Government releases new skills list to clamp down on immigration rorts

The list of occupations which skilled migrant visas can be issued for has been cut from 400 to 181 as part of the Government’s move to stop immigration rorts and improve the flow of skilled immigrants into high-demand areas.

The new list, released by Federal Immigration Minister Chris Evans, concentrates on engineering, health, education and trades. Supply skilled labour to Australia’s booming mining sector is a clear focus of the new list, which can be seen here.

The new list will come into effect from July 1 and will be reviewed every year.

However, the removal of several occupations that have become extremely popular among skilled migrant visa applicants is likely to prove controversial.

Hairdressers and cooks – which accounted for 5,000 of the 41,000 general skilled migrant visas granted in 2007-08 – have been dropped from the new occupations list.

Many believe this move will help the Government crack down on visa rorts, whereby students come to Australia to study for these occupations, gain permanent residency and then never work in these areas.

Evans said that under the Howard Government’s skilled migrant program “people who completed short courses in vocations such as cooking and hairdressing and had low English skills were almost assured of gaining permanent residence as a skilled migrant”.

“International students who have the skills our economy needs will still be able to apply for permanent migration or be nominated by employers but we will no longer accept the thousands of cooks and hairdressers who applied under the guidelines established by the Howard Government.”

While Australia’s major employer groups are expected to welcome the publication of the new list, Australia’s struggling private colleges sector is not so happy.

This industry has been hit hard by a combination of the global financial crisis, which has cut overseas student numbers and forced several colleges into administration, and the fallout from damaging racists attacks directed particularly at Indian students.

But Andrew Smith, the Australian Council for Private Education and Training, claims Australia’s international reputation in education circles could take a further hit from the decision to change the skilled occupation list without putting in place adequate transitional arrangements for those students currently studying in Australia.

“We understand the need to revise and update Australia’s migration programs. We have for many years advised our members to offer diverse educational programs for precisely this reason,” Smith says.

“But the Australian Government has spent several years inviting students to study certain courses in order to meet skills needs. And now they’ve changed their mind and are saying to those international students who took the Australian Government’s own advice: ‘we don’t need you anymore’.”

“If the Australian Government has any sense of fairness to international students or regard for our global reputation as an education destination of choice, it will provide fairer transitional arrangements for current students immediately.”

However, Evans says the Government is determined that the new list “closes the door on those seeking to manipulate the migration system”.

“Australia’s migration program cannot be determined by the courses studied by international students.”

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