30 November 2009

The student visa industry
We are told time and time again that international education is our third largest export industry. I saw recently that for NSW is it in fact the second largest.

Isn't that amazing? All those foreigners queueing up to pay money to study at our world-class institutions: doctors, lawyers, physicists, engineers, the odd musicologist perhaps, undergraduate degrees, masters degrees, a smattering of PhDs.

Not really. The occasional PhD there may be, but we all know what this "industry" is about. It's such a big export earner because it's about selling visas. In my practice, I see these poor kids every day. They started out doing a community welfare diploma (kids from the Punjab with a burning desire to study the lives of drunks and single mums in Cabramatta), then the assessing authority tightened up the requirements so they all suddenly switched to graphics pre-press - whatever that is.

I certainly don't blame them. They had no illusions about what Mum and Dad were paying all that money for. In fact I admire them. It must be pretty scary to leave home and go to a strange country where you have to deal with everything from opening a bank account to finding a place to live, getting a part-time job, enrolling in a course, complying with visa requirements, without any of the support mechanisms of home and family. They are also very much aware of the investment that the folks back home have made in them, and how disastrous it would be if they failed in their quest, which is to get permanent residence here.

Why not just sell them the visas and be done with it? They pay around $20,000 to $30,000 each in fees, so why not have them pay it into consolidated revenue instead of the pockets of the private businesses whose only reason for existing is to service the visa trade? It seems to me that most of them would make pretty good migrants, with or without a trade certificate in hairdressing.

Not likely, I suppose. On the other hand, we do charge a whopping big fee for parent visas, so there is a precedent. More about that another time.

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