Australia extends post-PhD work visa to six years, others to four

Almost 400 bachelor’s and master’s courses attracting enhanced post-study rights named as term-time working hours limit extended

February 21, 2023
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Overseas graduates of almost 400 Australian bachelor’s and master’s courses will be eligible for an extra two years of post-study work rights from July, while doctoral graduates in any discipline will qualify.

The Australian government has announced that credentials in more than 120 occupations will earn international students the extra work rights that it promised them during last September’s Jobs and Skills Summit.

The pledge, which applied to foreign graduates with “select degrees in areas of verified skill shortages”, raised post-study work rights to four years for bachelor’s qualifications, five years for master’s and six years for PhDs.

And on the recommendation of a working group of civil servants and sector representatives, the government has decided to grant the extra two years to all PhD graduates “regardless of field of study”.

This will increase Australia’s human capital “in areas of key sovereign capability” while cultivating “a larger pipeline” of top international students, the government explained.

Canberra has accepted all of the working group’s 20 recommendations either wholly or in principle. They include a proposal to boost the number of hours of paid work that foreign students are entitled to undertake during term time.

Until early 2022, when it was removed as a temporary Covid measure, a 40-hour fortnightly restriction had been applied to international students’ working hours. When the limit is reimposed in July, it will be raised to 48 hours.

This means that international students can work the equivalent of three full days a week – an amount that allows students enough time to study while supporting themselves adequately, the government explained.

The boost might ease the students’ resentment at having their working hours limited again after 18 months of unrestricted employment rights, while alleviating employer concerns that the reimposed cap could exacerbate staffing shortages.

But critics say liberal work rules are robbing foreigners of learning time while turning student visas into a scheme for attracting low-skilled workers.

The home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, said the government was trying “to utilise skilled migrants via enhanced training and better targeted, less exploitative programmes for temporary visa workers and students”.

Jason Clare, the education minister, said Australia had “the second highest skills shortage” in the developed world. “Businesses are screaming out for skilled workers, particularly in the regions,” he said.

“These skilled workers…can use the skills they’ve gained in Australia to help fill some of the chronic skills shortages we have right now. [This] will make Australia more attractive as a study destination.”

Universities Australia said there was a “clear need” for international graduates “to complement our home-grown workforce and spur productivity and economic growth”.

“The decision to extend working rights for PhD students, in particular, will provide a significant boost to the development of Australia’s knowledge economy,” said chief executive Catriona Jackson.

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