Archive for » April, 2012 «

Restaurenters push for changes to employer-sponsored visas

Top names in Australia’s culinary / restaurant industry have been lobbying the Australian govt to make changes to the employer-sponsored visa system in order to counteract crippling skills shortages in the restaurant industry.

Neil Perry, who heads Australia’s largest fine-dining group, Lucio Galetto of Sydney’s Lucio’s and Armando Percuoco of Buon Ricordo met with with Immigration Minister Chris Bowen last week to lobby for changes to skilled visa requirements to allow employers to more readily sponsor a wide range of staff, from chefs, sommeliers and maitre d’s to bar staff and – given the drift to seafood restaurants – fishmongers.

Tetsuya Wakuda, Guillaume Brahimi and Serge Dansereau back the push. News of the move coincided with an announcement by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott yesterday that employer-sponsored visas for skilled migrants would be central to a Coalition government migration program. According to the group’s submission to the minister, some restaurants now face a 25 to 35 per cent skill shortage, affecting their ability to function properly even at present levels. “I’m creating 100 jobs [in Melbourne],” Mr Perry said. “I employ 520 staff and that’s going to 620 Australia-wide. If it was a car company going to the government with that many staff they’d give me $30 million.” The group argues that changes to visa requirements from July 1 will only exacerbate the shortage, limiting employers’ scope to claim exemptions from English-language requirements to ministers of religion and certain scientists. “Why,” Mr Percuoco asked. “Pasta doesn’t speak English.”

Calls for international student numbers to be capped

AUSTRALIA’S $15 billion overseas student industry is being asked to consider caps on student numbers in the name of quality.

The idea was floated yesterday by an advisory council chaired by businessman Michael Chaney and charged with helping the federal government devise a new strategy for the industry.

Rapid growth in international students and fee income peaked in 2009 and some education sectors are now in steep decline because of the strong dollar, stricter migration rules, bad publicity from street crime and overseas competition.

Universities, especially those more dependent on overseas fee income, hope a new streamlined visa system will help them build their depleted student numbers from next year.

Falling international student numbers have prompted universities to embrace the removal of quotas on domestic students and enrolments have risen dramatically, particularly among low-scoring school leavers.
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The incoming head of the University of Queensland described as “perverse” a federal government policy that encourages universities to enrol low-scoring domestic students, but to not provide programs that prepare them for academic life.

Peter Hoj, who was yesterday named as the replacement vice-chancellor at Queensland’s sandstone university, told The Australian it would be preferable to reintroduce a “partial recapping of university places” than risk a lowering of standards.

“I have a clear view that rather than making university entry totally demand-driven, that it would be better to spend some more money on the academic preparation of students, even if that meant a partial recapping of places,” Professor Hoj said.

This year, the government took quotas off university places, allowing institutions to enrol as many students as qualified to increase to 40 per cent by 2025 the proportion of young people with a bachelors degree.

Professor Hoj, vice-chancellor at the University of South Australia, said UniSA College, which offered foundation programs similar to a Year 13 at school, had seen demand increase from 150 in the first year, to 700 first preferences for entry this year.

“I decided to start a college because I did not want people to go to our university if they were not prepared. Our system must invest in bridging the gap between ability and preparation.”

Professor Hoj said funding for foundation courses was “fixed”.

“The more students you take into your college, the less you get paid per student.”

A spokesman for Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans disputed the fixed funding.

“The government did not freeze the number of places available in these courses in 2012. The government negotiated with universities to ensure any expansion in the number of places available was consistent with the university’s strategic plan ,” he said.

“For 2012, the University of South Australia was provided a further 200 places at the sub-bachelor level for its diplomas of science and technology and arts, and to expand its load in foundation studies. These places were in addition to its existing 500 sub-bachelor places, bringing it to 700 places (40 per cent growth).”

In a discussion paper, Mr Chaney’s International Education Advisory Council asks whether it was “possible or desirable” to set a sustainable number of overseas students.

This “target” could apply at an institutional level, by state and or nationally.

In 2009, there were 631,935 fee-paying foreign students in Australia compared with 557,425 last year. Colleges offering English-language courses and vocational training have suffered the biggest declines.

Mr Chaney, NAB chairman and University of Western Australia chancellor, cited “the question of institutions’ dependence on offshore income and whether that creates a vulnerability”.

The 2008 Bradley report found seven universities relied on overseas fee income for 20 per cent or more of their revenue.

Phil Honeywood, from the International Education Association of Australia, said the industry already was “more regulated than any of its competitor nations (such as Canada or the US)”.

