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May 2017

Visa clampdown will have ‘perverse outcome’

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Australia’s plans to make it tougher to gain work visas or claim citizenship in the country have led to angry reactions from universities and refugee campaign groups. Australian universities say plans to axe the 457 visa for skilled migrants could prevent them from recruiting post-doctoral research fellows and lecturers from abroad. And a new diktat that citizenship will only be granted to those with an Ielts level 6 or higher could unfairly impact people with refugee backgrounds, campaigners say.

Leading universities have warned that the move to remove the 457 visa could have the ‘perverse outcome’ of putting jobs at risk in the country’s $21.8 billion international education industry. The Group of Eight association of research-intensive universities added that it could be damaging to clamp down on academic mobility ‘especially at a time when there are opportunities for recruitment from the US and UK.’ The 457 visa is a temporary work visa that allows migrants in certain occupational categories to be sponsored by their employers for up to four years. Many holders go on to become permanent residents. The main sponsoring industry is ‘professional, scientific and technical’. According to the latest figures, around 2,000 university lecturers hold the visa.

From March 2018, the 457 will be scrapped and two new temporary visa programmes will take its place: a two-year visa with no pathway to residency and a four-year visa. Universities are concerned that a new requirement to have two years’ prior work experience will exclude post-doctoral research fellows. Those in the ‘university lecturer’ category will only be eligible for the shorter work visa.

New requirements for citizenship, which will mean immigrants will need a higher standard of English to qualify, will have an impact on applicants from a refugee background, the Refugee Council of Australia said.

New regulations say applicants must have at least a band 6 on Ielts, which may be difficult to reach for people with fragmented or incomplete education.

Applicants will also be allowed to sit the citizenship test only three times, and residency requirements prior to application have been increased from one to four years.

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