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Australian New Student Visa System Immigration and Kafka

Do not ever let anyone tell you that Australian lacks a sense of irony when it comes to visas and immigration, while the following explains why the legacy of Franz Kafka exists in Australia.

These are a selected sample of statements about international education Australia from Australians, politicians, media and even some from within the industry over the years.

-All international students get benefits, jobs, cars and apartments (choose one or multiple).

-International students (from Asia) cannot speak English and are not capable of becoming fluent.
-International students are just given student visas.

-International students take places from Australian students.

-All private colleges are dodgy and bad quality.

-All international students are given automatic residency after graduation.

-All international students are from Asia.

-Australia’s environment can cope with neither international students nor immigration, we do not have the space.

Interesting to see comments and opinions about international students and immigration in Australia, especially in light of further visa changes introduced late 2011, which at face value appear to open the doors again to international students.   However, international students have become “hot political potatoes”, with politicians and public servants playing “pass the parcel” on responsibility for student visas, immigration and population growth (which has stalled and is in reverse).

Firstly, international students, especially from all countries have to provide English test result (or other evidence) for study application, and again for visa if high risk country such as China, i.e. IELTS (joint Australian developed and owned with Cambridge, IDP i.e. Seek and Universities Australia, but now other tests are allowed).  However, due to visa system and university pathways to university guaranteeing acceptance (mostly via private companies Navitas and Study Group with university partners), there are many flaws, e.g. visa system precludes high risk country candidates from studying more than 40 weeks English, and many do not mainain their English levels when there are limited opportunities for interaction with locals on campus and socially, unless working.

Secondly, many do not understand that the study to permanent residency (PR) system was implemented under the conservative Howard government early noughties and that only a proportion of international students would apply, and even then there was never any guarantee of PR.

Further, perceptions of quality issues in private colleges which have been actively encouraged by media, TAFE and universities were misleading as the Australian regulatory and quality assurance legislation, regulations and execution (plus immigration) are oversighted and managed not by international students, colleges or immigration agents, but by federal, state governments and related agencies, but they went missing…… added to fact that Australian education system is adverse to qualitative and intrusive, evaluation and management.

All that was needed to solve many issues of visa, quality, skills assessment and immigration integrity etc. was some evaluation and review with some quiet adjustment of the system……. but that does not make for alarmist headlines in the media (like those who make knowingly false visa declarations and arrive by airplane to then claim asylum or refugee status), however Knight Visa Review has filled that role.

What will commence in July 2012 is new visa system as a result of the Knight Visa Review which at first gave an advantage to state universities and pathway providers i.e. if final award is higher education diploma or degree in university, student visa applications will be assessed with streamlined system online, Assessment Level 1, without need to show financial support etc..

Now, the good bit, after complaints from private sector and state vocational sector i.e. TAFE, that their degrees were not included in new system, they now are (and half the price of university degree), and even better, while universities were “breaking out the champagne” they were warned by Knight to put “the champagne back on ice”, why?

Because now providers would be directly accountable and responsible for integrity of the student visa system (whole a new skill set for most in the public sector), and if too many compliance breaches or issues (definition is unclear), they will drop out of the new streamlined system.

Further, the immigration points system now favours those with a higher education degree (often not requiring post grad work experience, but new visa system does include opportunity anyway), while penalising vocational (VET) qualifications i.e. potential trades people (and of course unions would never have influenced this….).

Prospective study to permanent residency PR candidates via VET training will need both 1-2 years related work experience and an IELTS score across all bands of 8.0 (!) to reach points threshold for immigration/PR application. This was seemingly made impossible on purpose, and for those who manage to achieve this, they will not just have work experience and trades skills, but higher level communication and language skills compared to Master graduates whether they be international or local…… what’s next, a Latin test?

Though ironically, many Asian candidates will achieve the required language levels through drive and passion to succeed (as they do domestically), while many Australians and native speaking candidates from e.g. the U.K. will not.

This would confirm to many in Asia especially (our major trading partners and target education markets), that while Australia has had skills shortages in trades areas, and will have continuing demand in future due to ageing population, this could be seen as a proxy “white Australia” policy.

Further, those candidates who do not make the (impossibly) high barriers, and have invested significant funds and had  related work experience in Australia will no doubt be accepted by North America, Germany, Northern Europe and international contractors; meanwhile Australia will no doubt suffers from skill shortages in trade areas…… (and very well paid tradespeople with their “investment properties” maybe already wondering where their potential international student and immigrant renters have gone e.g. west Melbourne region vacancy rates now 22%).

Like the uninformed, parochial, patronising and condescending attitude of Greens leader Bob Brown who says that all international candidates should return home to use their skills and develop their own countries (which immigrants do more effectively than aid organisations anyway, through business links, investment etc.). He obviously does not understand feudal societies with their lack of social and economic mobility, not to forget he would NEVER suggest that Australians (or those from developed countries, e.g. Europeans) working internationally should return home?

But it gets even more bizarre, the new student visa directives from December 2011 are an “Orwellian” and “Kafkaesque” minefield that visa officers will be expected to interpret and apply. Through Australian politicians war on foreigners, fear of opinion polls in case they do not sound authoritive, and net overseas migration (NOM) statistics, the new visa directives require that not only should an applicant be a genuine student (GS), but they must also be a genuine temporary entrant (GTE), i.e. return home.

In other words, if it is suspected that a candidate thinks that they might like to live in Australia, i.e. maybe apply for PR, their student visa can be refused, even though to apply for PR is perfectly legal?

More details and expert explanation here:

Study applicants will need to be “economical with truth” to obtain a visa, while Australia (apparently a secure first world nation) is now in a race with kooky conservatives of all political colours (but predominantly white), and less developed countries, to see who can be more bureaucratic, xenophobic, paranoid and authoritarian, even if it is at the expense of our medium long term interests.

So after July 2012 in addition to the rush or spike in applicants which seem to always occur when the government tries to do something, will be interesting to see how individual visa officers adapt to the Kafkaesque student visa and immigration system.

A little bit of “Czech” in Australia which may in fact “checkmate” our ambitions to be a mature democracy in the world.

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