Melbourne: Hundreds of foreign student nurses, mostly from India, are facing deportation from Australia for lack of proficiency in English.
Nursing students are facing the threat of being sent back home after almost completing their courses and having landed lucrative job offers.
The students estimated to number 400 from India, China, Thailand and Philippines are in this situation as according to them the authorities have changed "goal posts" midway, by
raising minimum English language standards.
The Nursing and Midwifery Board raised International English Language Testing System minimum score from 6.5, which means a student has to be more proficient and a competent speaker, to an academic 7 levels.
The Australians are following UK in applying these strict standards in written and speaking knowledge in English as a must for allowing work permits and citizenship.
The troubled nursing students have received backing from the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF), which has described the change in registration requirements as an "absolute bureaucratic debacle."
"The goal posts have been changed on these students," ANF Victorian branch secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick was quoted by `The Australian` newspaper.
Fitzpatrick said the students would struggle to pay back their loans on nursing salaries in India, and that many had sold their homes to finance coming to Australia in the first
An Indian nursing student Prince Joseph said that he already had completed an 18-month course from Ballarat University but to meet Australian standards for a registered
nurse he will have to qualify under the eligibility programme as a good speaker or else face deportation.
"I spent around ASD 25,000 to be a registered nurse right now but now there is no registration and no job. It is clear discrimination," he added.
The tragedy struck the students, who have just graduated mid-year or are about to graduate. They say they receive no notice of the change before it came into effect on July 1.
Those whose visas are due to expire within weeks complain they don`t have the time to take additional language studies or sit the tests before being made to return home.
They would then have to re-apply for migration, despite many having job offers from hospitals and aged care homes desperately trying to find new staff amid a national shortage of nurses.