The Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji was on an official visit to Australia from September 10 to 16.
However, soon after the visit there were widespread rumors on social media in Bhutan accusing the Foreign Minister of having asked the Australian government to discourage Bhutanese being given visas.
Though there was no proof of this, social media allegations started after some Bhutanese applying for diplomas visas to Australia started getting higher rejection rates.
The Bhutanese talked to the Foreign Minister to clarify the online rumors and also find out about the substance of his visit.
Lyonpo Dr Tandi said that it is absolutely not true that he had gone to Australia to curtail Bhutanese visas.
He said, on the contrary, he had gone to seek even more visas for Bhutanese.
Lyonpo said that he formally requested for more Training Visas called Visa 407, more Work and Holiday visas and more scholarships from the Australian government.
Lyonpo said Visa 407 is a type of visa where Bhutanese can go for training to Australia for two years and while there can work too. He said it is like a Learn and Earn program which will add to the skills of Bhutanese.
He said the ‘Work and Holiday’ visa is one that will allow Bhutanese to go for holiday to Australia and work at the same time. Lyonpo said this visa is issued when Australia needs workers at seasonal times, like for example, when there is a big harvest and workers are required to pick the produce.
Lyonpo said that Mongolia has been given this facility and he hopes that Bhutan will be given the same.
The minister said the above visas are ways in which Bhutanese can get training and work in Australia for certain durations without having to pay hefty college fees.
Lyonpo said more scholarships were also requested for.
On the issue of the diploma courses visas of Bhutanese getting rejected, Lyonpo said that the Australian government like many other governments are wary of a recession and so are moving to protect jobs that Australians can do.
Lyonpo said that for example visas for plumbing diplomas among others are being rejected to protect the jobs of Australian plumbers.
Lyonpo said that it is not just Bhutan as there are far more diploma course visas rejection being seen in applications from Nepal, India, Bangladesh and worldwide in fact.
The minister, however, said that preference is being given to those going for Masters courses.
The Foreign Minister’s official visit to Australia was also as a part of the celebration to mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Bhutan and Australia on 14September 2022.
Lyonpo visited Perth, Canberra, and Sydney. It was the second visit to Australia by a Foreign Minister of Bhutan in 19 years. The first was in 2003, one year after Bhutan and Australia established diplomatic relations.
The Foreign Minister met with his counterpart Senator Penny Wong, who is Minister for Foreign Affairs and is also the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Senator Penny Wong said, “I reinforced our support for Bhutan and its continuing development. I look forward to further strengthening our relationship in the years ahead.”
Lyonpo also met with other key ministers and leaders in the Federal and State Governments, and interacted with Federal Members of Parliament and Members of the Legislative Assembly.
The minister visited Universities, met with their faculties and interacted with Bhutanese students. He also interacted with the growing Bhutanese communities in Perth and Canberra.
Bhutan and Australia’s relationship dates back to the early 1960s when Bhutan secured membership to the Colombo Plan through Australia’s support.
Since then, education and human resource development remains the central pillar of the bilateral relationship, which has led to Australia becoming a highly preferred destination for Bhutanese seeking higher education and employment opportunities.
In honour of the Foreign Minister’s visit and to mark the start of the 20th anniversary period, two national monuments in Canberra, the National Carillon and the Old Parliament House, was lit up in the colours of the flag of Bhutan on 14 September 2022.