Amongst the many changes proposed in the Australian Migration Strategy 2023, the student and graduate visa scheme is expected to undergo significant changes.
Addressing Integrity in International Education
Post-COVID, international education has seen significant growth driven by non-genuine students and unscrupulous education providers circumventing the regulations. Concerns exist regarding education providers facilitating non-genuine students’ access to Australia’s labour market through the student visa scheme. This trend threatens the integrity and reputation of Australia’s education. Strengthening integrity is not just about risk management; it is about enhancing Australia’s education industry’s competitive advantage, built on academic excellence and quality. For this end, the Australian Government has taken decisive actions, such as:
- Having closed loopholes that allowed students to switch to lower-quality providers for work.
- Having increased the savings requirement for student visa eligibility to $24,505, a 17% rise from previous levels.
- Having prohibited education providers from offering agent commissions for onshore transfers between institutions.
Elevated English Language Requirements
In early 2024, the Government will introduce higher English language requirements for Student and Temporary Graduate visas:
- Temporary Graduate visa: IELTS (or equivalent) score requirement will increase from 6.0 to 6.5.
- Student visa: IELTS (or equivalent) score requirement will increase from 5.5 to 6.0.
- ELICOS Pathway: Students starting with an English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) before their main course will need to meet an IELTS (or equivalent) score of 5.0.
- University Foundation Programs: Reputable programs will require an IELTS (or equivalent) score of 5.5.
Two (2) new Ministerial Directions
- Academic and Career Consideration: The first Direction outlines key considerations for decision-makers, including academic and career relevance of intended study. Clear expectations are set for students, ensuring alignment their academic or career progression with the usefulness of the intended study to their future career prospects.
- Prioritization of Processing: The second Direction introduces processing priorities based on risk-level of education providers. Higher risk providers may experience slower processing times as integrity and individual student applicants are assessed.
Curbing Visa Hopping
The number of international students staying in Australia on subsequent student visas has grown by over 30%, mainly in the VET sector. To address this, the concept of a Genuine Student test will be implemented. Eligible students applying in Australia must demonstrate that subsequent courses align with their career or academic goals. This ensures genuine student progression.
Temporary Graduate visa holders will be restricted from transferring back to student visas while onshore.
Enhanced Pathways for Graduate Visa Holders
The graduate visa scheme will be simplified with a shorter period of transition from student to graduate visas. Additionally, the Government will strengthen pathways from graduate visas to temporary skilled visas with the aim to provide their employers with greater certainty regarding the graduates’ work rights and pathways to permanent residence. This will be achieved through the Skills in Demand Visa or other permanent skilled visas. The work experience requirement for a Temporary Skills Shortage visa (and future Skills in Demand visa) will be revised to facilitate easier transitions to skilled visas.
Proposed reforms to the points test will offer graduates in skilled jobs faster pathways to permanent residency.
New Graduate Visa Period and Age Limit
Only applicants who studied in regional areas will be eligible for extensions. The new durations of Temporary Graduate Visa holders will be given:
- 2 years when having graduated with a Bachelor Degree from an Australian education institution
- 2 years when having graduated with a Masters by coursework from an Australian education institution
- 3 years when having graduated with a Masters by research from an Australian education institution
- 3 years when having graduated with a PhD from an Australian education institution
A second Temporary Graduate Visa may be issued for a period of 1 – 2 years only to those that have studied in a regional area.
The maximum eligible age for a Temporary Graduate Visa will be reduced to 35, making it ideal for early career professionals contributing to Australia’s economy.
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