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More US job seekers head to Australia


Washington : Facing a job crunch at home, more US citizens are heading to Australia where nearly 7,000 Americans are currently working on long-term visas, an 80 percent jump over the past five years.

US citizens are now the third-largest group applying for work visas, after British and Indian nationals, the Wall Street Journal said, quoting Australian government data.

Near-10 percent unemployment at home drives more Americans to look for jobs Down Under, where China’s thirst for iron ore and energy is transforming the Pacific nation into an economic powerhouse, the report said.

Daniel Davila, a 23-year-old timber floorer from California who has been working at a grocery store, said that on a good day, he makes as much as 50 Australian dollars (US$50.21) an hour – about twice the usual rate for the job in the US.

“I can make what I did in a week in the US in less than a day here,” Davila, who lives near the mining boom town of Perth, was quoted as saying.

Americans with degrees in areas such as accounting or mine engineering as well as other skilled workers can obtain a non-renewable permit for as much as a three-year stay. After that, they can apply for the renewable 457 work visa, which grants up to a four-year stay.

The number of US students in Australian universities has also jumped nearly 10 percent in the past two years, after declining steadily for the previous decade, according to the Australian Department of Immigration.

The uptick comes as the resources boom has pushed the Australian dollar up 45 percent against the US dollar over the same period, making it even more expensive for Americans to study there.

For Americans like Garrett Mclaughlin, the opportunities outweigh the difficulties. The 29-year-old moved to Sydney to study for a master’s degree in business administration.

“It’s hard to ignore that Australia seems to be going one way and America the opposite,” said Mclaughlin.

Luring skilled workers is a shift for Australia, which historically sent many of its most highly educated to the US and Europe, the daily said, quoting migration data.

However, according to the latest data released by the US Census Bureau, about 45,000 native Americans move abroad annually. Close to 250,000 foreign-born residents of the US leave the country each year as well.

The data also shows more than 1.1 million foreigners migrated to the US in 2010, while about 377,000 foreigners moved to Australia this year and 471,000 last year.

According to Australia’s labour law, the longer-term visa hopefuls must be sponsored by a company with visas for in-demand jobs, such as nurses, builders and engineers, and prove they meet Australia’s demandingcriteria.

“The real critical issue for delivering all this infrastructure Australia needs is skilled labour, particularly out west,” in mining regions, said Shane Lee, senior economist at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.

Lee estimates the country needs to spend about $600 billion on infrastructure over the next six years, creating even more demand for such jobs.