Fewer overseas students, including from India, will be able to get skilled migrant visas on the basis of their Australia qualifications under tough new migration rules in the country, an education expert has said.
Monash university researcher Bob Birrell said there could be just 4000 visas a year as compared to 19,352 visas for this group in 2006-07 and 17,552 in 2007-08, the time during which education was sold as a pathway to migration, 'The Australian' reported.
Birrell said the unpublished Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) estimate of 4000 visas was "an unmistakable signal that the industry needs to set its marketing around selling an education that is valuable back in the country of origin."
"The changes will favour overseas applicants from English-speaking countries who can meet the much tougher English language requirements of the new points test," Birrell and colleagues said in a report from the Monash Centre for Population and Urban Research.
The report gives new insight into the "stockpiling" of thousands of overseas students by DIAC.
These include many students with cookery and hairdressing qualifications who would win visas under the old rules but whose cases have been put off and who are now on bridging visas.
In December last year, there were 29,211 former vocational education students on bridging visas, as well as another 26,309 former higher education students.
About 16,000 of these former students had applied for skilled migration visas.
In 2009-10, there were 28,126 applications for the graduate skilled bridging visa that is held by many former overseas students caught mid-stream by policy reforms.
The Birrell report predicts some of Bowen's hypothetical Harvard scientists will have to wait as his department works through this backlog of students with lower skill levels.
"Unpublished statistics show tens of thousands of former overseas students will benefit from the transitional arrangements in place," the report said.
Applications for permanent residence from these students will crowd out better qualified applicants for several years.
But a DIAC spokesman said applicants "who demonstrate the skills most needed by the Australian economy" always would be processed first.
A series of reforms, including a new skilled migration points test from July 1, have weakened the policy link between education and migration.
Announcing changes last year, then Immigration Minister Chris Evans famously said under the old rules cooks and hairdressers would qualify but not a Harvard environmental scientist.
The new regime will favour offshore rather than onshore applications and advanced rather than basic skills.