Foreign student crackdown
Phillip Coorey, Chief Political Correspondent
The Sydney Morning Herald
April 7, 2007
THE Federal Government is to crack down on foreign students studying in Australia in order to secure a resident's visa rather than a vocation.
Amid growing anecdotal evidence that private vocational colleges and some universities were becoming “visa factories”, foreign students who finish their courses will no longer be automatically entitled to apply for a general skilled migration visa, a stepping stone to permanent residency.
From September 1, they will need to have “competent” English skills equivalent to those of a year 12 student. They must also complete 12 months of work experience in the field in which they studied, working a minimum of 20 hours a week.
The Immigration Minister, Kevin Andrews, also announced yesterday that English-language requirements for all other skilled migrants would be increased.
Those with professional, managerial or technical skills wishing to come to Australia as skilled migrants will need year 12 or “competent” English skills before being granted a visa, rather than the current year 10 or “vocational” standard. Those with trade skills will need the vocational standard English before being granted a visa.
Labor's immigration spokesman, Tony Burke, welcomed the increased English requirements.
He said engineers, for example, arrive with English so bad they end up driving Sydney taxis. “Australia misses out on their skills as engineers and they don't make great Sydney taxi drivers,” he said.
Last month, a Monash University study detected a surge in enrolments in cooking and hairdressing courses. Many of the students completing these courses have no intention of becoming chefs or hairdressers but instead want the visa that comes with completing the course.
Bob Kinnaird, the immigration analyst who co-wrote the Monash University study, said the new requirements would not act as a deterrent to visa seekers but just delay the problem by 12 months.
“What confidence can the community have that a 12-month work visa is going to be properly regulated, when 900 hours' work experience has not been?” he said, referring to the work experience students are supposed to undertake while doing their courses.
Omar Hang, an administrator at a private college teaching international students cooking and hairdressing, said he had heard of cases where students had worked for as little as $4 an hour or even paid employers in order to fill the 900-hour requirement.
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