ACT Government Honour Your Promise to International Students in Canberra

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On 29 June the ACT Government haphazardly closed its permanent visa program to people living in Canberra who did not have one of 75 occupations on the ACT Occupation List.

The partial closure of the program was made without consultation or prior notice and has retrospectively affected the legitimate expectations of thousands of international students living in Canberra.

For some time the ACT Government has participated in the Commonwealth Government’s Skilled visa migration program. Under this program the ACT Government nominates candidates who can then apply for the permanent Subclass 190 visa.

For the last couple of years the policy has been directed at encouraging international students to come to Canberra to study at local ACT institutions, including the ACT Government owned CIT, the two local universities, and private providers of vocational education.

Under the policy if a student lived in Canberra for 12 months, had one of 477 occupations in demand in Canberra, and met the other rules for the permanent visa, they could apply for nomination and permanent residence.

The policy was deliberately created to attract more international students, and the revenue they generate, to Canberra.

It also reflects an internal competition between state governments to attract international students, and mirrors the deliberate linkage between education and migration in Commonwealth Government policy designed to attract international students to Australia rather than to competing nations such as Canada, the USA, or New Zealand.

To lure more international students, and the revenue they bring, both federal and state governments have well-crafted policies that implicitly promise a permanent visa outcome.

These policies are successful, in fact so successful that thousands of international students arrived in Canberra last year based on the policy.

These students have collectively invested hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars in Canberra to be able to move here to fall within the criteria.

The ACT Government is fully aware of this movement of people and the revenue they bring to this city, and while it and the Commonwealth Government may say they do not specifically promise a permanent visa outcome, it is not a question of what they say with fingers crossed behind their back but what the policy is intended to do and does.

In our view, while the ACT Government is entitled to make the changes to its permanent visa program as it sees fit, it is neither entitled nor required to do this retrospectively in a way that unfairly breaches its implied promise to the thousands of Canberra residents caught up in this chaotic process.

For example, if the ACT Government was concerned about the over-subscription to its Subclass 190 visa program, it could have closed the program 6 months earlier to people not enrolled in studies at a Canberra institution on that date. This would have preserved the legitimate expectations of the people who had made the commitment to move to Canberra and stopped the flow of new entrants.

It did not do this, being focused on the money the influx of students was bringing.

This petition calls on the ACT Government to honour its implicit promise to international students enrolled in an ACT institution on or before the 29 June 2018, the day of the program closure, and to allow these individuals to apply for ACT nomination under the policy in place on that day.

VisAustralia is a migration law firm based in Canberra that has been working with the multicultural community of Canberra for the past 13 years. For further information about the petition you can contact us on +61 2 6247 7577



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