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Survey Shows 41% of International Students Are Unaware of Australia’s Recent Migration Policy Changes

A recent survey conducted by Ascent One has revealed a significant gap in awareness among international students regarding Australia’s migration policy changes. The study surveyed 1,058 students from China, India, the Philippines, and Colombia and found that 41 per cent of international students are not aware of these updates.

If you are currently studying or considering pursuing your education in Australia, it’s essential to understand how recent migration policy changes could affect your academic and career trajectory in the country.

Here’s a breakdown of the key migration policy updates that you need to be aware of.

Understanding the recent migration policy changes

Recent amendments to Australia’s migration policies aim to address the sustainability of immigration levels. They involve stricter regulations around student visas and post-study work rights, forming part of a broader strategy to manage the influx of new migrants and ensure that job opportunities are more closely aligned with the skills and fields of study of incoming students. 

Adjustments to temporary graduate visas

The Ascent One survey results revealed that only 23 per cent of current international students secure employment in fields related to their studies, with challenges such as restricted work rights and lack of permanent residency often hindering their job prospects. This is particularly true for Engineering and IT graduates, even though they are studying in areas with skills shortages in Australia. 

Previously, to bridge the gap between study and skilled employment, certain international graduates were eligible for an additional two years on their Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485). However, the recent Migration Strategy highlighted that extended visa durations do not necessarily lead to improved career outcomes. Consequently, from mid-2024, the eligibility for this two-year extension will be discontinued.

International graduates with an Australian qualification, who meet the Australian study requirement, remain eligible for the existing Temporary Graduate (Post-Study Work stream) visa.

Greater scrutiny of student visa applications

The Australian government has intensified the scrutiny of student visa applications through several measures:

  • Introduction of the Genuine Student Test: This new test will replace the existing Genuine Temporary Entrant requirement, aiming to vet applicants to ensure they are genuine students whose primary intention is to study, not just to work.
  • Stricter English language requirements: The required IELTS score for obtaining a student visa has been raised from 5.5 to 6.0, and for a temporary graduate visa from 6.0 to 6.5. This enhancement aims to improve the quality of students’ educational experiences and mitigate potential workplace exploitation.
  • Prioritisation of student visa processing: Australia has heightened scrutiny for student visa applications to universities classified as “high-risk” by the Department of Home Affairs, based on factors such as visa cancellations and fraud rates. Students applying to these institutions face more stringent requirements, resulting in longer processing times and a higher likelihood of rejection.

Impact on international students

These recent amendments to Australia’s migration policies have sparked concerns among the international student community, particularly affecting their prospects for permanent residency and full-time employment after graduation. The increased rigour in visa processing has also led to a rise in rejections.

According to Ascent One, over a quarter (27 per cent) of the prospective students surveyed are reconsidering their decision to study in Australia. Additionally, about 14 per cent of current students are uncertain about continuing their education in Australia due to these policy changes.

Despite these challenges, a substantial majority (85 per cent) of current and past students would still recommend Australia as a study destination to their friends and family back home.

Where can I learn more?

For students seeking more information and clarity on how these changes may affect them, several resources are available:

  • Educational institutions: Universities and colleges typically offer dedicated support services for international students, including counselling and guidance on visa and migration issues. Some universities offer legal services where law students and faculty provide free legal advice under professional supervision. These services can help you understand how policy changes affect your specific situation.
  • Migration agents and education consultants: Licensed professionals in this field can provide detailed, personalised advice. They are equipped to help you navigate the complexities of visa applications and adjustments, ensuring you comply with the new rules. Refer to the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority and the Department of Education for more information.
  • Official Australian government websites: Websites like the Department of Home Affairs and Study Australia provide the most reliable and current information on visa policies and regulations. These platforms are updated regularly to reflect any changes in migration law and policy.
  • Legal aid and community legal centres: In many cities across Australia, there are community legal centres that offer free or low-cost legal advice, including matters related to immigration and visas. These centres can provide guidance and help if you’re facing legal uncertainties about your status. See the Community Legal Centres Australia website to find a centre near you.