Call For Student Visa Changes (Australia)

Call for student visa changes

Adam Morton
The Age (Melbourne)
March 28, 2007

THE number of foreign students enrolling in Australian cooking and hairdressing courses has exploded in the past two years, reflecting a rise in people looking for a short cut to permanent residency, new research says.

International enrolments in cookery and hairdressing listed as areas of skill shortage and attracting extra points in residence visa applications nearly tripled between 2004 and 2006.

But most graduates who get permanent residency end up working neither as cooks nor hairdressers, according to the research led by Monash University demographer Bob Birrell.

Published in the journal People and Place, the research calls for urgent reform of visa regulations to stop migration agents and colleges hijacking the system by directing applicants to areas of need, even if they have no interest in working in that field.

“Overwhelmingly, it's a migration-driven operation,” Dr Birrell said. “For overseas students interested in (permanent residency), cooking and hairdressing offer the cheapest and most accessible training opportunity leading to the trade qualifications needed for immigration purposes.”

Bishop Seo, a Melbourne hairdressing student from South Korea, said she had paid $37,000 for a two-year course but had no long-term interest in the field. She hoped to win a skilled migrant visa before studying set design at university.

But two friends, Liz Kim and Sinae Kim, said they hoped to work in the beauty industry after their courses.

The research says informants in the private college sector claim teaching quality is often low and rarely checked by government regulators.

The number of colleges in Victoria teaching cooking and hairdressing has jumped by 43 and 31 per cent respectively since 2001, when overseas students were first offered incentives to apply for skilled migration in shortage areas.

Dr Birrell said there had been minimal growth in other trades, including electrical and metalwork.