More work for international students: easy to announce, hard to administer


International education leaders met with the immigration minister yesterday, they had a bunch to discuss

The meeting was quickly convened following the weekend announcement that international students will be allowed to work more hours in hospitality and tourism and that the two sectors will be added to the industries on the COVID-19 408 visa for those unable to go home.

This was well-received indeed by employers in those industries who complain of staff shortages but left education providers wondering how it will work (CMM yesterday).

As Phil Honeywood from the International Education Association of Australia puts it, “after meeting yesterday with Immigration Minister Alex Hawke the combined peak body CEO’s have undertaken to come back to him within 48 hours with a set of proposed implementation considerations.”

CMM’s guess on what will be talked about now is,

*  Genuine Temporary Entrant status – GTE has been the underlying measure imposed by Home affairs for years now. It ensures education institutions that bring in international students are “fishing in the right pools” with non-genuine students and actions not deemed appropriate by Home affairs counted as black marks against providers. What does the increase in hours mean for the GTE process and who assumes the trailing the risk of these students’ immigration status?

* Health insurance – international students are covered by Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) for the length of their student visa and associated stay in Australia. Moving to a 408 visa would make OSHC technically moot. DEFINE 408. What will the government do to ensure this cohort is covered and not a burden to the taxpayer?

* Validating work intent – while “intent” needs to be shown, will this be a letter from an employer? This is part of a bigger issue –  has the government thought through mechanism to prevent or minimise fraud in these areas.

* Academic progress – with students now essentially encouraged to exit the education system with a potential return down the road how will academic progress be monitored?

* 90-day rule – there is still major ambiguity around what being in the last 90 days prior to their visa expiring means. In a simple case where a student is coming to the end of their bachelor degree it is a no-brainer, but would it be possible for students to change to a shorter course and then claim the 90 days?

And then there is the question that can only be pondered – why is tourism and hospitality alone favoured with a bigger pool of enthusiastic casual workers. With construction booming would not builders welcome international engineering students keen for more work?

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent