Australia announces changed Skilled Migration program

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New Delhi, July 1 (ANI): The Australian Government has announced some changes to its Skills Migration program, which it hopes will improve student inflows.

The Australian High Commission in New Delhi has, however, clarified the following points:

First we are making changes to Australia's skilled migration program, not our student visa program.

The changes to our skilled migration program, announced on 8 February 2010, reflect the evolving needs of the Australian labour market. We are committed to a skilled migration program that is targeted at the needs of the Australian labour market. Our goal is to ensure the Australian economy remains strong and efficient. These specific labour market needs are determined by an independent statutory authority - Skills Australia.

Second, the changes we are making to our skilled migration program are global changes. They are not targeted at India or any other country. They were not triggered by the problems of the last year over attacks on Indian students.

Third, the changes are not retrospective and will apply only from 1 July 2010.

Fourth, no students from any country will be sent home on 1 July. Such reports confuse two different categories of visa. The skilled migration visa is completely separate to the student visa. No student, whether from India or elsewhere, currently studying in Australia is going to be asked to cease their course because of changes to our skilled migration program. They will be allowed to complete their studies. Many have visas that enable them to study courses for several years.

But it is important to remember that student visas allow people to come to Australia on a temporary basis for a specified period to undertake study at an Australian educational institution. There is no guarantee of migration just because someone holds a student visa. Any suggestion to the contrary is a misrepresentation of Australia's clearly stated policy.

Fifth, the Australian Government has provided generous transition arrangements to ensure those international students who were in Australia when the changes were announced on 8 February 2010 have every opportunity to fulfil their objectives. If their objective is to complete their studies, they will be free to do so. If their objective is to shift to another course of study, they will be free to do so subject to meeting the entry requirements. If their objective is to stay in Australia to work after the completion of their studies, they can apply for a Temporary Skilled Graduate visa under the old arrangements, which will give them 18 months with full work rights. They can use this time to find an employer-sponsor, find a state-government sponsor, gain a new skill or get work experience. These are very generous transition arrangements by any measure.

These transition arrangements apply until the end of 2012 and extend to all people who held student visas at the date of the announcement (8 February 2010). These arrangements provide students with both the time and the opportunity to explore their options in the Australian labour market before making a decision on their future.

Those who are able to demonstrate that they can meet Australia's skills needs as articulated in the requirements for a permanent skilled visa will still have the opportunity to achieve permanent residence. . The success of an individual applicant will depend on whether they meet the requirements for a visa that exist at the time they make an application.

Some media outlets have raised concerns about 'visa capping'. These concerns relate to a Bill that is currently before the Australian Parliament. The amendments proposed in this Bill have been designed to manage the skilled migration program and ensure it meets the labour market needs of the Australian economy as flexibly as possible. There are no plans to apply this power to the student visa program. It is worth noting that the power to cap visa applications has existed for some years - the Bill that is before the Parliament seeks to provide greater precision and flexibility in the way in which the power can be applied. (ANI)

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