knight-Media-release

http://www.immi.gov.au/students/knight/

http://www.smh.com.au/national/postgraduate-education/overseas-students-get-easier-entry-working-visas-20110922-1kncv.html

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/international-student-visa-changes-biased-towards-unis-tafe/story-e6frgcjx-1226144429513

http://www.couriermail.com.au/ipad/visa-change-to-help-foreign-students/story-fn6ck4a4-1226143636337

These changes are likely to lift the number of overseas students coming to Australia and will give a boost to the economy. This is a good news. International education is worth $18 billion nationally. Everything needs to be done to take it to a bigger level, while ensuring that the system is not rorted again. We do not want “Visa factories” again. These changes are likely to encourage genuine students, wishing to pursue education in Australia.

The main changes are;

  • Fast Visa approval process for bachelor or higher degree University courses
  • Less onerous criterion for financial support
  • Changes in the risk assessment criterion
  • 2-4 years guaranteed work Visa after finishing a bachelor degree or higher Uni courses
  • Australian International Education will be able to compete with UK, USA and Canada more effectively

The work visa is a master stroke. This allows people to work without any restrictions. I have no doubt that it will make Australia a very attractive place for International education.

Indeed, universities have been given some preference in the new system, largely because they are the places for higher and quality education. These changes will help TAFE too but unlikely to help the private institutions which had mushroomed previously, and many brought bad reputation to the industry and Australia due to poor quality education and exploitation of students. These fly by night operators and shonky providers had done enormous harm to this sector.

Quality control and monitoring of providers would be the key to keep Australia in the fore front. University sector gets about 25% of its budget from overseas students. This dependence on overseas students should not be allowed to dilute the standards of education in the universities.

These Visa rules will be reviewed periodically by the Education Visa Consultative Committee [EVCC] which will recommend changes as and when needed.

These are welcome changes and should help the growth of the industry. Michael Knight, Ex NSW Minister and the author of the report, has done a good job.

Finally, NSW Govt should do every thing to promote its universities to the overseas market, especially China and India, by removing the apprehension about safety issues, working towards some system for accommodation support in the beginning, and establishing a system which will deal with exploitation of students. The bogey of racism and racist attacks which some overseas media had reported without real basis can be tackled effectively. NSW delegation is visiting India in November. In addition to every thing else, it should obviously also have a focus on this sector. Nothing will assure Indian parents better if they hear from Indian Australians of high standing that Australia is a safe place to study, live and work. I believe that the $5 billion international education industry in NSW can easily grow to a higher level, if key players work smartly and effectively. Victoria is the number one destination for these students currently, but it could easily be NSW. After all, overseas students will come to NSW as a prefered destination, as it is a fantastic place with beautiful cities, beaches, renowned universities and multiculturalism in its DNA. This will happen definitely, provided NSW has been marketed smartly in the key markets.

Yadu Singh/Sydney/23rd September, 2011

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National organisation of Indian Australians is the need of the hour!

Australia has a substantial numbers of people of Indian heritage. It is approximately >250000. With students from India, this goes above >350000. It is going to increase as Indians have formed a good chunk of the total Australian immigrants over the last several years.

One of the things we have seen lately is the fact that there are Indian functions almost every weekend. In Sydney alone, we have had 6 Diwali functions including a big Diwali fair in Parramatta stadium. This Hindu Council of Australia fair was impressive and the biggest fair for/by Indian community. This is great.

With increased numbers, problems faced by some of us have also increased. It is expected. There are some issues however which appear to be more pertinent for our community. Students’ issues is one such example. There is a large number of ex-students who are in a bridging visa and are in fact in a limbo as the processing of their applications has not been progressing.