“If we start to set caps and limits on each institution, this could serve to constrain what has developed as a vibrant and dynamic industry for Australia.”

Calls to increase the number of 457 Visas

TONY Abbott (the opposition leader, and more than likely, next Australian Prime Minister) has called for the capped number on business and skilled migrants entering Australia to be lifted, stating that workers on skilled visas would become the “mainstay” of our immigration intake.

In defiance of union concerns, Tony Abbott wants to lift the limit on 457 visas granted to skilled workers for temporary work for up to four years.

Mr Abbott says workers on 457 visas are “the best immigrants”, who contribute immediately to the economy and provide the best long-term workers when they convert their visas to permanent residency. The current skilled migrant intake is 125,850 people.

“Provided they are paid the same wages and provided there aren’t Australians who could readily fill these jobs, businesses should be able to bring in the workers they need to keep growing, and create more local jobs,” Mr Abbott will say in a speech to be delivered today.

“A stronger economy is in everyone’s interests; immigrants who contribute to a stronger economy improve the life of every Australian.

“Under a Coalition government, section 457 visas won’t be just a component, but a mainstay of our immigration program.

“For the Coalition, the issue has never been whether or not Australia should have a strong migration program.

“It’s always been what’s the best migration program for our country at this time and what can best be done to help migrants to settle quickly into their new life.”

The proposal to allow more 457 visas comes against a backdrop of union concerns that the Gillard government is going to increase business and skilled immigration in the budget to address bottlenecks in industry created by skills shortages.

Yesterday, amid reports that Wayne Swan was poised to boost the number of skilled migrants by at least 5000 in the budget, the national secretary of the construction division of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, Dave Noonan, told The Australian the rise should be aimed at “genuine shortages”.

Mr Noonan demanded better labour-market testing to ensure employers tried to hire Australian workers first, though he stressed the union favoured permanent migration over an increase in workers coming in on 457 visas.

“We have actually got serious job losses happening at the moment,” he said.

“We’d be concerned about more skilled migrants coming in while Australians are going on the dole. We need to be careful the skilled migration scheme is not a scheme that can be abused by unscrupulous employers, who bring people in rather than give jobs to unemployed Australians.”

Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said a 5000-person boost to permanent migration was “a blunt instrument to deal with skills shortages . . . Boosting permanent migration is not the best way to deal with the skills crisis in states like Western Australia and Queensland — well over half of skilled migrants end up in Melbourne or Sydney.”

Mr Abbott argues that turning skilled temporary visa workers into full-time residents is best because it “helps Australia to be more prosperous and productive and the best way for an immigrant to settle in is to work”.

Australia skilled migration visas points test changes

A reminder that changes to Australia’s skilled migration program come into effect on 01/07/2012.

Included in these reforms are changes to points tested skilled migration visas for migrants who wish to live and work in Australia without employer sponsorship.

Simplifying eligibility requirements, the changes include the introduction of three new points tested skilled migration visas:

  • Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visa
  • Skilled Nominated (subclass 190) visa
  • Skilled Regional Sponsored (subclass 489) (provisional) visa.

The distinction between onshore and offshore points tested visas and some threshold requirements will be removed – with more importance being placed on the points test to find the best suited independent skilled migrants.

If you want to apply for one of the three new points tested skilled migration visas you will still need to:

  • nominate a skilled occupation on the relevant skilled occupation list
  • be under 50 years old
  • have competent English skills.

From 1 July, if you are interested in a points-tested skilled migration visa you will need to complete an expression of interest in SkillSelect. SkillSelect is a new online system where skilled workers interested in migrating to Australia can record their details to be considered for a skilled visa. Only those who are invited

Tips for transferring money to Australia

If you are sending money to or from Australia, getting the best value for your money is important. As a specialist foreign exchange provider, we hope the tips below will help when transferring your money overseas.

Banks vs. currency specialists
A currency specialist company will typically offer a better rate of exchange than the banks. By using a specialist, you can also save money on other fees and charges imposed by overseas banks.

Expert market guidance
Take advantage of the expert guidance by using a specialist currency transfer company. You will receive the services of a personal dealer, who will understand your requirements and offer free guidance on the Aussie dollar. Your dealer has the tools at their disposal to help you transfer your money when exchange rates are in your favour and this is where you can save significant amounts of money.
Don’t leave it until the last minute, planning is crucial!
The exchange rate is moving all the time, therefore timing is hugely important. It is recommended you register with a specialist company well in advance if you are moving overseas. This will allow you to receive updates so you will be made aware of any movements in the exchange rate. That way you will have more opportunity to secure the best exchange rate possible.

