When any illiterate Afghan who is capable of saying “asylum” can be accepted into Australia, what sense does it make to exclude highly skilled immigrants?

Much of the media has focused on how the changes to general skilled migration visas will affect overseas students. And with Indians making up the majority of overseas students in Australia, much has been reported of the changes in the Indian Press.

Certainly on the ex-pat forums too most of those affected by the cancellation of visas before September 2007 and the shake-up of the MODL and CSL appear to be applicants from countries such as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. But many Brits have also been affected.

We spoke to one British man whose life has been turned upside by the changes brought into place last week by the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

Alastair and Sarah applied for a general skilled visa back in 2009 and were granted state sponsorship by Western Australia. Alastair has worked in the oil and gas industry for 20 years whilst his wife Sarah is a fully qualified hairdresser with her own salon. They have applied to immigrate to Western Australia with their three young children. Western Australia as we reported some weeks ago, is currently undergoing a boom in the mining industry and recently economic analysts warned the government that states like WA would lose out if occupations relating to mining and the oil industry were not included on future skilled occupational lists.

Western Australia’s own occupations in demand list already has many jobs vital to the mining industry that are not on the CSL. Alastair told us that he has been in contact with several companies in WA who have asked him for an interview, so he is aware that the work is there, waiting for him.

Back in September 2009 Alastair and Sarah found out that they were no longer entitled to priority processing and that their application may not be processed until 2012. Now with the MODL list scrapped and hairdressing not seen as a highly-skilled occupation, Alastair is pessimistic about their chances: “I expect DIAC to make another announcement in early 2012 to tell us our applications have been scrubbed the way those 20,000 were on Monday. But don’t worry because you will receive a full refund.”

When asked about how they felt they have been treated by the DIAC Alastair was very critical. “We feel betrayed and cheated. We fully understand that the processing system will change from time to time and we know that there are some out there who do try and cheat the system and that changes will be made. But when these changes do come around it should not affect the honest hard working applicants who are 90% down the processing line.”

Yet Alastair and Sarah refuse to be beaten and they still remain sceptical but hopeful for the future. “I hope that some time in the near future Sarah and I will be sitting in Kings Park having a picnic and the kids will be feeding the ducks.” Well we hope so too. For all the talk of the changes being more in-line with the skills that Australia needs to move into the future, the government is seeming to ignore many states who are crying out for migrant workers to fill the gaps in general skilled occupations. At the moment Australian workers are migrating from state to state to fill in the gaps, meaning that the shortage of workers is just passed from state to state.

Time will tell if Australia’s economy will benefit or suffer from tighter regulations on the general skilled migration visas. But for now the casualties are the hard-working visa applicants who have been kept in the dark for far too long on their future prospects of living in Australia.