Negative portrayal of Australia by Indian media last year was often hysterical and imbalanced. This was not fair. Issues were there but the manner of coverage was not right. There were heaps of leaders issuing a variety of  views which were often conflicting. One leader had a habit of calling every incident as a racist incident without even waiting for full evidence. This type of reporting has a potential to create a backlash against Indian Australian community. I am not denying that there were serious issues in regards to Indian students and Indian media, in fact, helped bring them to fore-front but exaggerated and imbalanced coverage in many cases and overuse of  racism word was not helpful. A segment of Indian media literally branded Australia to be a racist country without bothering to check the basis or the facts for that claim.

With the issues created by some students ie documentary frauds, contract marriages and crimes committed by them, the reputation and image of Indian community has had a significant hit. This needs to be tackled too. We have to live and work here and our community can’t afford to have a negative image. Our image of a community of educated people with a relatively much less crime needs to be restored and enhanced.

There are several issues which our community must deal with. Helping new arrivals by mentoring is one of the things which we will need to do as a community. Helping new arrivals to integrate well is a very important mentoring job. Domestic violence and exploitation of our people, often by our own people, must be tackled.

There are issues between Australia and India. The classical one is about the sale of Australian Uranium to India which current Gov does not want to do. We obviously want to see that happen. Non-signatory status of India for NPT has no significance after India was given the India-specific NSG exemption last year with an active support from Australia. India also has a clean record on nuclear non-proliferation.

There are obviously several issues and I have mentioned only a few.

When educated Indian Australians with vision talk about the community issues, they do talk about the need for a national body which can take up the issues which have a national significance for the community. While doing so, they also talk about the mushrooming of “community leaders” every where, many of whom do not have an idea of conflict of interest. Many such “leaders” do not have the pre-requisite for the leadership role. Such national body must be able to work in a co-operative fashion with Indian/Australian Gov agencies including Indian consulates and the High Commission, and business-focused bodies such as AIBC.

We need genuine associations of Indian Australians which can tackle the problems of the community in a genuine way. These associations need to be pan-Indian in outlook and should not have a linguistic or regional outlook, focusing on the language spoken at home or the place of origin in India as the basis for the organisation.

We really have far too many associations and far too many “leaders”. Leaders of all associations must move on after serving for a maximum of two years. It is not a good idea for these “leaders” to use associations as a place for retirement activities. It is totally ridiculous to see “leaders” who are in their late 70s or 80s when they are clearly unable to grasp the situation and needs of our community. Respecting our seniors is one thing [and I too respect them] but that does not mean that we have to put up with their inefficient or inappropriate leadership. Issues of Year 2010 need leaders who can understand them and can do something about them. Our elder leaders [late 70s and 80s], if they have a burning desire to do community work, can do a great job by being the mentors and guides for the younger leaders. Their experience can be invaluable.

All such organisations must work in a transparent fashion. Indian ethnic media needs to do their genuine job to ensure that associations and leaders are doing the right job. Forming alliances with associations/leaders is not a good idea. This is a problem area.

We really need genuine leaders for our community and such leaders must be those who have;

  • vision and credibility
  • capacity to lead
  • ability to communicate with Gov authorities and people
  • ability to network and communicate with media
  • integrity
  • capacity to understand “conflict of interest” and practise it
  • capacity to follow the principles of transparency and accountability
  • capacity to lead by examples ie can be role models

Being “leaders” for photo ops and doing Melas [Fairs] only is not going to help! Taking commissions for their “leadership” is an absolute NO.

Some discussions are going on in these regards and an outcome is expected soon, hopefully.

One must not forget that we have literally hundreds if not thousands of “associations” most of which are essentially pocket associations of our “leaders”.  We can see how/why associations-based federation[association of association] at the national level will be a failure from the day one. It should therefore be an organisation based on individual membership, taken from the people who fulfill criterion explained above.

