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Jul 2, 2008

After 475 visa comes 485 – just don’t call it immigration

There are some 250,000 foreigners studying at Australian tertiary institutions and two-thirds of them don’t want to be. Don’t want to be foreign, that is, writes Michael Pascoe.

There are some 250,000 foreigners studying at Australian tertiary institutions and two-thirds of them don’t want to be.

Don’t want to be foreign, that is. According to a Graduate Careers Australia survey of more than 30,000 domestic and international students, 65 per cent of foreigners intend applying for permanent residence. Only 26 per cent intend to return home with the remainder intending to live in other countries.

Says GCA executive director Cindy Tilbrook: “With the current skills shortage in some areas, many recruiters are taking an increasing interest in graduating international students.”

Enter the 485 visa, hot on the heels of the 475. There’s also the 476 visa for graduates with specified desirable skills, but it was the 485 that was slipped into the effective guest worker options in last year’s federal budget papers without any indication of possible numbers.

The 485 allows any graduate from an Australian tertiary institution unrestricted employment and study rights for 18 months. It’s also an excellent opportunity to acquire the required “120 points” to qualify for permanent residency although that’s not a straight-forward business, as indicated in this National Liaison Committee for International Students in Australia story.

The 485 visa initiative looks like a useful tool for helping ease Australia’s skills shortage and chronic under-investment in education, but along with the 475 “guest worker” visa, it’s another way of fudging gross immigration numbers.

We were being conservative when we were the first to suggest Australia was looking at gross immigration of some 300,000 this financial year. The official government numbers don’t count New Zealanders, 475, 476 or 485 visa holders — though they all have to live, eat, drink and travel while they’re here.

The official net permanent migration number is expected to grow by 37,500 this year and it’s easy to forecast that the rapidly-slowing New Zealand economy will see a jump in those crossing the ditch as well.

Crikey is no home of xenophobes and flat earthers — we leave that to the Greens, Hansonites and fellow travellers who would like to freeze our population and economy — but greater transparency about the enormous strains being put on our infrastructure by population growth (permanent, semi-permanent and wannabe permanent) just might help focus our various dysfunctional governments on the size of the task.

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7 thoughts on “After 475 visa comes 485 – just don’t call it immigration

  1. melissa

    Australia’s economy and in particular the tertiary education sector is very dependent on migrants/ international students. Bill is absolutely on the money when he says that a lot of highly educated former international students end up in lower skilled jobs because of the lack of English skills.

    Really the universities should be providing more opportunities and support for these students to learn English, most of them have good technical English but its the conversational English that they really need help with.

    Also the various levels of Australian government need to take seriously the need to plan and improve infrastructure if they want the economic (and tax revenue) benefits they are currently reaping from the migration boom to continue, so that this country can continue to be a desirable place to migrate too.

  2. John Roberts

    Yet another bleeding heart isolationist, I see.

    Australia is significantly short in a wide range of professions and trades….for example, where are all the nurses and doctors going to come from to deal with the changing demographics of the Australian population? Just too look at one sector of the employment market……

  3. John Roberts


    You left out a few things. You forgot to insinuate them with being responsible for:

    high world oil price;
    El Nino;
    the War on Terror;
    not having polygamy available as a lifestyle choice;
    not being able to park closer to the train station;
    the AFL Grand Final being held at night;
    the children overboard;
    restaurants serving other than meat and 3 veg;
    falling numbers down at the bowling club;
    most things you want to complain about……

  4. Bill

    I’d be interested to know how many overseas students who stay in Australia get jobs in their field of specialisation. Quite a few I’ve taught don’t have enough English to do jobs their qualifications would suggest they can do. So there may be a down side to all this in that they are competing with less well qualified local kids for very ordinary jobs. The real problem is that our money grubbing university administrators accept almost anyone with a bag of money and pressure teaching staff to pass these students, irrespective of how poor their performance. Think about it – how many of us would be able to acquire the language skills to function in a Greek or Japanese uni? Not many I suspect.

  5. Ian

    John, you have called me names but haven’t addressed my point. How does increasing the rate of overseas immigration help mitigate any of the problems I have listed.

    Both Japan and Italy already have far older populations than us, and as far as I know they still have good quality health-care. Mass immigration can only defer the inevitable aging of the population it can’t stop it. How many overseas students are in nursing or medical courses, I know of large numbers in business and accounting type courses. Some of these students go so far as to admit after failing exams and appearing before exclusion committees that they are only doing the course to get permanent residency.
    Cries of labour shortages are very tiresome coming from employer groups and those on the right of politics. Give us evidence and objective analysis.

    Looking at things another way, John, how many more people can live in your house? your neighbors? your suburb? your state? and Australia as a whole?
    Whatever it is, it is finite. Look at were we live on our continent, mainly in the coastal regions of Eastern and South-Eastern Australia, with another pocket in the South West. There is a reason for this and a reason why Alice Springs is not a mega-city. Australia is a dry continent with mostly poor soils. If you take into account peak-oil and climate change we will have trouble supporting our current population let alone catering for the 350,000+ per annum new arrivals.
    At some point growth has to stop, why not slow things down now instead of being forced to in the future when it will be far more difficult to manage things?

  6. Ian

    Can anyone explain to me which of the following problems are improved by the increasing rates of overseas immigration:
    unaffordable house prices
    unaffordable Rents
    congestion on our roads
    congested public transport
    long hospital waiting lists
    shortage child care places
    reduction in open space and parks in the suburbs
    bulldozing of farmland and parks on the urban fringe to make way for new sub-divisions
    Decreasing fresh water availability
    policy responses to the problem of climate change
    policy responses to the problem of peak oil

    John Roberts who is paying me for all the problems caused by increasing our population?

    Some people and sectors of our economy are booming from the record high overseas immigration, it is just that only a minority benefit (real estate, media, financial services and associated areas) at the expense of everyone else.

  7. John Roberts

    Yes, and they are all fully paying their way. Please appreciate the human risks being undertaken by people who just want a better chance in life. There are a lot of people and institutions making good money out of the system.