Australia's decision to raise the English language bar among its nursing professionals could mean bad news to immigrants hoping to work there. The country plans to deport international student nurses after their visas expire if they fail to meet the language requirements, something that would affect Indian nurses aspiring to work there the most.
Many international nurses would face uncertainty if they fail in English literacy test at level seven, the language requirement set by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.
"The English language standard is set at a level to ensure that all nurses and midwives are able to communicate effectively - verbally and in writing, with their patients and with other healthcare professionals," The Australian quoted the newly formed Nursing and Midwifery Board, as saying.
"The role of the board is to protect the public," it added.
The board has raised its minimum English language standards, effectively denying the student nurses registration.
Students who have just graduated mid-year, or are about to graduate, say they received no notice of the change before it came into effect on July 1.
Those whose visas are due to expire within weeks have complained that they would have to re-apply for migration, despite many having job offers from hospitals and care homes for the aged.
The students are mainly from China, India, Philippines and Thailand.
"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 place," ANF Victorian branch secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said.
Joseph James, a qualified nurse from India, who has just completed an 18-month course at Ballarat, is due for a Australian standards test for a registered nurse, and anxiously said that he might have to face deportation after his student visa expires on August 13.
"I should be a registered nurse right now, I have followed the rules and regulations," he said.
He also informed that there are almost 400 students in the same position having completed, or nearly completed, courses at universities such as Ballarat, Deakin, La Trobe and the Australian Catholic University.
The Australian Nursing Federation met 150 distressed students yesterday in Melbourne and described the change in registration requirements as "an absolute bureaucratic debacle."