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Students “shocked” by ACT migration changes

International students have gathered outside Canberra’s Legislative Assembly to protest the partial closure of the Australian Capital Territory’s skilled nomination visa scheme which they claim broke an “implied promise” of migration to the area.

Students in Canberra are uncertain of their future after the territory government partially closed its residency program. Photo: VisAustraliaStudents in Canberra are uncertain of their future after the territory government partially closed its residency program. Photo: VisAustralia

ACT's skilled nomination scheme was open to all visa holders, regardless of skills possessed

Allowing student and graduate visa holders to receive state or territory nomination for permanent residency, ACT opened its scheme to anybody who had a connection to Canberra and had been living there for at least 12 months in July 2017, regardless of whether they possessed skills on its shortage list.

“Closing down the program abruptly without any warning has left all these students helpless”

The territory recently partially closed the scheme back to those with a necessary skill, after it claimed it received an abundance of applications over its annual quota, sparking the protest.

“Hundreds of student, if not thousands, have moved to Canberra especially from other states because of the program,” said VisAustralia director Nicholas Houston.

“ACT had implied through their adverts and campaign that these students could make Canberra their home. Closing down the program abruptly without any warning has left all these students helpless.”

Speaking with The PIE News, Houston said in some cases, students were only a few days away from being eligible for the scheme, adding they now feel “shocked and feel helpless”.

The protest received backing from CISA, the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations, and Migration Alliance, with CISA national president Bijay Sapkota reiterating students’ concerns that they were misled.

“We have supported the students protest organised in ACT wholeheartedly,” he said.

“In terms of advocacy, we are sending out recommendations to the Government on behalf of the international community in Canberra, so that a mutual consensus is reached.”

The sudden change said Sapkota, also put unnecessary hardships on students who now lived in uncertainty for their future.

The ACT government has indicated it is aware of the situation and will work towards a resolution for those affected shortly.

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