Different ways to buy your currency
There are various ways you can buy or sell your Australian dollars. For example, with the assistance of a personal dealer, market orders can be utilised – this is setting a target exchange rate and if these levels are reached your currency is automatically bought – you can also set a minimum level ensuring you don’t lose out if the exchange rate moves against you.

Regular payments to Australia
For frequent payments, and typically for smaller amounts, you can set up automated payments which are settled by Direct Debit from your UK bank account – therefore, you can relax in the knowledge that your transfers are taken care of.

Make sure you use a secure provider
It is vital you use a trusted provider with a proven track record. Some currency specialists are now authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) for the provision of payment services. You should also take into account how long a company has been operating for and the number of customers they assist each year.

PomsInOz & Moneycorp
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Article by John @ Moneycorp

Cost of living, Australia and the United States, a comparison

Guest post comparing the cost of living

Some international travellers fall in love with a particular country’s beauty and people and after they return home, realize that they would like to relocate there. While some relocate to spend their retirement years in a new country, others want to change their permanent residence in mid-career. Such moves require serious consideration and careful calculation because the cost of living in either case may not be comparable to the cost of living in ones native country. Those who are unprepared may find themselves in a less than desirable position.

Retirees and mid-career professionals share things in common regarding their basic needs for living in Australia, and each should analyse their potential new country’s cost of living before deciding to migrate.

First, one should consider the general financial environment. How much money can one take to Australia? How much can one earn or have access to in order to cover ones daily expenses? An unfavourable exchange rate has a significant impact on how much ones money can buy. It may even result in significant cut backs to ones lifestyle in order to afford living in the new country. One should take care ti assess the costs for daily living, including housing, groceries, medical care, education and transportation.

How Does the Australian Cost of Living Compare to the National Average in the United States?

In the United States, the median price for a house in the Northeast is listed at $225,800 and a house in the Midwest costs an average of $120,500. Southern states report a median price of $138,100, while houses in the West average a price tag of $195,300.

By comparison, the lowest median house price listed in Australia is in Hobart, which is one of Australia’s capitals, and comes in at a staggering $330,000. Other capitals list their median house prices anywhere from $390,000 – $507,000. Canberra is the most expensive. Comparing the most affordable prices reveals that Australia’s housing prices are anything but cheap. As a matter of fact, they are up to triple of what a comparable house in the U.S. will cost.

Let’s take a look at the cost of food. It is estimated that each adult in the U.S. spends an average of $170 – $200 per month on food, or $740 per month for a family of four with children. The average monthly cost in Australia for the same sized family is $1,200 per month, which is considerably higher than in the United States.

Medical care in the U.S. averages close to $13,000 per year per family. By comparison, healthcare in Australia costs an average of $3,024 per year. This does not include additional expenses for ancillaries (Medibank Private Extras), hospital coverage (AHM), and the Medical Gap.

Educational costs depend upon the type of institution, the level of education one pursues and whether the institution is private or public.

Australia is known for the great distances one has to travel on a regular basis. Transportation is essential and drivers are expected to pay a road tax (an annual license), in addition to insurance premiums. A gallon of petrol costs about $5.60. Average fuel, auto insurance and annual license costs depend upon the make and model of the car and ones driving habits, similar to what a driver faces in the United States, except for the annual license.

As the examples above show, it is important to compare the cost of living in ones own country to that of Australia before deciding to migrate. Calculating ones needs ahead of time will prevent unpleasant surprises later.

Calls to introduce WHV agreements with more Asian countries.

Speaking at a recent Tourism Conference, Federal Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson said that Australia was witnessing a “sizeable shift” in tourism thanks to the fast-growing middle classes across Asia in what is being dubbed ‘the Asian century’.

He said Australia also need to increase the number of working holiday visas (WHV) agreements with Asian countries.

Mr Ferguson said there were 30,000 vacancies in the tourism industry and it was predicted to blow out to 56,000 by 2014.

Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive John Lee said Australia needed to introduce working holidaymaker visa agreements with countries such as the Philippines and China and accept more working holidaymakers from Indonesia.

“We don’t have many agreements with Asian countries,” he said.

Tourism Australia will unveil its next television commercial and the latest stage of it’s There’s Nothing Like Australia campaign in China in June, before rolling out to all 25 countries in 17 languages.

China has become Australia’s most valuable tourism market, growing by almost 20 per cent last year and Mr Ferguson said the “dragon’s share” of marketing dollars was now devoted to it.

