Irish vet told she 'cannot speak English' by Australian visa computer
An Irish vet applying for an Australian visa was failed in her English fluency test by an automated computer programme, putting her residency at risk.
Louise (Lucy) Kennedy (34), from Roundwood, Co Wicklow, has been working as an equine vet on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.
Ms Kennedy and husband Adam, an Australian, are expecting their first baby in 12 weeks and the Irish woman decided to apply for permanent residency after two years in the country.
Her English was deemed insufficient by the online scoring system. For a skilled immigrant visa, applicants need to take an English proficiency test.
"I went with a company called Pearson because they give you the most points," she said.
She explained that the test was "very easy", with the oral competency section involving reading a paragraph that appeared on-screen.
But when she received her results Ms Kennedy discovered she had scored 74 points, when the government requires 79.
It was only the oral competency section which was scored low. "I just thought [it was a mistake] and I'll just ring them up and they'll just listen to it again," she said.
However, after much back and forth with the company, she was given the opportunity to take the $300 (€200) test again, free of charge.
"That's based on the fact that there was construction work outside of the test centre at the time which could be a possible interference," she said.
Other companies use human assessors and Ms Kennedy is convinced it was a technical flaw.
"It was very, very easy - a really basic paragraph," she said.
"Because I'm married to an Aussie I luckily have a back-up visa to go to but there is a $3,000 (€2,000) cost more than the skilled immigrant visa which we weren't banking on 12 weeks before having our first baby," she said.
Time was also a factor in trying to rectify her fluency test results she said as her current visa would have expired in the time-frame it would take for all of the paperwork to be completed, even if she was recognised as a fluent English speaker by the testing company.
She said the experience was very stressful. "It was even such a pain to have to take the whole day off work to do the test and then be told I can't speak English," she said.
Pearson, the company running the test, told Australian Associated Press there was nothing wrong with its systems or the scoring of test scores.
Sasha Hampson, the head of English for Pearson Asia Pacific, told the news organisation the immigration department set the bar very high for people seeking permanent residency.