Australia Cracks Down on Student Visa Loopholes

Australia Cracks Down on Student Visa Loopholes

Starting July 1, 2024, Australia will tighten its rules on student visa applications to prevent what officials call “visa hopping.” This move aims to close loopholes that have allowed visa holders to extend their stay in the country indefinitely.

Key Changes:

  • Visitor Visa Holders: As of July 1st, individuals on a Visitor Visa will no longer be able to apply for a Student Visa while still in Australia. This is part of an effort to curb the high number of people (over 36,000) transitioning from visitor to student visas between July 2023 and May 2024. The government believes this change will uphold the integrity of the student visa system.
  • Temporary Graduate Visa Holders: Those on Temporary Graduate Visas will also be prohibited from applying for student visas onshore. The aim is to encourage graduates to either find skilled jobs or leave the country, rather than continue studying.

The government cites a report from the Grattan Institute, which found that 32% of Graduate Visa holders returned to study after their visas expired. By preventing these switches, the government hopes to push graduates toward permanent residency or departure.

These measures, combined with other recent changes like shorter post-study work periods and a lower age limit for Temporary Graduate Visas, are part of a broader strategy to reduce net migration by half by the next financial year.

Clare O’Neil, Minister for Home Affairs and Cyber Security, emphasised the need for a migration system that addresses skill shortages without exploiting loopholes.

“Our Migration Strategy outlines a clear plan to close the loopholes in international education, and this is the next step in delivering that plan.”

Clare O’Neil, Minister for Home Affairs and Cyber Security

Industry Response

Not everyone is happy with these changes. English Australia, the leading body for the English Language Teaching (ELT) sector, criticised the new rules, arguing they lack statistical evidence of abuse and could harm genuine students.

Ian Aird, CEO of English Australia, pointed out that many tourists extend their stay to improve their English skills, contributing positively to Australia's cultural and educational landscape. He argued that prospective students often visit on tourist visas to explore the country and institutions before making a significant investment in their education. “These tourists want to achieve a life-changing level of English before returning home. English Australia sees this as a success that should be applauded, not banned,” Aird said.

Aird also emphasised that these prospective students and their families are making substantial investments and deserve to be sure of their decision.

“English Australia believes this represents the definition of a genuine student and should be applauded, not banned,”

Ian Aird, CEO of English Australia

The debate continues as Australia balances its migration strategy with the needs and aspirations of international students.

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