Emigrant visas cut as Australia puts emphasis on higher skills
EMIGRATING to Australia to escape the recession may no longer be an option for thousands of unemployed Irish people thinking of heading Down Under to find work.
New rules announced on Monday mean that the number of occupations entitling Irish workers to an Australian work visa have been cut by more than half, from 400 to 181, effective on July 1.
The changes will come as a blow to Irish people drawn to Australia by the promise of well-paid work, sun, surf and quality of life.
Popular trades which traditionally qualified for a permanent residency visa -- such as hairdressers, butchers, cooks and gardeners -- are no longer eligible.
More than 1,500 Irish people were granted permanent residency visas between 2008 and 2009 with most (1,132) qualifying as skilled workers under Australia's Skilled Migration Programme.
Australian immigration minister Senator Chris Evans said changes to the programme placed more emphasis on professional and highly skilled workers to meet demand.
The new Skilled Occupation List (SOL) is "designed to deliver highly skilled migrants and crack down on people seeking permanent residency through low-value education courses", he said in a statement.
The changes are intended to "attract skilled migrants of the highest calibre and deliver people with real skills to meet real need in our economy", he said.
"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) Howard government," he added.
The new SOL replaces the Migration Occupations in Demand List, MODL, which was revoked in February.
Along with changes to the occupations in demand, priority will be given to migrants who are sponsored by employers.
Skills now in demand include healthcare professionals such as medical administrators, nurses, doctors, consultants, psychiatrists, surgeons, dentists, optometrists, chemists and veterinarians.
Teachers are also in demand as are engineers, as well as mechanics, architects, accountants, IT professionals and software programmers and analysts.
There is good news for people who were working in Ireland's beleaguered construction industry.
Skilled tradespeople such as bricklayers, stonemasons, carpenters, plasterers, electricians, plumbers and tilers are still wanted.
Edwina Shanahan, marketing manager for the Irish online visa service Visafirst.com, said the changes would hit some would-be migrants. But they would not necessarily spell the end of the Aussie dream for many Irish people.
"The majority of trades are still on it, especially in the construction trade," she said.
The changes won't directly affect more than 20,000 Irish people under the age of 31 who took advantage of Australia's one-year working holiday programme last year. This allows young holidaymakers to work to fund their travel as long as they can prove they have at least $5,000 (€3,600) in reserve during their stay.