Australia post-study work visa: More than just a pathway to PR - report
The Temporary Graduate Visa lets international students stay between 2-4 years, depending on their qualification. Source: Rose Lamond/Unsplash

The Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485) may not directly make international students more employable, but it isn’t without its benefits, new research has found. The findings describe the broader and multiple benefits the 485 visa beyond being a mere pathway to permanent residence for international students.

While students said the visa did not give them a “competitive advantage” in the labour market, they benefited from having “more time” and opportunity to enhance their English language and professional, social, networking and residency capital.

“In other words, the challenges international graduates face in their attempts to get access to the Australian labour market while on the post-study work visa help them to realise the importance
of English language proficiency, work experience, internships and social and professional networks in enabling them to secure employment,” wrote the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) report.

“This, in turn, helps to improve their employability and employment outcomes in Australia.”

Australian employers prefer candidates with PR status rather than the temporary graduate visa. Source: Shutterstock.

The 485 visa allows international students who have recently graduated with a degree from an Australian institution to temporarily live, work and study in Australia. It comprises of two streams – Graduate Work (18 months) and Post-Study Work (two, three or four years depending on highest qualification achieved). In 2017/18, the latter was more popular, making up 84.2 percent of visa grants.

Post-study work rights for international students are often seen as a “back door” for migration and a ploy for “gaming” the Australian immigration system. A surge in appeals by international students against unfavourable visa decisions to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) was portrayed as a disingenuous way to extend their stay. The Australian reported that these appeals are causing the “massive backlog of more than 43,000 active cases” swamping the AAT.

Calling this “outrageous,” Victorian Liberal MP Jason Wood, Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Migration, said the appeals process was “working in favour of the visa holder and not necessarily the Australian taxpayer”. By gaming the system, Wood said international students can extend their stay by several years and deny Australian citizens more part-time jobs.

The new findings challenge this misconception. According to the 33 in-depth interviews
conducted with international graduates on the temporary graduate visa, Australian employers were found to prefer the PR visa to the temporary graduate visa or are unclear what the latter entails.

“For example, one respondent mentioned “most firms don’t hire people on a temporary visa.” An employer interviewed used the ‘why buying the burden’ metaphor to refer to the possible challenges
of recruiting temporary graduate visa holders who might not have the same level of local knowledge, understanding of local workplaces and sustaining connectedness with Australia as those who hold PR or are local citizens,” the report explained. Rather, the temporary graduate visa works merely as a vehicle to obtain PR, which only then affords them greater access to the labour market.

Among the casual workers surveyed, the average hourly salary is AU$27. Source: Daniel Norris/Unsplash

A survey of 801 respondents from 33 universities also revealed that more than half (52 percent) of past and current 485 visa holders) who remain in Australia are in full-time employment. Another 16 percent of respondents are working part-time and another 16 percent as casuals, while the same proportion (16 percent) are still looking for a job. The average hourly salary for casual work was AU$27, while the highest recorded among casuals in the survey was AU$100.

When asked about how the temporary visa has impacted their employment status, 46 percent indicated that the visa either very negatively or somewhat negatively affected their employment outcomes and 24 percent felt neutral about it. Only 33 percent said the visa has somewhat positively or very positively
affected their employment status.

However, approximately 47 percent indicated they are either extremely or moderately satisfied with their employment experience while on the visa. Only 27 percent indicated their dissatisfaction and 26 percent feel neither satisfied nor dissatisfied.

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