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Visa changes spark concerns of creating ‘permanently temporary’ migrants in Australia

With the Australian Government scouting for international talent under its new Global Talent Visa, temporary residents seeking permanent residency feel they are being edged out with stringent requirements.

Slashing Australia’s permanent immigration intake coupled with some more recent changes to skilled category visas have sparked fears that many temporary migrants may never become permanent in Australia.

Australia’s annual permanent migration intake has been slashed by 30,000 this year and last week, the government made the Global Talent Scheme permanent with 5,000 visa places reserved within the 160,000 cap.  

Under Australia’s migration planning level for this year, the number of Skilled Independent Visas has been reduced to just over 18,500 from last year’s 43,000. With this permanent visa, migrants can live and work at any place of their choice within Australia, making it the most coveted visa.

With 5,000 visa places going to the Global Talent Scheme from this category, the requirements are becoming “almost impossible” for some applicants.

Gautam Kapil, an ICT business analyst in Sydney, lodged his expression of interest with 70 points for his visa last year in May. He has been waiting for an invite from the Immigration Department ever since. While he is hopeful of improving his score on the points test but doesn’t see much light at the end of the tunnel.

“I don’t know”, he says when asked about his visa prospects.

According to the latest information published by the Home Affairs Department, only 100 applicants were invited to apply for this visa last month with minimum 85 points requirement for his occupation of ICT Business Analyst.

“That’s the minimum requirement and we are hearing many invites were issued to people with 90-100 points. There’s no way I’m going to be able to get there,” Mr Kapil said.

Accountants seeking this visa currently require 90 points, while anyone with minimum 65 points is eligible to submit an expression of interest to apply for a visa.

“I have studied here, worked here for years, have the experience of Australian industry. But it seems all that doesn’t count for anything now.”

Melbourne migration agent Jujhar Bajwa says many of his clients have spent years in Australia studying and working, and now find themselves “locked out” by changes in migration intake.

“Many applicants have years of experience besides expensive university degrees in accounting, engineering and IT and they have great English, but can’t make the cut because there’s so much competition and so few visas are being released,” he told SBS Punjabi.

There were over two million temporary visa holders in Australia in 2017-18 with international students accounting for nearly 800,000 of them. While there were 398,563 new enrolments of overseas students in 2018, only 13,138 former students were granted permanent visas in that year.

Mr Bajwa says it’s getting increasingly difficult for recent graduates to get permanent residency in Australia.

Every day, I see dozens of people with despondency writ large on their faces… many married couples with kids. They have spent years studying here and then working to gain relevant experience… now, they could be permanently temporary here. - Jujhar Bajwa.

The Federal Government overhauled the immigration intake with an increased push towards settling more migrants in regional areas. 23,000 visa places have been reserved within the 160,000 cap for regions where visa holders will have to live for at least three years to become eligible for permanent residency.

Mr Bajwa says lack of suitable jobs in regions is keeping many of his clients from moving there.

“We tell them to either take up a trade course or move to the regions.

“Someone who is a management graduate, or has an IT or engineering degree, have the fear they won’t find jobs suitable to their career profile outside of major cities. But with more visas moving to the regions, they are left with no choice. Either take it or leave it,” he says.

Two new regional visas will be available in November this year when new provisions in the points test allowing extra points to applicants with a skilled spouse or partner and singles are also being made.

Mr Kapil, who came to Australia in 2013 with his wife, says the move will further put people like him to a “great disadvantage”.

“I have studied here, worked here for years, have the experience of Australian industry. But it seems all that doesn’t count for anything now,” he said.

"It increasingly looks like we're going to be forever temporary in this country."

Gautam Kapil was a casual producer at SBS Punjabi until August 2018.

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