MELBOURNE: In an overhaul of the immigration policy, Australia will cancel 20,000 visa applications from foreign nationals, including Indians, who have been staying in the country under the existing skilled migration programme.
The changes which will be unveiled on Monday will see 20,000 current applications binned as a result of an overhaul of the list that identifies occupations in demand and awards points on the basis of professional qualifications of the applicants.
State governments will be asked to develop new migration plans and a new list will be prepared to define occupations in demand in the country. The government will also set a maximum number of visas for a single occupation.
The new system will favour skilled workers such as nurses, medical practitioners, engineers and teachers instead of groups such as cooks and hairdressers. The cancelled applications apply to all offshore general skilled migration claims lodged before September 2007. Refunding 20,000 visa applications will cost taxpayers about $14 million, The Age reported.
The government, however, will make transitional arrangements for such applicants until 2012. Foreign students who have a qualification for an occupation no longer considered in demand will get to apply for a temporary 18-month visa, allowing them to gain work experience. If foreign graduates fail to find an employer willing to sponsor their applications, they will have to return to their country of origin.
According to immigration minister Chris Evans, the existing program "has been delivering self-nominated migrants from a narrow range of occupations with poor to moderate English language skills who struggle to find employment in their nominated occupation". Evans also acknowledged the unscrupulous migration agents in the country.
"These (agents) have been misleading many international students into believing that a course in Australia will give them an automatic entitlement to permanent residence," Evans was quoted as saying. "It does not, and it will not".
The minister, however, said that "The government supports skilled migration and continues to want migrants, "Be they from India, the United Kingdom or China - our three largest source countries or elsewhere". "We want skilled migrants on terms that work both for Australia and for the migrants themselves. We need a program with integrity and direction," Evans said.