Chinese tourists spent $3.5 billion last year and are forecast to spend up to $9 billion by 2020.

Queensland mining jobs being filled by 457 visa holders

According to figures from DIAC, in the 12 month period leading up to 21/02/2012, around 2,500 foreign workers came to Queensland to fill positions in the booming construction and mining sectors.

Queensland is suffering from a skills crisis in these industries, although the desire to enter these sectors is strong – over 50,000 people recently attended state governments backed sessions on how to get into the resources industry.

Demand for workers from overseas who already posses the prerequisite skills is only increasing UK workers are the most used, followed by US and India workers.

In the past year, around 1,360 construction workers arrived on 457 visas. (over double the previous years figure).

For mining, overseas worker numbers rose from 560 to 1180 over the same period.

Immigration figures showed newly-arrived construction workers in Queensland earned an average of $124,400 AUD a year.

Mine workers in Queensland on 457 visas earned an average of $131,900 AUD a year.

Chamber of Commerce Industry Queensland advocacy general manager Nick Behrenscor said the state needed workers because the few people who could do the job would not move to regional areas.

Summary:

7380 – number of workers coming to Queensland on 457 visas in 2011/12.
1360 were for construction jobs, another 1180 were in mining.
The amount of workers on 457 visas for the two industries doubled in 12 months.
In total for Queensland, 1710 came from the UK
740 came from the United States
720 from India
590 from Ireland.

Moving to Australia newsletter

Our sister site, Pomsinoz, has just emailed out the April 2012 Australia Migration Forums newsletter to over 8,500 subscribers. If you’d like to receive a copy, you can subscribe via this link.

An online copy of this month’s newsletter can be read here: http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=ccc23791fac9d42ec07966a80&id=c43573f2a9

In this months edition, we’ve got our regular photo competition (with $75 AUD going to the winner every month), features on pension transfers & moving money from the UK to Australia, migration news and forum hints & tips

 

Streamlined visas for colleges and TAFE

At a COAG meeting today, it was agreed to bring forward the implementation of the “revised framework for low immigration risk providers”, giving some colleges access to “streamlined” student visa assessments from the second half of this year.

Industry groups have welcomed the announcement, which removes visa processing impediments for these colleges up to six months earlier than had been anticipated.

The new approach means international students seeking visas to study at colleges deemed low-risk will be treated as coming from ‘level 1 risk assessment’ countries. This vastly reduces their waiting time for visas, and scales back onerous requirements to prove that they have plenty of money to cover their expenses in Australia.

Some of Australia’s top markets for international education, including India and China, are treated as high-risk level 3 or 4 countries, making it much harder for their students to obtain visas – particularly Indians, whose rejection rates are up to 60 per cent.

The “streamlined” arrangements, which were recommended last September by the Knight review of student visas, reduce the obstacles for visa applicants but ramp up providers’ obligation to ensure they only accept genuine students.

Universities gained access to the streamlined system this month. But TAFEs and private colleges had been told they wouldn’t be included until next year, even if they were deemed low risk, placing them at a competitive disadvantage against universities.

Tertiary education minister Chris Evans has since indicated that the extension to non-universities could be brought forward. The Australian Council for Private Education and Training said it was “delighted” that this had now been confirmed.

CEO Claire Field credited lobbying from the NSW and Victorian governments as well as industry groups, but said the federal government needed to go further. “The next step is to introduce post-study work rights for students at the best public and private vocational training providers,” she said.

The peak English language college group, English Australia, said the COAG communiqué’s reference to international education signalled that governments had recognised the seriousness of the decline in international enrolments over the last 30 months.

Executive Director Sue Blundell said she hoped the revised visa assessment framework would be “genuinely inclusive of all types of providers”, so that English language colleges had “some chance of seeing a turnaround”.

The International Education Association of Australia also welcomed the development, but said the government needed to tread carefully to avoid rekindling the problems the international education industry had experienced four or five years ago.

“The government only has one chance to ensure that the criteria for inclusion are appropriate,” said executive director Phil Honeywood.

“There’s been a philosophical push particularly from the coalition state governments to ensure that private providers are given more of an equal playing field, but at the end of the day the commonwealth government is the gatekeeper.

“It’s taken years to build up our high quality education reputation. That was lost to a large extent over the last few years and we need to regain it, so a comprehensive system for guaranteeing low-risk providers has to be assured.”

The Immigration Department is still reviewing the criteria for determining low-risk providers. Mr Honeywood said he expected a staged approach, with TAFEs and well-established private colleges the first admitted to the new system.