KP Sharma

As the greenest pasture for the Bhutanese, Australia, becomes more stringent with its visa rules, they are increasingly eyeing the EU. 

There is no data on how many Bhutanese have moved to the EU countries so far. However, the success stories of visa applicants have become more visible in recent times.

The increasing popularity of Europe as a destination for Bhutanese can be seen through advertisements on social media by consultancy firms and the discussions among those planning to emigrate.

The trend has picked up after Australia changed its visa rules, which affected some immigrants and forced them to explore alternative destinations.

Therefore, consultancy firms in Bhutan have started advertising and facilitating Bhutanese travel to EU countries.

While popular consultancy firms claim that the change in Australia’s visa rules has no significant impact on Bhutanese as widely expected, some people say it is a marketing tactic. The reality is obscure.

This skepticism is fueled by people observing consultancy firms redirecting their attention to other countries.

Jigme, who lives in New York, said the current visa claims remain unclear without data to support them.

However, he pointed out that Australia, which was once a popular destination, had become challenging, forcing consultancy firms to shift their focus to Europe, where they see greater opportunities.

He added that the firms are adjusting their target customer base through various forms of advertising.

Jigme cautioned that while the government had given consultancies a free hand, there is a risk of false advertising or misinformation being disseminated as people seek new destinations.

Regarding the influx of people moving to Europe, he said that some unemployed youth pursue both study and work opportunities while others genuinely seek educational opportunities.

Coming to the increased number of consultancy firms,  people share concerns about intense competition among them, which may lead to the dissemination of misinformation to the public.

On the other hand, the EU presents an opportunity for Bhutanese aspiring to move abroad but faces numerous barriers, including IELTS score requirements, high tuition fees, the limit on working hours, and restrictions on bringing dependents.

Certain EU countries have started welcoming migrants from South Asia, recognising their skills and the potential contributions they can make. 

What sets these opportunities apart is the flexibility they offer, including the acceptance of individuals with lower IELTS scores and academic qualifications and more affordable tuition fees, making migration to these countries increasingly attractive.

A retired civil servant living in Australia said that with the introduction of age restrictions on post-study visas, Europe could emerge as the next destination for individuals over the age of 35 who find themselves unable to extend their stay in Australia.

For instance, two cooperative employees and two friends are set to depart for Malta in Europe on June 4.

According to the group, presently, there are only two Bhutanese in Malta, one on a working visa and the other on a study visa.

In addition, three undergraduates and one pursuing a Master’s degree are currently processing their visa applications in the same country.

The group said that they obtained their visas in 35 days and that the visas allow them to work in 27 countries. 

Further, they mentioned that the tuition fees are comparatively low, and if they can pay one year’s fees at once, they are given a special discount of USD 1,000. 

Two group members have already booked their apartment for USD 250 a month, indicating that the cost of living is not too high.

These are individual testimonials of success. Others say studying and working in the EU countries are far more difficult than in Australia. 

Meanwhile, 347 Bhutanese have secured DV lottery visas this year, a significant increase from 115 in 2023 to 114 in 2022.