Last year, the Turnbull government axed the popular Temporary Work visa, known as the “457 visa”, in a bid to stem the flow of foreign talent and give priority to Australian workers instead
The result? The number of international students transitioning to the 457 visa was slashed by half compared to the previous year’s, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Yet, despite the tougher requirements in the new visa scheme to replace the 457’s and the squeeze in the local job market, Australian universities are still seeing a surge in international enrollments.
International students pay huge fees to study in Australia and have become an enormous source of income for universities, particularly the Group of Eight, to the extent that education has become the country's third-biggest export market https://t.co/XUn4eJSP8t
— Feroza Sulaiman (@ferozasulaiman) March 2, 2018
New statistics show an increase of 14.1 percent of foreign applications between July and December last year compared to 2016 – that’s almost 190,000 applicants in total. The number of Nepalese applicants nearly doubled (46 percent) while the number of Indian applicants rose by 32 percent and Chinese applicants by 13 percent.
Student visas were granted to almost all of them – Chinese nationals were granted a quarter of all student visas issued in the quarter and a further 20,000 given to Indian nationals. Indeed, data from the Department of Home Affairs show that the 12.9 percent increase in interest from Chinese applicants is a figure far higher than the same period in 2016 (6.7 percent) and 2015 (5.6 percent).
For these students, however, what happens after graduation will be markedly different from their seniors.
Firstly, a job squeeze looks likelier than before. SMH noted a “crash” in the number of students going into skilled work after graduation after the abolition of the 457 visa.
Future graduates are likely to apply for the “485 visa”, a “temporary graduate” visa which allows them live, study and work for either 18 months or two-to-four years.
Er-Kai Wang, associate lecturer in migration at the Australian National University, said the 485 visa still offered a “window of opportunity” for permanent residency, but it was easier on the 457.
“That was a pathway for a lot of people to get into permanent residency – which was probably one of the things that the government was a bit suspicious about,” she said.
There’s also the new Skills Shortage visa, a similar but stricter scheme that will replace the 457 visa from this month.
For graduates who have found work on the Short-Term Skilled Occupations List (STSOL), they will be eligible for visas of up to two years under the new TSS Visa (Subclass 482). It is renewable once for a further two years, according to migration agents True Blue Migration.
Those on the Medium and Long-Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) can apply for a stay of up to four years. Following this, and meeting other requirements, they will be eligible for permanent residency after three years.
Immigration in Australia: Too high?
Last month, former prime minister Tony Abbott came under fire for calling for a drastic reduction of immigration levels from 190,000 to 110,000 people a year, News.com.au reported.
“My issue is not immigration; it’s the rate of immigration at a time of stagnant wages, clogged infrastructure, soaring house prices and, in Melbourne at least, ethnic gangs that are testing the resolve of police,” Abbott said during a speech at the Sydney Institute.
— The Courier-Mail (@couriermail) February 21, 2018
“It’s a basic law of economics that increasing the supply of labour depresses wages; and that increasing demand for housing boosts price.”
Critics of the high intake of migrants have argued tha it is companies abusing the 457 visa programme that helps subdue wage costs, according to The Australian.
While Abbott agrees some businesses will suffer from having less skilled migrants, he maintains that it is “hardly unreasonable” if these cuts can increase wages and make homes more affordable.
Abbott’s comments currently have the support of some in government, including Peter Dutton, the Minister of Home Affairs who agreed that migrant intake should be reviewed.