Australia cinches immigration rules

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Australia cinches immigration rules

Hundreds of Koreans planning to move to Australia were left scrambling to find alternatives this week, after the Australian government tightened its immigration rules and canceled 20,000 applications from hopefuls worldwide.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans Monday criticized the former John Howard government’s immigration policy, saying the country had accepted many cooks and hairdressers but not enough doctors and nurses. He also said changes are focused on giving priority to migrants with higher skills.

“You’ve got to say if they don’t have the English-language skills, don’t have the trade skills and can’t get a job, then really they should not be eligible for permanent residency,” Evans said. “The current points test puts an overseas student with a short-term vocational qualification gained in Australia ahead of a Harvard-educated environmental scientist.”

Evans was referring to vocational schools that teach cooking and hairdressing, among other subjects. Foreign Ministry officials in Seoul said that as of last November, about 11,500 Koreans were attending such institutes hoping to become permanent residents Down Under. An estimated 5,200 Koreans were granted permanent residency from July 2008 to June 2009, the last fiscal year.

According to a Foreign Ministry official, the Australian government said that only about 4 percent of the 20,000 applicants in question were Korean. All application fees will be refunded, a total of about $12 million.

The Korean official said the new policy didn’t appear to be targeting any specific country.

Another official in Seoul said there’s little the Korean government can do for the hopeful emigrants.

“Unless the Australian measure was aimed directly at us, it’s quite difficult for us to get involved in its government’s policy,” the official said.

If anything, Australia may have tried to curb the rise of its Indian population. Agence France-Presse reported that about 117,000 Indian students arrived in Australia in the 12 months prior to October 2009. Over that period, hundreds of Indians were assaulted and robbed, leading to media outrage and charges of racism.

The new policy will likely reduce enrollment at vocational schools but will instead favor applicants who already have job offers.

Australia altered its immigration rules in 2001 so that students at Australian colleges could apply for permanent residency while in school.

By Yoo Jee-ho []

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