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20 Apr 2017

The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) broadly supports the Government’s new visa arrangements, but is concerned the impact on international medical students graduating in Australia has been overlooked.

AMSA is the peak representative body for Australia’s 17,000 medical students; 2,550 of which are international students from USA, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, UK and many other countries.

Under the new changes, which see the 457 visa replaced with the Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa, international medical students wanting to stay in Australia may be forced to take an enormous gamble on their career. Following graduation, it will be a race against visa expiry to enter specialty training in order to meet eligibility requirements to stay in Australia.

The new TSS visa requires holders to have completed two years of work experience, which graduates can complete on a 485 visa. However, since Resident Medical Officers (RMOs) are only on the short-term skilled occupational list (STSOL), graduates will only have two to four years to begin their vocational training.  This timeline does not allow flexibility for unforeseen circumstances. Further, the STSOL does not include a pathway into permanent residency, leaving many international students uncertain about the future.

Andreas Hendarto is an international medical student about to graduate from University of Melbourne.  He said: “The information that we’ve received is not yet complete, but I feel that there is a great cause for concern.

“As a fresh graduate, I will have to apply for a short-term two-year visa under the new scheme, ensuring that at the end of that visa, I will have to renew it again for another two years and hope that by the time that expires, I will be a registrar in a medical specialty listed as eligible for the four-year medium-to-long-term visa, which will allow me to stay in the country - provided my specialty is still listed as part of the PR skilled occupation list.  If I fail at any stage of this process, I will receive no reprieve.

“I had been looking forward to graduating and contributing back to the Australian healthcare system, which kindly hosts and teaches many international medical students for up to seven years.

“What then, can I do? I have spent the best part of eight years in this country, and I look forward to spending many more.  But this new TSS scheme means that after many more years of working hard, I might still be forced to take my hard-earned experience and knowledge in Australian health care elsewhere - simply because I was here at the wrong time.”

Since the announcement was made on Wednesday, the moods in hospitals have been low.  Wojtek Arnal, a James Cook University medical student, said: “Coming to a regional hospital in Queensland today was sombre. The doctor and pharmacist I work with were visibly upset. When I asked why, they asked if I had heard about the new visa changes? Even though they were Australian-trained and had worked at the hospital for a while, they did not know what the future held for them and if they would have to leave. The rest of the shift went on without many words.”

Wojtek’s experience learning medicine in Australia has led him to dreaming of becoming a Rural General Practitioner and continue to work in rural and remote communities. He says: “These communities have taken care of me during my training and I want nothing more than to return the favour during my career.  It breaks my heart that under the new immigration scheme and even after following all steps in the pathway, that I could still be forced to go home after 10 to 12 years and leave another rural community without a much needed doctor.”

AMSA, in conjunction with the International Students’ Network (ISN), has written to the Department and Minister for Immigration to raise their concerns.

Media Contact: Isabella Gosper


Phone: 0416 816 830 

Published: 20 Apr 2017