Cooks and hairdressers accounted for 12 percent of the 41,000 issued visas in the skilled category last year and 75 percent of those visas went to those, mostly Indians, who had studied in Australia.
Other skilled occupations gone from the visa-friendly list are acupuncturist, dance teacher, hotel manager, piano tuner, interior decorator, journalist and naturopath.
“International students who have the skills our economy needs will still be able to apply for permanent migration or be nominated by employers but we will no longer accept the thousands of cooks and hairdressers who applied under the guidelines established by the (previous) government,” Immigration Minister Chris Evans said.
Cooking and hairdressing are two of 219 occupations crossed out from the old list of 400. The new list comes into force at the start of the new financial year July 1 and will be updated annually.
Since 2001 foreign students could apply for permanent residency if they completed courses matching skills listed as in short supply.
Previously, there was no preferential treatment for those studying in Australia and the rule was that all students had to return home before applying for permanent residency.
The changes in 2001 led to certain courses being touted as guaranteed to deliver a visa. This was the bait that enticed 90,000 Indians to come to study in Australia.
Along with cutting the skills-wanted list to 181 occupations, all 1,300 private colleges have had to apply for re-accreditation. They will find it harder to offer entry into Australia under the guise of providing education.
Because foreign students are allowed to be in paid employment for up to 20 hours a week, many come to Australia expecting to finance their studies themselves. Many work as taxi drivers and cleaners, in shops and at fast-food restaurants.
The government has not completely severed the nexus between courses and visas. A qualification earned in Australia counts for more than one earned abroad and there will still be areas of study that are more likely to lead to a visa than others.
Evans said the changes would lead to the government setting the skilled-migration agenda rather than private colleges.
“What this will do is drive our independent skill migration programme so that we’re bringing in the people we need, not have people dominating our migration program because of the course they study in Australia,” he said.
“Fundamentally my point is that if people come to Australia for an education they ought to get an education. If people want to migrate to Australia, then they ought to look at the skills needs of Australia and who we are looking to bring in.”