Some alarming statistics have been released by IMMI (The Government Immigration Arm) showing a significant drop in 485 visa applications & holders within Australia.
In the final quarter of 2014 the number of applications for student visas has increased by 13.5% making it the highest number in four years. With student visas on an upward trend it would only seem logical that as these students graduate conclude their study that they would like to work in the country they studied. The fact though is in the last quarter only 15.3% of students chose to move onto a subclass 485 visa.
485 Visa Decrease – The Real Numbers
8,090 subclass 485 visa’s were lodged last quarter which was down 53.5% year on year. Grants decreased by a similar number to 10,349. As the table below highlights, most visa numbers are on the increase except for the subclass 485 visa!
Below shows the huge reduction in 485 visa applications which has been on the decline since 2012.
The result of the decline in 485 visa applications/approvals has been a drop in subclass 485 visa holder in Australia. With the current trend its expected that in early 2014 Australia will have the lowest level of these visa holders in recent history.
Why has applications numbers dropped so dramatically?
The 485 visa program has undergone a few major changes in recently history including:
1) The existing program was split into two with different streams depending on how long the students had studied in Australia and what type of degree they completed (eg PHD)
2) The fees for the visa increased dramatically under the Gillard government. This was especially harsh for those with a partner or family members as each individual were charged a separate fee.
While these changes were dramatic, it must be noted that the decline had already started in 2012 before these changes had been made. What doesn’t make sense is that student numbers have remains similar over the period so these student are either going back to their home country or choosing to go down another visa path (the 600 visitor or 601 ETA).
IMMI have not provided enough insight into these changes or why they are occurring. Once more, the decline in foreign workers has raised no political/media attention unlike when these number increase due to the fear of high unemployment for permanent residents.
What are the options for legislators
The idea that Australia is training individuals and then losing them to their home country is far from idea. Ideally those that want to work should be given the opportunity to do so. To ensure this is the case it should be clear to international student that they can apply for the 485 visa and the process should become more straightforward. The application price of this visa is far too high when you consider that these are students finishing their degree and that in most cases the visa is only 1.5 years.
As of April 2014 the fee for a single 485 visa applicant is $1,400. The 457 visa on the other hand is cheaper at $1,035 and lasts 6 months months. This in part may be why the 485 visa application number have dropped but the increase 457 visa holders from students hardly makes up for this shortfall. Clearly a price reduction is in order to correct this.
Another element to reconsider is the concept of two streams. The visa needs to be more simpler rather then complicated with an easy to understand process to apply and receive the visa.
A final element is the processing times for the visa.
A 457 Visa lodged in Australia that is ‘low risk’ take on average 2 months. A 485 visa on the other hand lodged in Australia takes on average 12 months. As these 485 visa holders have already received a student visa from the Australian Government it would be expected that this process should take significantly shorter then the 457 visa (not the other way around). The good news for 485 visa applicants is they can receive a bridging visa at no extra cost so in most cases they can work in Austria while waiting for their main visa but this is yet another step in the application process.
So overall, make the system easier, make it cheaper and make it faster or the 485 visa program will continue to decrease in Australia!