Unis, mayors push student visa extension

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Lord mayors and universities around Australia are calling for the government to automatically extend post-study visas for international students to address the nation's skills shortages.

The Council of Capital City Lord Mayors and the Group of Eight representing Australia's top universities, met with parliamentarians this week to ask that international graduates be allowed to stay in Australia for an extra two years.

Depending on the qualification obtained, international students are able to be granted two, three or four year post-study work visas.

A one or two year extension, depending on the level of qualification, will "enhance Australia's international student market competitiveness and contribute to addressing labour shortages," the peak bodies say.

"Keeping international students here post-study would be an immediate boost to available labour for critical jobs in key sectors," Melbourne Lord Mayor and council chair Sally Capp said.

Australia's skills shortage has hit a "critical juncture" as essential sectors struggle to maintain workforce capacity, Group of Eight chief executive Vicki Thomson said.

Ms Thomson said Australia needed to increase its competitive advantage against nations like the United States and United Kingdom, which pulled their own policy levers to attract the world's best and brightest.

Changes to visa rights and targeting highly skilled graduates would "strengthen Australia's pipeline of skilled labour, boost productivity and our economic prosperity", she said.