What the internship scene in Australia looks like for international students in 2018
Foreigners are no longer eligible for internships with Australian members of parliament. Source: Shutterstock

If a foreign degree is great, an internship to go along with it makes it even better.

In Australia, international students have been capitalising on the internships offered by local companies and government agencies to boost their CVs and supplement their academic qualifications.

A recently announced new restriction by the Australian parliament, however, is shrinking this pool of opportunities.

Touted as a means to curb foreign intervention, foreigners are no longer allowed to intern for Australian members of parliament, a spokesman for the country’s senate said yesterday.

The move barring young people from working with Australian federal legislators – a prestigious placement – for a three-month stint is apparently targeted at stopping the Chinese from spying on Australian affairs, according to Reuters.

A spokesman for the president of the Senate Senator Scott Ryan which oversaw the change said, “Internships at Parliament House are restricted to Australian citizens.”

Australia also passed legislation last month aimed at preventing intervention by foreign governments – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had said this was necessary to combat Chinese meddling.

Foreign lobbyists will now be required to register and be liable to criminal prosecution if they are proven to be interfering in domestic affairs.

What this means for international students in Australian universities is the pool of job opportunities and internship options available for foreigners appears to be growing smaller by the day.

Last year, the Australian government revamped the popular 457 visa which had previously allowed skilled professionals from abroad to work on their nominated occupation for their approved sponsor for up to four years.

Foreign influence in Australian universities also made headlines throughout last year when a spate of cases saw the two trading partners’ ties strained when Chinese students accused their lecturers of insulting China. This later reopened public discourse over how much Australian universities are allegedly pandering to international students, especially those from China, which sends the most number of students, in return for their significantly higher fees paid to these institutions.

It also led government officials and commentators to allege that the Chinese Communist Party is exerting its influence on Australian academic freedom.

Many students from the Australian National University (ANU) participate in the parliamentary internship program. Source: Shutterstock

While Canberra’s doors may be closed to international students, options remain available in the corporate sector and in the start-up scene. KPMG Australia, for example, has Vacation and Graduate programs in Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart, Launceston, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney for those who have yet to attain Australian permanent residency.

Sites like Intern Gateway also offer a myriad of other internship options available in the fields of finance, accounting, information technology, marketing, human resource management, and hospitality, just to name a few.

Another alternative is making use of the 407 training visa which allows foreigners to “take part in workplace-based training to enhance your skills in your current occupation, area of tertiary study, field of expertise”, and “participate in a professional development training program in Australia”.

However, this visa is not appropriate for those whose sole intention is to work.

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