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New Regulations to Prevent ‘Visa Hopping’: What International Students Need to Know

Starting 1 July 2024, Australia will introduce new visa rules affecting temporary graduates and visitor visa holders who wish to switch to student visas while in the country. This change is part of the Albanese Government’s plan to address “visa hopping,” where individuals extend their stay in Australia by moving between temporary visas. 

Here’s what international students need to know about these changes.

Why the changes?

The Australian government is cracking down on what’s known as “visa hopping.” This is when individuals stay in Australia by continually applying for new student visas, effectively extending their time in the country indefinitely. The government believes that limiting this practice will help manage population growth more effectively than reducing the number of permanent migrants.

Peter McDonald, a well-known Australian demographer, supports this approach. He argues that stopping people from hopping between visas will better control population growth and ensure that Australia’s migration system is more strategic and beneficial.

According to the Migration Strategy, there’s been a significant rise in the number of international students staying in Australia on multiple student visas. In 2022-23, over 150,000 students were on their second or subsequent student visa, an increase of more than 30% from the previous year. This trend has raised concerns that the system is being used to bypass the intended limits on temporary stays.

What are the new rules?

  1. Visitor Visa Holders: As of 1 July 2024, individuals on visitor visas will no longer be able to apply for student visas while in Australia. This change targets the increasing number of visitor visa holders attempting to transition to student visas, which saw over 36,000 applications between July 2023 and May 2024.
  2. Temporary Graduate Visa Holders: Similarly, temporary graduate visa holders will not be able to apply for student visas onshore. The Grattan Institute’s report found that 32% of temporary graduate visa holders return to study when their visa expires, often in cheaper vocational courses, to extend their stay in Australia. The government aims to encourage graduates to either find skilled jobs and transition to permanent residency or explore options outside of Australia.

These changes are part of a broader set of regulations introduced earlier this year, which include shorter post-study work rights, reduced age limits from 50 to 35 years in certain temporary visa streams, and increased English language requirements.

What this means for international students

If you’re planning to study in Australia, these changes mean you’ll need to be more strategic with your planning. For those on a visitor visa or a temporary graduate visa, you’ll now need to apply for a student visa from outside Australia. This could involve additional costs and time, so being well-prepared is essential. Here are some tips to help you navigate the new regulations:

  • Plan ahead: Start your student visa application process early from your home country. Check the Australian Department of Home Affairs website for detailed requirements and timelines to ensure you have everything in order well before your intended start date.
  • Seek advice: Talk to education agents or migration experts who can provide personalised advice and guide you through the application process. Their expertise can help you understand your options and choose the best path for your situation.
  • Explore alternative pathways: If you’re a temporary graduate wanting to stay in Australia, look into job opportunities that could lead to employer-sponsored visas or permanent residency. This might be a more secure and long-term option for remaining in the country.
  • Understand the Genuine Student requirement: Make sure your study plans clearly demonstrate credible course progression. This is essential for meeting the Genuine Student requirement and getting your visa approved.
  • Stay informed: Keep up with any changes to visa regulations by regularly checking official government announcements and reliable news sources. Staying updated will help you avoid any surprises and adjust your plans as needed.

By planning carefully and staying informed, you can navigate these new visa regulations and continue to pursue your educational goals in Australia.