Australia has recently introduced an exciting opportunity for international students who aspire to study in Australia. The Post-Study Work stream, expanded on 1 July 2023, now includes select degrees in areas of verified skills shortage allowing for an extended ’stay and work’ period in the country. This new extension pathway, comprising over 90 pages of eligible qualifications published by the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Education, holds the promise of a brighter future for countless international students.
Genuine Students and the Talent Pool
Australia’s reputation as a world-renowned education hub continues to attract ambitious minds from the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. These international students have become a valuable asset to the Australian workforce. During the challenging pandemic period, the government temporarily lifted work restrictions for student visa holders, enabling them to fill critical roles amidst labour shortages. However, while this commendable measure showcased the contribution of genuine students, it also exposed vulnerabilities, leading to instances of exploitation where individuals were brought in under the guise of “students” and subjected to unfair labour practices. A case reported by the Sydney Morning Herald on 23 July 2023 shed light on a disturbing situation where a person was brought into Australia under the pretence of being a “student” but ended up being paid a meagre $5 per hour as cheap labour in a Melbourne car window tinting factory.
As a permanent residency pathway is not easily achievable for many international students under the current system, many genuine students and young talents would rather pursue their migration journey with countries with a more apparent pathway while using Australia as a backdoor to work. Instances like these emphasise the need for a more robust and transparent system, ensuring that the talent pool created by genuine students can truly benefit Australia’s development.
Unlocking Potential: Enhancing the Pathway
Despite the significant number of international students enrolling in Australian educational institutions, only a small fraction successfully transitioned to permanent residence through the Skilled Migration Pathway. In 2019 – 2020, only around 10,000 student visa holders successfully transitioned to permanent residence through the Skilled Migration Pathway, despite a whopping 952,271 international students enrolling in Australian educational institutions during the same period. The unpredictability and uncertainty surrounding pathways to permanent residency for international students have made Australia far less appealing (compared to countries such as Canada) to talented individuals, who have invested years and significant resources into obtaining a degree.
To bridge this gap and harness the full potential of international talents, Australia must adopt a more comprehensive approach. While the Subclass 485 extension is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, it currently encompasses only specific qualifications. The identification process of skill shortages should be made more transparent to international students so they can adequately plan their migration journey to Australia.
A Creative Vision: Designing an All-Inclusive Pathway
It is imperative to foster the growth of the education industry and simultaneously develop a migration system that offers international students more opportunities and clear pathways to stay in Australia permanently. A promising first step could be extending the Subclass 485 visa to cover all eligible qualifications, ensuring that no talented individual slips through the cracks.
Furthermore, Australia could gradually introduce specific migration pathways tailored to international students. These pathways would be designed to recognise the immense value and potential they bring to the nation’s growth and development. By coupling the world-class education offered by Australian institutions with attractive and clear permanent residency pathways, the country can assert itself as a leading destination for young talents seeking to build their futures.
Australia’s education industry has long been a magnet for international students seeking knowledge and opportunities. To maintain its position as a global education powerhouse, the nation must embrace its genuine students and nurture their potential. Through transparent policies, comprehensive pathways, and a creative vision, Australia can not only retain its talent but also attract the best and brightest minds from around the world, contributing to a prosperous and diverse society.
Gilton Valeo can answer your questions about Australia’s immigration system
As experts in Australian immigration, Gilton Valeo can guide you in identifying the best immigration pathways to bring people over to start your Australian office, provide you with strategic consulting along the way, and connect you with our partners to make sure everything goes smoothly.