Chandan Paul moved to Canberra in July last year, after the ACT government opened the door to live, study and work in the territory for a year in order to be nominated for a permanent residency visa.
His dreams were dashed on June 29, when without warning, and less than a month before he would have fulfilled the requirements, the ACT government website encouraging migrants to choose Canberra as their home was updated to say he was no longer able to apply. There was no indication of whether the change was permanent, or if it was temporary, how long it would last.
"I was so close to lodge my file," Mr Paul said. "Because I moved here on July 24 last year."
The 27 year old from Bangladesh originally moved to Australia to gain an accounting degree in Melbourne. He moved to Canberra in a bid to qualify for permanent residency after eligibility requirements for a visa sponsored by the ACT were changed last year. His recent graduate visa expires in October, and he is not sure if he will find a way to stay in Australia without committing to an expensive masters degree.
"I have no back up plan. I have no idea to be honest," he said.
State and territory governments across the country can nominate potential migrants to apply for permanent residency in Australia if they work in a field that is in demand in that jurisdiction under the subclass 190 visa. After being nominated by a state or territory, the potential migrant then makes the final application through the Department of Home Affairs.
In early July last year the ACT government widened the criteria for nomination for those whose occupation is not on the "open" list of in-demand jobs, if they already lived in Australia. The ways in which people with a skilled occupation could prove a connection to the city included the ability for those on student or recent graduate visas to live in the ACT for at least 12 months and complete a Certificate III or higher at a local institution. It was through this opportunity Mr Paul and many others streamed into the ACT.
Less than 12 months after the criteria changed, the door was closed.
At the same time, the Department of Home Affairs increased the points needed on a scale measuring skills and eligibility to live in Australia, again with little warning. Mr Paul is concerned his English score is too low to meet the new hurdle.
Mr Paul estimates he is one of hundreds, if not thousands, to move to the ACT in an attempt to gain the permanent residency visa. He estimates he has spent tens of thousands of dollars to move and enrol in a course at a private college in Canberra.
Also affected, Klaus Mic moved to Canberra in 2014 to finish a degree in international relations at the Australian National University. A Romanian and New Zealand citizen, Mr Mic finished his degree and began work as a public servant, but he felt his career options in his field were limited because he wasn't an Australian citizen.
He began the process to apply for permanent residency through a Subclass 190 visa in the hope he would eventually become a citizen in the country where his brother and parents also now live.
After receiving a final sign off from his employer on Wednesday, June 27, Mr Mic had only to lodge his paperwork with the ACT government, but he missed out because there was no warning.
"Had I applied that morning I wouldn't be in this position," Mr Mic said. "I'm stuck."
"A nice warning would have sufficed, just so I could have saved starting this whole process."
Mr Mic's younger brother was successfully nominated for the visa by the ACT government just one week before the eligibility changed.
The ACT government said recent changes to Home Affairs legislation changing criteria and costs for employer-nominated visas had put pressure on the territory's nominated visas. A government spokeswoman said the program regularly opened and closed applications for visa nominations due to demand.
The change isn't permanent, but there's no word on when people who had been preparing to apply could do so again.
"This is a temporary measure so that the ACT government can investigate alternative options to effectively manage the increased demand for the ACT 190 nomination program," the spokeswoman said.
Around 300 applications received last financial year have been grandfathered into this year's allocation and will continue to be assessed, the spokeswoman said.
The ACT government doesn't believe the increased demand for the visa was caused by changes to its own eligibility criteria, but by changes made by Home Affairs.
Demand for the program in the ACT had been increasing steadily, and was set to increase further with changes to eligibility for nomination. In 2015-16, 640 nominations were processed, increasing to 930 the following year and 1140 nominations last year. According to Home Affairs, 825 applications were successful last year.
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