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/14th Nov, 2010

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Australia-India relations and the issues of Indian students:IBN Live documentary [Hindi]

http://khabar.ibnlive.in.com/news/35809/2

Smita Sharma, a senior journalist from IBN Live channel was in Australia recently. She has made this comprehensive documentary. She did a good job and covered the issues of Indian students in Australia and sought the comments of Indian Australians who have been here for a long period. Ravi Bhatia of AIBC, Vasan Srinivasan of FIAV, Anupam Sharma and myself were interviewed for this documentary. She managed to speak with some actors from a Bollywood movie  on this topic [a Mahesh Bhatt movie which was being shot in Australia at that time] too with the help from Anupam Sharma.

It is in HINDI. It is in multiple segments.

It is a very balanced documentary. It is definitely worth a watch.

Yadu Singh/Sydney/13rd July, 2009

A Blog & a brilliant editorial on Visa Capping Bill 2010:a must read!

Yadu Singh dryadusingh

http://tinyurl.com/2b8zvkz Visa capping bill 2010 is a disgrace-says this Blog.

I am enclosing an editorial  by Pawan Luthra, Editor, Indian Link newspaper. He has written a very pertinent and a brilliant piece on this matter. Thank you, Pawan.

————————————————————————————————–

“The Visa capping issue

… is becoming the international students’ worst nightmare, says PAWAN LUTHRA

Minister Chris Evans could have the power to effectively order potential migration applications to be declared null and void if the Migration Amendment (Visa Capping) Bill is passed. This means that applicants will not be given a chance to appeal this decision and will have to leave the country within 28 days. With the Coalition remaining quiet on this and a minimal fuss from the Greens, chances of this becoming law are strong. Those most affected are potential migrants, a number of whom are students who may have studied in Australia for over two years. They have contributed thousands of dollars to the Australian economy, been model guests in this country and, in the future, could do Australia proud.

But now they’re becoming victims this game of politics masterminded by the Labor government which has been caught flat footed from the events in the student community since the past year. It is a transparent tactic of the Labor government, seeking to deflect focus from its refugee policies. It is easier to lay blame for the expansion of the student and migration market on the Howard government, rather than work to capture this special resource of talent already existing in the country. Caught within this political crossfire are the hopes and aspirations of thousands who have been waiting for over two years to have their visa applications processed and who now may have jobs, partners, children and other assets. They may have to abandon all this, as the possibility of being thrown out of the country within 28 days of Minister Evans decision imminently looms.

The Migration Amendment (Visa Capping) Bill 2010 would enable the minister to cap the number of visas issued in a given year to applicants with “specified characteristics.” This could include chefs or hairdressers or any other occupation. Once the designated annual cap is reached – which could conceivably be set at zero – all outstanding visa applications with the same characteristics will be terminated. So its wasted dollars for someone who has spent thousands in getting their health checks, skills assessed and qualifications recognised. Yes, the visa application fee will be refunded, but all other costs will be borne by the applicant. This does not include the cost of education which the applicant may have embarked upon in Australia with a dream of applying for residence based on the general intent of the laws at that time.

What the Labor government is doing isn’t wrong, but the sentiment is indeed immoral.

As depicted in the famous Australian movie, The Castle, Daryl Kerrigan fought a property development company which wanted to acquire his house to extend the airport. In the climax, the barrister representing Kerrigan said that it was not a house which the property developer was acquiring; it was a home of dreams and memories. Similarly, a migration application can be terminated abruptly and without notice, but it is at the priceless cost of destroying the dreams and ambitions of thousands of potential migrants. It is a heartrending sight and their despair is palpable.

Now is the time for community leaders to speak up and fight for the rights of these students. Public statements and petitions have been made by well intentioned individuals; but it is time that our Indian associations take this cause forward, in a test of true and vocal leadership. Visa capping in its current form is wrong and this message needs to be sent, loud and clear, to Canberra and the Rudd government.”

Editorial by Pawan Luthra

————————————————————————————————————————-

Similarly, Anuj Kulshrestha, Editor, Hindi Gaurav, has written a great piece on this matter. He has included comments from some of the leaders from “Friends of International students” with his write-up. Thank you, Anuj.

http://www.hindigaurav.com/community-news-0-65

————————————————————————————————-

Indian Sub-Continent Times [ http://www.theistimes.com/mr-evans-its-democracy-not-anarchy/ ] has written a great article on this issue too. Thank you, Ashok Kumar.

