Foreign students abusing Australia’s immigration system

Foreign students are abusing Australia’s immigration system by switching visa types to remain in the country, a leading researcher has announced.

Bob Birrell of the Australian Population Research Institute, a Melbourne-based think tank, said that overseas students are manipulating the visa system to extend their stays.

Student visa holder numbers rose from 278,000 in 2010-11 to over 374,000 in 2016-17. This, Birrell says, is putting pressure on the housing and labour markets.

“You can switch from student, to post-student visa, to a tourist visa, to a working holiday visa – it’s a roundabout,’ he told The Australian newspaper.

Dr Birrell said the visa system is allowing foreign students who are determined to stay in Australia to do so in order to enter the workforce or apply for residency.

The large numbers of students with 20-hour per week work limits are having a negative effect on wages in the hospitality, retail and service industries, he said. “It [overseas students] is the major factor driving poor working conditions and low wages in the entry-level labour market area,” explained Dr Birrell.

Immigration has been the focus of both of Australia’s major parties in recent days, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition leader Bill Shorten both weighing in.

Mr Turnbull said on Monday that the intake of permanent migrants was down despite a record number of applications.

“We had more applications than ever so how did we achieve that? By being absolutely more fastidious and more scrupulous in ensuring that everyone who comes here is needed and is somebody we want,” Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Shorten responded by accusing the government of letting the number of people with temporary work visas ‘blow out’.

“This government does not want to talk about the growing problem of people coming to Australia on temporary work rights visas,” he said. “Under the Liberals, the number of people coming here temporarily with visas that give them work rights in Australia has blown out to 1.6 million people.”

Mr Abbott said net overseas migration is still too high, and said it needs to be brought down ‘pretty sharply’ to reduce pressure on wages, housing prices and infrastructure.

Australia accepted 162,000 permanent migrants in 2017-18, down from 183,000 the year before. Net migration was estimated at between 225,00 and 240,000.

Article published 20th July 2018