Bhutanese residents find comfort in HM’s National Day address amid Australia announcing new VISA rules

The Australian government’s recent announcement to implement strict rules for International students has left a lot of Bhutanese living in the southern hemisphere anxious and uncertain about their future. However, some of them have found comfort in His Majesty The King’s National Day address which seems to have evoked a shift in sentiment with a few of them even contemplating returning home, inspired by the call and reassurance.

Australia, two weeks ago, said it would tighten visa rules for international students and low-skilled workers.

This intervention, according to international media, could halve its migrant intake over the next two years as the government looks to overhaul what it said was a “broken” migration system.

Under the new policies, international students would need to secure higher ratings in English proficiency tests and there would be more scrutiny on a student’s second visa application that would prolong their stay.

The decision comes after net immigration was expected to have peaked at a record 510,000 between 2022 and 2023.

Australia boosted its annual migration numbers last year to help businesses recruit staff to fill shortages after the COVID-19 pandemic brought strict border controls, and kept foreign students and workers out for nearly two years.

But the sudden influx of foreign workers and students has exacerbated pressure on an already tight rental market, with homelessness on the rise in the country.

Amidst this, many Bhutanese residents in Australia shared their concerns.

“With the change in Australian rules for International students, I think all the Bhutanese will be affected. This is because each one of us came here with loans. Still then, during this year’s National Day, when we listened to His Majesty’s speech, we had a different feeling. If under some circumstances, even if they tell us to go tomorrow, then we will be ready to leave,” said Kinzang Chojay from Perth.

“A few Bhutanese who are concerned is right in their place because for some, it’s difficult to get a job in Bhutan and those who got small jobs left their works and came here. And when the rules become strict, the opportunity to work and earn becomes difficult. But what is good about this is we can now think of returning home,” said a Bhutanese in Brisbane who didn’t want to be named.

Some of the consultancies say the number of clients seeking to travel to other countries, especially Canada is gradually increasing although there are no significant changes with people still opting for Australia as their first destination.

Managing Director at SMART Education Consultancy, Tashi Kipchu said, “They haven’t announced when they are going to change, who will be affected and when it will be implemented and how it will be implemented. Some people are assuming so many things in the market. This information hasn’t been approved. Some are being shared with the agenda to capitalize on the opportunity at the moment. Some are being shared without any proof. So, right now, I would suggest and I would also request our Bhutanese to be calm and wait for a further update. At the moment, the visa rules have been as it is. People are going to Australia. Numbers are still sustainable.”

In the past year, a lot of civil servants also left for Australia.

Although there is no definite number as to how many civil servants left for Australia, as per Civil Service Statistics 2022, the attrition rate for 2022 is 8.62 per cent compared to 4.82 per cent in 2021.

The size of the Civil Service as of 31st December 2022 is more than 30,000.

2,646 civil servants separated from the RCSC from January to December 2022.

In the same year, 651 civil servants took Extraordinary Leave.

The Royal Civil Service Commission in its revised Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations 2023, has declared its readiness to welcome resigned civil servants back into service.

The revised BCSR allows those who have voluntarily resigned to come back into the Civil Service as a regular civil servant if they fulfil the eligibility criteria.

Previously, according to the BCSR 2018, once separated, civil servants were not allowed re-entry into the Civil Service. They were only allowed re-entry on a contractual basis.

The recruitment back into the Civil Service would be based on the post vacancy against the approved staffing strength. For re-entry into the Professional and Management Category, candidates will also have to go through the Bhutan Civil Service Examination.

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