Some Private Colleges Are Visa Factories: Study

Some private colleges are visa factories: study

Erik Jensen
Sydney Morning Herald
March 28, 2007

A LOOPHOLE in the skilled migration program has turned private colleges into visa factories, a study published in the latest issue of a Monash University journal has found.

The loophole has led to a surge in enrolments for hairdressing and cooking courses – courses on the list of in-demand migrant occupations that give advanced standing to onshore visa applicants.

The study, in People and Place, suggests these enrolments are not from people who wish to pursue a trade but are a springboard to a permanent resident visa. “The skills crisis is not being dealt with. Instead, a new crisis has begun,” said the study's co-author, Bob Kinnaird.

Viamel Newpane, a hospitality student from Nepal, said he was studying cooking to get a permanent resident visa. “The main thing is to get the PR,” he said. “Out of 100 [people studying at the private college], five of them want to be chefs. It's a good job, but I have different plans. I want to do computer engineering.”

Mr Newpane found out about the loophole before he came to Australia. He said he was moving here for the quality of life.

The principal of the private Sydney campus where Mr Newpane studies said he runs an educational institution. “Some of our students are here for an education as well as for avenues for migration. Those students have a combined motivation.”

The study says people such as Mr Newpane have caused enrolments in cooking and hairdressing to nearly triple in the past two years.

Mr Kinnaird, who is an immigration analyst, said there was a visa racket operating in the vocational training system. He said it was mainly through private registered training organisations, which accounted for more than 80 per cent of the market.

“I'd say they are visa factories, visa kitchens. Some of these colleges, the main business that they're in is providing the paperwork that enables overseas students to apply successfully for permanent resident visas.”

In the course of preparing the study, which drew on statements from teachers worried about the state of vocational training, Mr Kinnaird heard reports of Sydney colleges providing commercial cookery certificates to students who did not attend classes. The study says there is lax monitoring of the 900 hours' work experience that must be completed as part of the two-year trade courses.

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Kevin Andrews, said the Government's skilled migration program was helping to keep the economy strong.

“Research, consultations and other policy work have been undertaken in this area and the minister will be making some announcements to further strengthen our skilled migration program soon,” she said.

Some changes to the skilled migration program were promised in May 2006 under a previous minister. Changes have yet to be made.

Unpublished data from the federal agency that assesses the skills of visa applicants, Trades Recognition Australia, suggests that the number of permanent resident visas granted in 2006-07 will double to 2000. Mr Kinnaird said this would mean onshore applications to the agency from cooks and hairdressers would double, from nearly 1400 in 2005-06 to more than 3000 in 2006-07.


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