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Impact on the changes in the Graduate Visa Program and the overall direction of Australian Student Visa policy



Today’s discussion focuses on the changes in the subclass 485 visa which allows subclass 500 student visa holders to extend their stay in Australia up to 3 years, depending on their courses.

In December last year, the Department of Home Affairs announced the Migration Strategy documents, outlining the direction the Government may take to manage the migration planning level. Some of the proposed changes include:

·       Reducing the length of stay for these international graduates

·       Preventing holders of the new graduate visas from moving back onto student visas

·       Preventing the stay of International graduates without skills in demand from remaining in Australia.

·       Reducing the age eligibility from 50 to 35 years of age

·       Increased English language levels for temporary graduate visas

The Government may also consider the following to cut the international student intake:

·       A higher English language levels for student visa applicants

·       Reducing the types of courses eligible for student visas with the focus on retaining tertiary university courses

·       Preventing course swapping

·       Increased funding for visa integrity and to identify the 'genuine student test'

While the proposed changes are yet to be fully implemented, many prospective student visa holders may already feel the changes as there are increasing numbers of student visa applications refused both onshore and offshore. What does this mean to the overall direction of the international student industry and the outlook of international graduates in Australia?


End of course swapping in Australia

Many international students took the advance of being able to apply for courses onshore, changing their Certificate of Enrolment to prolong their stay in Australia to work and earn a living. This phenomenon has become a ‘norm’ during the Covid years when international students are allowed to work full-time to ease the labour shortages. The stricter processing requirements mean those international students who are unable to complete a course in Australia will need to leave Australia as they will be running out of visa options.


More red tapes in the international education industry

The lack of transparency in the visa approval process has existed for years and there are still yet to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The Migration Strategy documents recommend greater power to be given to the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) to cancel the registration of a dodgy education provider especially those who are issuing the Certificate of Enrolment to non-genuine students.

From the industry point of view, the ‘double standard’ treatment of the VET & Higher Education industry has caused the closure of many education providers. And with this new measure, I would predict that at least half of the current VET CRISOS providers to close their business. A reshuffle is on the card to this industry.


Attractiveness to Australian Education

All along the years, the availability of the Graduate Visa Program and the employment opportunities after graduation in Australia are some of the many reasons for international students to study in Australia. From the early 2000s until today, Australia has experienced strong economic growth, resulting in higher income for fresh graduates and better job prospects among the countries that offer the same product globally. These countries include the UK, Germany, the USA, Canada and New Zealand.

Stricter student visa requirements, along with rising tuition fees, may reduce Australian competitiveness in the education market globally. Competing with the United Kingdom which offers lower tuition fees with higher-ranked universities, Australia will lose its place in attracting international students. Not to mention the flexibility and the independence of the UK universities in student enrolment and offshore higher education program management, Australian universities are lagging and never going to compete in the playing field.

Perhaps, the new Migration Strategy will transform Australia from reliance on international students to reliance on trained-quality migrants who completed their degrees and worked elsewhere to migrate to Australia to fill the labour shortages.


What’s next?

Unless the Australian Government is willing to allow education providers in Australia to open the market and improve transparency, there is no turning point in the short term. Those who rely on student visa recruitment to earn a living will be doing it tough. For those who are in Australia and would like to lodge an onshore student visa, I would urge you to lodge your visa as soon as possible and keep the status quo of being onshore in Australia.


Ernest Ng

MARN1387964

 

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