June 18, 2024

Japa: Australia makes changes to students visa rules for international students, visitors

Japa: Australia makes changes to students visa rules for international students, visitors

Flag of Australia waving in the wind against white cloudy blue sky. Australian flag.

By Efosa Taiwo

The Australian government has introduced new measures to curb ‘visa hopping,’ a practice where visitors and graduates extend their stay in Australia by switching visa types onshore.

The Department of Home Affairs announced these changes, effective from July 1st, as part of the Migration Strategy released last December.

Under the new regulations, visitors on a Tourist Visa will no longer be able to apply for a Student Visa while in Australia.

This move aims to close a loophole that allowed over 36,000 applications to transition from visitor to student visas between July 1, 2023, and the end of May 2024.

The Department stated that the change “closes a pathway that has been used to attempt to subvert the Government’s strengthened offshore student visa integrity measures,” although it did not provide specific evidence of subversion.

Data from the Department shows a significant reduction in onshore visa grants, with only 17,729 visas issued to previous visitor visa holders in the current financial year, compared to 38,334 in the previous year.

Temporary Graduate Visa holders will also no longer be able to apply for Student Visas within Australia from July 1st.

Citing a report by the Grattan Institute, which found that 32 percent of Graduate Visa holders returned to study after their visa expired, the Department emphasized the need for graduates to either find skilled jobs and transition to permanent residency or leave the country, rather than becoming ‘permanently temporary.’

These changes are part of a broader effort to reduce net migration, with the government aiming to halve migration by the next financial year.

Measures already introduced include shorter post-study work periods and reducing the age limit for a Temporary Graduate Visa to 35 years, with an exemption for research students.

Minister for Home Affairs and Cyber Security Clare O’Neil stated, “Our Migration Strategy outlines a clear plan to close the loopholes in international education, and this is the next step in delivering that plan. We need a migration system which delivers the skills we need, but doesn’t trade in rorts, loopholes, and exploitation.”

The new rules have faced criticism from educational associations. Ian Aird, CEO of English Australia, expressed concern that these changes would negatively impact genuine students wishing to extend their educational experience in Australia.

“Many tourists come to Australia, enjoy the fantastic services provided by high-quality English Australia member colleges, and wish to stay longer to achieve a life-changing level of English before returning home. This success should be applauded, not banned,” Aird said.

He added that it is common for prospective students to visit Australia on a tourist visa to explore institutions and locations before making significant educational investments.

“These prospective students and their families are considering investing considerable funds and years of their lives in Australia. It seems reasonable they want to ensure they are making a well-informed decision. English Australia believes this represents the definition of a genuine student and should be applauded, not banned,” Aird concluded.

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