13 December 2009

You may qualify for a visa, but will you get it?
The papers this weekend are telling us that a new government proposal may "spark panic". The idea seems to be to alter "the relationship between the lodgement of an application and the legal obligation to grant a visa".

The legal obligation refers to s 65 of the Migration Act 1958, which obliges the Minister to grant a visa to a person if they satisfy all of the criteria for that visa. Of course, those criteria include some pretty discretionary "public interest" tests which give the Minister lots of scope for refusing a visa to anyone he or she doesn't really want to let in, but the idea now being kicked around seems to have something to do with changing the rules after a person has applied.

Actually, there is plenty of scope for that already. The current law allows the government to impose a numerical cap on certain visa classes and then declare void all outstanding applications once that cap is reached (s 39). The points test pass marks can also be hiked up or down at any time, and the new mark made applicable to any existing application (s 93). Even more generally, changes to the "time of decision criteria" for any visa subclass can operate retrospectively.

The media quickly understood that the likely target of any new changes would be the student visa industry. Not surprisingly, they sought comment from the Australian Council for Private Education and Training, which represents the education providers at the heart (for want of a better word) of that $16 billion dollar cash cow. And not surprisingly, their response was along the lines of "we'll all be rooned!".

There appear to be two different ideologies at work here. On one side, there are the national sovereignty supporters (remember "We will decide who comes to this country, blah blah blah"?). Migrants are foreigners, we owe them nothing, they should be grateful if we let them in, and whether they are or not nobody can claim a right to a visa. We control the tap, and we can turn it on or off as we please.

The other side of the argument starts from the proposition that immigration is a long-term society-building program that has worked astonishingly well in this country and, most recently, probably saved us from the worst effects of the Global Financial Crisis. Rather than being about foreigners, it is actually about Australians -- the Australians that the migrants become once they get here.

I have previously blamed the bean counters of the 90s for replacing long-term planning with short-term accounting. It looks like their offspring are carrying on the same tradition.


Anonymous said...

The government needs to take action on the student sector, like more regulations on education providers, esp.private providers, and only to allow RMAs to offer visa related services to overseas students and GSM applicants.

Australian migration law is complex and ordinary people cannot understand the regulation behind the visa applications. DIAC should use their role to encourage applicants to use professional services to their applications. This is good from the business point of view, and also good for DIAC as applications can be presented more professionally by RMAs, this way will speed up their processing and avoid so-called "integrity problem" they are facing at the moment.

It is commonly known that large number of people both onshore and offshore are providing immigration assistances to potential visa applicants without registration with OMARA. For example, allowing education agent to recruit students from overseas is bad idea, and majority of these education agents are not regulated and making huge amount of unclaimed dollars behind doors, under tables, with education providers, and more importantly, they just tell applicants (students) a lot of rubbish. It is like you go to see your family GP, and after taking medi for a while, and you still fee unwell and you find out this GP down the street is not registered GP. Of course, such things do not happen under the current medical system because it is highly regulated and managed, i.e. a good system is running with professaionl people working in it.

Australia is built up based on immigration. This is the true fact. None can deny it, look around us, or even ourselves, we were all from overseas or our parents were from overseas seeking a better life down under. Ask us this: immigration is so important, but why we (the government) only care about money that students paid? it is the people that matters, future of Australia is directly depends on people. I guess that is why DIAC calls itself, "people our business".

It is not hard to sort out these problems, just put the right policy in place, make sure it is fair for everyone. Just ensure the people write all these policies are professionals as well, they have to hit the road, ask people, doing surveys, talk to industry experts, talk to overseas students, talk to DIAC staff, talk to RMA, consult economists, act quickly.

I just do not think the rudd government cares about this. They just keep what the howard's student program can bring to them in term of dollars, sit back and relax to get more income/export from overseas, but they do not know, people in overseas aren't stupid, they won't come to you if your "services' are not good.

In the long term, I just believe Australia will suffer from the pain caused by such short-term policies like CSL, etc.

The government should backs-up RMAs to work together for a better GSM program and student visa program. I guess the government is just confusing and has not idea of how to balancing the 2 sectors.

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