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12th Jun 2024

Australia moves to curtail onshore “visa hopping”

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • The Australian government has moved to close two temporary visa pathways
  • As of 1 July 2024, neither Visitor Visa holders nor Temporary Graduate Visa holders will no longer able to apply for Student Visas from within Australia

Australia's Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil announced today the next phase of implementation in the package of migration reforms first introduced in December 2023.

As of 1 July 2024, Visitor Visa holders now no longer be able to apply for Student Visas onshore – that is, from within Australia. "The visitor to student pathway has become increasingly prevalent, notes a Home Affairs media release, "with over 36,000 applications since 1 July 2023 to the end of May 2024."

By preventing such applications, the government is moving to close a pathway that it sees as a subversion of Australia's broader package of visa integrity measures.

In addition, and also coming into effect on 1 July, Temporary Graduate Visa holders will no longer be able to apply for Student Visas onshore. The move is meant to address an issue documented in an October 2023 report from the Grattan Institute. It found that a significant percentage of Temporary Graduate Visa holders return to further study, and often simply to extend their stay in Australia.

"Many international graduates are also stuck in visa limbo: less than one third of Temporary Graduate visa-holders now transition to permanent residency when their visa expires, down from two thirds in 2014," says Grattan. "One-in-three graduates return to further study, mostly in cheaper vocational courses, to prolong their stay in Australia."

By again closing that pathway, the government is moving to redirect students such that. "graduates should be finding skilled jobs and becoming permanent residents, or departing the country when they are more likely to become ‘permanently temporary’."

The government is explicit in its intent that the changes announced today, "will continue to reduce net overseas migration."

“Our goal is to build a smaller, better planned, more strategic migration system that works for Australia," said Minister O’Neil. “Our Migration Strategy outlines a clear plan to close the loopholes in international education and this is the next step in delivering that plan."

The ELICOS response

In a statement following the Minister's announcement, English Australia CEO Ian Aird said, "This represents yet another dramatic change being made without a basis in data or research and that yet again there has been no economic impact study on likely results of the changes. No data or research has been provided to show student visa holders who previously held a visitor visa have any significant tendency to fail to comply with their visa obligations to a greater degree than other cohorts or offshore shore applicants.

English Australia believes this latest change unfairly punishes the many genuine students who initially come to Australia as tourists and then decide they wish to study here. It punishes high quality providers who invest in the services and programmes that attract these applicants.

[We note] that the Minister’s statement makes clear that the aim of these changes is to achieve a halving of net overseas migration by next financial year. English Australia notes that economists have argued that halving net migration is highly likely to drive Australia into a recession. English Australia also notes that the effort to halve the net migration is a part of the government’s effort to hold migrants responsible for the housing crisis that is gripping Australia, and we call for an urgent injection of facts into this discussion.

English Australia urgently calls on government to change course, to support and applaud the international education sector, and avoid driving Australia into a recession we do not need to have in the midst of a housing and cost-of-living crisis."

For additional background, please see:

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