Australia is a leading provider of international education – third only to Canada and the United Kingdom. Hundreds of thousands of international students choose to study at our world-class universities each year, yet a relatively low number remain in Australia after they graduate. Our visa system is to blame, and we are worse off for this brain drain, particularly in the face of the current skills crisis. Further, the current system makes it difficult to attract more of the world-class researchers and staff our universities and nation relies on. Australia’s loss is often our international competitors’ gain.
Universities are central to a migration system that supports Australia’s future. In this submission, we outline ways to streamline and simplify the visa process to make Australia a more attractive destination for the international students and staff our universities and the economy needs.
Recommendations to bring Australia’s migration system into alignment with the skills needs of the nation and the university sector environment.
To streamline and simplify the visa process for university staff and students, the Australian Government could:
- Improve and simplify pathways into Australia for world-class staff and exempt them from the VETASSESS process, providing a pathway to permanent residency for the primary visa holder and their dependants.
- Replace the genuine temporary entrant visa requirement with a genuine student visa requirement, to ensure the student visa is not used by non-genuine students to enter the country, but without requiring a discussion of their plans upon graduation.
- Develop a reporting protocol to supply education providers, employers, and visa applicants with up-to-date data on the status of relevant applications.
- Create a new category of student visa for migrants who live in Australia but are not citizens or permanent residents, as well as temporary humanitarian visa holders. This category would have similar conditions to those currently experienced by New Zealand citizens studying in Australia.
- Create a priority system, like the Green Card in the United States, that would introduce nimbleness and flexibility to Australia’s migration system.
- Improve the international education experience in Australia by applying the fortnightly limit on international student working hours to paid work only.
- Upon completion of their course of study, automatically grant the temporary graduate visa to all international students who meet the course requirements for graduation and the relevant character conditions as assessed by the Department of Home Affairs throughout their course of study.
- Create a function within Jobs and Skills Australia to advise employers and industry groups on how to navigate the migration system.