The Albanese Government has set in motion a repeat of the “cooks and hairdressers” visa debacle that engulfed the international education sector in the mid-2000s.
Shady private colleges with few facilities and even fewer employees offering cooking and hairdressing courses mushroomed in the 2000s.
They were then inundated with thousands of students from India and Nepal, who often had no intention of working in those areas.
Thousands of bogus students then went on to receive permanent residency before regulatory changes were made that contributed to an immediate collapse in Indian enrolments.
“Indian students are the group that are most sensitive to access to post-study work visas and migration opportunities”, said Deakin academic Ly Tran.
The Albanese Government has made visa changes that will allow people to do a six-week course in aged care with minimal English as the first step to permanent residency.
As reported in The AFR, there are now fears universities will see a wave of international students leaving their courses to pursue a cheaper, faster, and more secure road to permanent residency as a result of modifications to the 482 visa, which has no limit on the number of persons who can apply for and be accepted for it.
The measures, which are part of a new aged care industry labour agreement struck by three unions and the federal government, went into force last month and are intended to shore up workers in the industry.
Abul Rizvi believes the reforms are ripe for rorting, with many parallels to the mid-2000s “cooks and hairdressers” debacle.
“Imagine being able to do a six-week course, then immediately get a job with an aged care provider, work for two years and get residency. It reeks of problems”, Rizvi told The AFR.
“An international student doing a university degree would take three years to do the course, then would need a temporary graduate visa, get relevant work experience, then go on a temporary entry visa which would have much higher and harder levels of requirements. And after three years on that, then they might get permanent residency”.
“Why would I do all that when I could do a six-week course for very little money and have permanent residency in two years?”
Workers can be nominated for residency by their aged care employer under the aged care industry labour agreement if they have been in a job for only two years.
They will also be eligible for streamlined visa nomination and priority visa application processing after completing their degree and will not require any work experience.
To be eligible for a visa, candidates will only need a certificate III vocational course or above.
English language standards have also been reduced to 5.0 – a score of 5.5 is regarded the absolute minimum for enrolment in a vocational institution, with universities requiring a score of 6.5 or better.
People working in facilities with relevant community languages will be accepted with even lower English language proficiency.
Meanwhile, to be eligible for employer nomination for residency, the visa applicants must only earn $51,222 per year – i.e. roughly $24,000 below the median full-time wage.
The Grattan Institute’s Brendan Coates has also slammed the new aged care visa arrangement, claiming it will likely lead to the perverse behaviours experienced in the mid-2000s with cooking and hairdressing courses.
“I expect a lot of graduating international students will opt for this visa since it gives a pathway to permanent residency after just two years”, Coates said.
“That will increase demand in aged care courses in the vocational sector and could lead to a repeat of the de facto visa shops we saw with students enrolling in hairdressing courses years ago”.
Phil Honeywood, chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia, likewise warned that “it will very likely be a case of history repeating itself”, and we should “expect to see a surge in new colleges offering short, cheap qualifications in qualifications that might be a bit loose on quality”.
So, rather than reforming Australia’s immigration system to improve integrity and remove the rorting, the Albanese Government has opened a new rort pathway that will see thousands of low-paid migrants inundate Australia.
And this is before the Albanese Government floods Australia with cut-price Indians under the newly signed Australia-India Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement and the Mechanism for Mutual Recognition of Qualifications.
The international student “ponzi scheme” warned of by Labor MP Julian Hill, Phil Honeywood and others will only worsen under Anthony Albanese’ Labor Government.
These changes will be ‘red rag to a bull’ for students and agents seeking to manipulate the visa system for work and migration purposes.