————————————————————————————————

Please click www.fairgo4internationalstudents.org/ and support the petition against this Bill.

“United we win, divided we lose”.

Regards

Yadu Singh/Sydney/28th June, 2010

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“Fair go” for international students:an appeal from the Indian Australian community.

Hello

A large number of leaders from Indian Australian community met in the Harris Park community centre earlier this month. Several international students were there too.

UIA, GOPIO, FAIA, Australian Punjabi Heritage Association, AISA, Australian Punjabi Business Association, Punjabi Council, Malayali Association, Tamil Manram, TAA, Hindi Samaaj, Deepavali Committee of NSW and others were represented. Many other associations have extended their support too.

Harry Singh, Raj Datta, Moninder Singh, Rohitas Batta, Padmanabham Karamil, Navjot Singh, Ajay Sharma, Ranjit Khera, Prabjot Sandhu, John Niven, Amarinder Bajwa, Lucky Singh, Harry Walia, Vish Vishwanathan and many more were there. I joined it too. Several student leaders like Raveena Garg, Apoorv Chaturvedi and Syed Sakib were there to share their situation.

From this meeting, a group called “Friends of International students” comprising of 10 people was constituted. Its membership is listed in the website which is enclosed.

http://fairgo4internationalstudents.org/

There is a concern among people in regards to the potential for unfair outcomes for the former international students, if the Visa capping bill 2010 becomes an Act. This Bill, if it becomes an Act, will give powers to the Immigration minister to apply “cap and terminate” provisions of this Act retrospectively.

As another post in my Blog [ http://tinyurl.com/2ftcspt ] explains, this Bill has some features which may have very serious implications for former international students who have completed their training/education in Australia, have applied for the PR and are on bridging Visa currently. No body has any argument about the prospective application of the powers of the Act [if this Bill is passed] but people are very concerned about the potential use of the “capping and cull” powers retrospectively.

BTW, others also have concerns in these matters. Some links are enclosed.

http://tinyurl.com/2exu5cd
http://tinyurl.com/265hxht

My appeal to you is;

-to visit the Website http://fairgo4internationalstudents.org/

-to consider supporting the petition in support of these ex-students[who have been here for years, finished their training, have applied for PR and are on bridging Visa.

-and to forward the links to your friends and contacts for their support.

Regards

Yadu Singh/Sydney/26th June, 2010

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SBS Radio [Hindi]:my interview on Visa capping bill 2010.

http://www.sbs.com.au/yourlanguage/hindi/player/page/day/Sunday/time/09/channel/3

It starts at 35.15 and goes until 45.oo minutes.

Ms Kumud Merani was the interviewer.

This covers the Australian Migration Amendment [Visa capping] Bill 2010. Some people have called this Bill as “cap and cull” Bill.

Please see a detailed post on this Bill in my Blog.

Yadu Singh, Sydney/13th June, 2010

Migration amendment [Visa capping Bill] 2010:what is it all about?

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.

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/nationalinterest/stories/2010/2918752.htm

http://inside.org.au/capping-and-culling-the-migration-queue/

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/death-knell-for-overseas-students/story-e6frg6nf-1225878156303?from=public_rss

http://www.acacia-au.com/general_skilled_migration_changes_8_feb_2010.php

http://www.acacia-au.com/GSM_changes_impact_on_international_students.php

http://www.acacia-au.com/frequently_asked_migration_questions_student_forum.php

http://www.acacia-au.com/Minister_Seeks_Power_to_Terminate_Visa_Applications.php

http://www.acacia-au.com/comments_on_chris_evans_immigration_capping_bill.php

I enclose the link from Dept of Immigration website on this matter too.

http://www.immi.gov.au/skilled/migration-amendment.htm

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 [38990] 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

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