Australia tightens student visa rules amid record high migration

Starting this week, Australia is set to enforce tougher visa rules targeting foreign students, coinciding with a surge in migration that continues to strain the rental market. As reported by Reuters, the new regulations, effective from Saturday, will raise English language requirements for both student and graduate visas. Additionally, the government will gain authority to suspend education providers found repeatedly violating regulations related to recruiting international students.

Australia tightens student visa rules amid record high migration

In a statement, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil emphasized that these measures are in line with the government’s migration strategy to address systemic issues inherited from previous administrations. O’Neil highlighted the aim to reduce migration levels while upholding commitments to reform the immigration system. To further deter individuals seeking to exploit student visas for employment purposes, Australia will introduce a “genuine student test.” Moreover, “no further stay” conditions will be applied more extensively to visitor visas.

These actions build upon initiatives undertaken last year to revoke COVID-era concessions, such as unlimited working hours for international students. The government had signaled intentions to tighten regulations, potentially halving migrant intake over a two-year period. The surge in migration comes after Australia increased its annual migration figures in 2022 to address labor shortages exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Stringent border controls had barred foreign students and workers for nearly two years.

However, the influx of foreign workers and students has exacerbated pressure on the rental market, which was already strained. Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed a 60% increase in net immigration to a record 548,800 individuals in the year ending Sept. 30, 2023. This figure surpassed the 518,000 recorded in the preceding year. Australia’s population experienced a rapid 2.5% growth, reaching 26.8 million people by September, the fastest pace on record.

The unprecedented migration, predominantly driven by students from India, China, and the Philippines, has contributed to labor market expansion and subdued wage inflation. However, it has further constrained the housing market, with rental vacancies at historic lows and soaring construction costs limiting new supply. O’Neil noted that government interventions since September have resulted in a decline in migration levels, with recent international student visa grants down by 35% compared to the previous year.