Words by Yuzuha Oka

Yining Ong is an international student from Singapore. She is in the third year of the Bachelor of Arts majoring psychology and sociology. After finishing her honours year, she wants to get a job in Australia She is also the president of UMSU International.

“I like the working environment in Australia. It is more relaxed than in Asian countries and people are really nice. Also, there are more varieties in types of occupation for Arts students [here] than in Singapore.”

However, she is worried because getting a job as an international student can be very difficult. “Many companies require graduates to have Permanent Residency (PR). International students cannot even apply for a job in those cases.” Even getting an internship was tough for her; she says that companies often don’t reply to her applications, while she knows of local students getting a reply and even a placement.

“It’s a dilemma. In order to get a job, PR is often required. However, you need working experience to get PR. As a result you can get neither of them and end up leaving the country,” Ms Ong says.

To work after graduation, international students must have an appropriate visa. If they cannot get one, they must leave.

Not many international graduates get a visa that allows them work. In 2013, only 15.3 per cent of former student visa holders were granted Temporary Graduate Visas (subclass 485). It’s the most popular visa option for international graduates wanting to work in Australia. With it, students can stay temporarily to look for a job without previous work experience, regardless of their field.

It can be harder to get other working visas. According to the Student Visa Program Quarterly Report released in December, 3.2 per cent of former student visa holders received the Skilled-Independent Visa (subclass 189) , and 0.5 per cent the Employer Nomination Scheme Visa.

Reasons for not being eligible for the 485 Visa can vary, but include that an applicant’s course was less than two years long, or that the applicant applied for a student visa before 5 November 2011 and is not on the Skilled Occupation List.

“Students who are not eligible for the 485 will have very limited visa options,” Diana Hemmingway, senior ESOS and Visa Support Officer at the university says. “The migration law is really complex, and students need to refer to experts.”

Supports system exist for international students, provided both by the university and by student-run organisations. The University of Melbourne ESOS and Visa Support Service holds fortnightly information sessions about post-graduation visa options.

Students can access one-on-one appointments (in person, via email, or via Skype) and attend career events on campus. The service is available to students while enrolled and for up to one year after graduating.

Students@Work sources employment opportunities on campus for all students.

UMSU International also provides support. One example is the Student Experience Fair, where students can explore services the university and the state of Victoria provide. “UMSU International works as a bridge between the university and students organising scattered information for students and giving feedback to uni,” Ms Ong says.

Most international students (27.9 per cent, the largest proportion) proceeded to Tourist Visas in 2013 after graduating, according to the Department of Immigration. People carrying a Tourist Visa are not allowed to work.

However, some become permanent residents. Nam Kim, Advocacy Officer of Australian Federation of International Students (AFIS) used to be an international student at the University of New South Wales. He now has a permanent residency and helping international students through AFIS.

Mr Kim says that the important thing is to find a mentor. He suggests international students from the same country can provide useful information if they have been in similar situations before. He found his own mentor in the Korean Society at university,. He points out that networking is the key. “Volunteer at the related field and get connected with the people,” he says. “You must be proactive and prepare.”