Sun. Jun 16th, 2024

You’ll need to be aged 35 or younger to apply for this visa. These PhD students say it’s ‘unfair’

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun12,2024
Key Points
  • From 1 July, the age limit for applying for the Temporary Graduate Visa Class 485 will be reduced from 50 to 35.
  • Affected students say academic and industry experience prerequisites for some doctoral programs will make meeting the new age requirements very difficult.
  • In 2022, 40 per cent of PhD students in Australia were aged 30 and above.
When PhD candidate Brian Barbour, 47, became aware of a new age cap applied to the Temporary Graduate Visa Class 485 (TGV), he and his colleagues felt “panic, distress, and uncertainty”.
As part of the first announced by the federal government in December last year in its new Migration Strategy and applicable as of July 1, the maximum age for applicants in the post-higher education work stream will be reduced from 50 to 35.
In addition, as the “select degree” two-year extension will cease, the maximum stay period for doctoral graduates will be halved from six to three years.

The age and duration of stay changes do not apply to students from Hong Kong or British national overseas passport holders.

Reconsidering Australia as a destination for PhD studies

Barbour arrived in Australia, from the US, in 2019 to pursue a PhD in international refugee law and said he expected to graduate this year.
He claimed the change would disrupt both his family and financial situation as he would be forced to leave Australia while the peak body, the Group of Eight Universities (Go8) said it would reduce the talent pool for future PhD candidates.
Barbour told SBS Chinese that he was “very concerned” about the upcoming changes.
“The student visa that I’m on will expire shortly. I’m 47 years old. Without the 485 visa, there really isn’t any other kind of visa that I would be eligible for,” he said.

“[My two children] have great friends in their schools, but we would need to pick up and go even before I finish the PhD and before it’s conferred.”

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Brian Barbour said his two children rely on his visa to remain in Australia. Credit: SBS

When applying for his PhD at the University of New South Wales, Barbour said he received offers from a number of universities outside Australia, as he was a recognised expert in his field with 15 years of experience.

Under the new policy, he would have been “too old” to be able to complete his PhD in Australia then stay and work after graduation, he said.

‘Rules changed in the middle of the game’

Maryam Taheri, from Iran, is over 35 years old and pursuing a PhD in chemistry.
She said that the main reason for choosing to study in Sydney was the hope of starting a scientific career in Australia and living here with her family.
“It’s disheartening, as I no longer see a clear path for myself after graduation, leaving me with significant uncertainty about our lives here,” she said.
“It feels like the rules changed in the middle of the game.

“When I decided to apply for a PhD in Australia, we left (everything behind) in Iran.”

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Maryam Taheri is concerned about the impact on her 10-year-old son. Credit: SBS

Taheri added that her 10-year-old son faced the prospect of leaving an education system he had grown accustomed to, and the “disruption” was unfair to him.

She said that she had no plans to return to Iran, but she felt “unsure” about her future.

“Due to the change to the graduation visa, we should leave Australia. Maybe I’ll try to apply for a talent visa or postgraduate visa for another country, like the USA or England.”

Reducing numbers of migrants who are ‘permanently temporary’

A spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs said a key objective of the government’s December 2023 Migration Strategy was to, “reduce migrant worker exploitation by reducing the number of migrants who are permanently temporary.”
“The government is committed to repositioning the TGV so that it supports early career professionals to develop the relevant work history they will need to progress to a skilled visa or use their education and skills in the global jobs market.
“Graduates who have relevant work histories but are no longer eligible for the TGV due to age restrictions will continue to have access to other temporary and migration pathways.”

The development of the new Skills in Demand visa may provide graduates who have extensive work histories related to their area of studies with a quicker pathway to permanency than the TGV.

Call for ‘exemption’ for PhD students

Meanwhile, PhD candidate Apei Song, from China, said due to doctoral candidates often being required to have both industry experience and considerable academic qualifications, the age limit of 35 was also unrealistic.
Song, who has been pursuing a degree in criminology at the University of New South Wales since 2022, said he was organising protests among PhD students in Sydney against the changes to the 485 visa policy.
Song’s claim is supported by data from the Go8 and the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) showing that in 2022, 40 per cent of PhD students in Australia were aged 30 and above.
The group is calling on the Department of Home Affairs to make adjustments including but not limited to exemptions and providing a transition period.
Song said that it was quite normal for prospective PhD students to be over 35.
“The biggest irrationality lies in the fact that obtaining a PhD involves various considerations. This includes the need for work experience, and knowledge accumulation, all of which require time to (accrue),” he said.

“To become a qualified researcher, extensive training over a long period of time is essential. For (these applicants), 35 years old is still considered relatively young.”


Apei Song and his colleagues are petitioning the government to maintain the age cut-off for the 485 visas at 50 for PhD students. Credit: Apei Song

According to the Go8 and CAPA data, in 2022, a total of 28,986 PhD by research students were enrolled in the Go8 universities, with 51 per cent being international. In 2022, 40 per cent of PhD students in Australia were aged 30 and above.

In a statement released in February, Vicki Thomson, the Chief Executive of the Go8, said, “Admission into PhD programs requires extensive academic and often industry experience.”

“Given that completing a PhD in Australia takes four years or longer depending on the research project, this change means many international graduates will not qualify under the new TGV age limit.

“Exempting PhD students will have a minimal impact on Australia’s migration system in terms of overall numbers but will protect the future of Australia’s research and innovation leadership pipeline.”
Jake Zheng, the director of TOPSELECT and a registered migration agent in Australia, said that the changes did not include transitional measures.

He believed that changes to the 485 visa pathway was an attempt by the government to “lay the groundwork for controlling the number” of skilled migrants in the future.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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One thought on “You’ll need to be aged 35 or younger to apply for this visa. These PhD students say it’s ‘unfair’”
  1. Do you think this age limit change for the Temporary Graduate Visa is justified, considering its impact on PhD students like Brian Barbour?

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