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International students, temporary migrants may gain from changes proposed to migration program as 500,000 migrants leave Australia

Joint Standing Committee on Migration urges the government to harness the potential of skilled migrants and international students. Source: James Morgan/Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Over half-a-million migrants have left Australia since the start of the pandemic, creating a huge skill deficit in the country. Experts say international students and temporary migrants seeking permanent residency could emerge as the biggest beneficiaries if the government accepts the recommendations made by a Joint Standing Committee on Migration.

A Joint Standing Committee on Migration has submitted its final report to the government with 18 key recommendations.

It urges the government to harness the potential of skilled migrants and international students to help Australia’s post-coronavirus economic recovery.


Highlights:

  • Joint Standing Committee on Migration suggests major changes to government to attract international students, temporary migrants
  • Students good at studies should have better chance to permanent residency, recommends report
  • Experts say it will benefit Indian students and skilled migrants the most

Liberal MP Julian Leeser, who headed the committee, said their report talks about changes to the skilled migration program once Australia recovers from the pandemic.

“The first thing we have recommended is a national workforce plan. The second recommendation is about reducing red tape right across the skilled migration program. The level of red tape makes it difficult to hire skilled labour,” Mr Leeser told SBS Hindi in an interview.

“The third set of recommendations is around international students. They are a boon to Australia and its economy. What we want to do is for those international students who have come here, have done very well in their course or are in the top 10 per cent (in their class) or something equivalent, provide a path of permanent residency through the employer nomination scheme,” Mr Leeser added. 

Liberal MP Julian Leeser.
Liberal MP Julian Leeser.
AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

Mr Leeser added that more than 500,000 temporary migrants had left Australia since the pandemic began.

“The lack of skilled migrants coupled with record low unemployment has led to major skill shortages in many sectors of the Australian economy,” he said.

Attract international students

The committee suggested international graduates should receive a discount on the work experience component for permanent residency under the employer-nominated scheme from three to two years if they have:

  1. Undertaken a university course (or a course run by a reputable non-university higher education provider) leading to a job in an occupation with a persistent skills shortage
  2. Demonstrated excellence by graduating in the top 10 per cent of all graduates in their course or achieving first-class honours
  3. Met relevant English language standards
  4. On graduation, worked in a job that is relevant to their field of study with a persistent skills shortage

The committee advocated allocating additional points for such international graduates when applying for a point-based residency. 

They said the government could consider longer temporary graduate visas of three years to provide students the time and flexibility to find work.

Indians in Sydney
Monash Business School's Associate Professor Vinod Mishra.
Supplied by Vinod Mishra

Monash Business School Associate Professor Vinod Mishra said these recommendations will help Indian students and migrants, if adopted by the government. 

“Recommendations such as changes to post-study work arrangements for students who have performed well in their studies and longer temporary graduate visas to find work and pathways to permanent residency, would be welcomed by Indian students and skilled migrants,” Mr Mishra told SBS Hindi.

The committee recommended that the government consolidate the Medium and Long Terms Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) and Short Term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) into the Skilled Occupation List (SOL).

It added that the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) be replaced with an Acute and Persistent Skills Shortage List (APSSL) once the pandemic is over.

Make it easy for temporary migrants

The parliamentary committee also recommended the Department of Home Affairs change the conditions for the Temporary Skills Shortage visa (Subclass 482) to provide temporary migrants a pathway to permanent residency.

“All employer-nominated visas should provide the option of a pathway to permanency,” the committee said.

It added the government provide further concessions for temporary regional visas. These concessions may include raising the age limit to 50, keeping language requirements at vocational English, reducing prior experience required in an occupation to two years and processing visas on priority.

Jim Varghese, President of Australia India Business Council, said the report was long overdue and addresses Australia's widening skills gap. 

“India is recognised as a great source of talent for companies across the world and Australia needs to be proactively attracting the best and the brightest talent ahead of other parts of the world like the US, Canada and the UK,” he told SBS Hindi.

“The timing of [these] changes and [the] speed of execution is critical, noting limitations on the entry of international students and over 500,000 temporary migrants leaving Australia since the pandemic,” Mr Varghese added.

Weighing on the report, UTS Business School Professor Jock Collins said it is critical to Australia's recovery from the pandemic.

Professor Collins said the recommendations would directly impact the Indian community as they had a significant presence here other than the Chinese.

“Indian diaspora is highly educated and skilled. They could benefit from these recommendations if implemented by the government. The recommendations about international students are significant in terms of attracting Indian students to Australian universities,” he added.

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