Australia to crack down on foreign visitors ‘visa hopping’

People traveling to Australia on a tourist visa will be barred from applying for a student visa under new restrictions designed to close loopholes in the country’s migration system.

From July 1, the federal government will curb ‘visa hopping’ by banning foreigners on tourist visas from applying for a student visa onshore.

Those staying on temporary postgraduate visas will also be restricted from applying for student visas after Grattan’s report showed up to 32 per cent return to study on “mostly cheaper vocational courses” to extend their stay.

Home Secretary Clare O’Neil said the new measures would help build a better planned and more strategic migration system.

“Our migration strategy sets out a clear plan to close the gap in international education and this is the next step in implementing that plan,” O’Neil said.

“We need a migration system that provides the skills we need but doesn’t trade in mistakes, loopholes and exploitation.”

The number of international students in Australia on a second or subsequent student visa increased by more than 30 per cent last year, according to figures included in the government’s migration strategy.

Following the introduction of stricter English language requirements, the university sector saw a decline in the number of international student visas granted, falling to 11,900 in April, compared with around 15,000 issued last year, Home Affairs figures show.

The government’s swift changes to student visas are part of a wider effort to drastically reduce net migration in Australia after temporary migration reached an all-time high of close to 500,000 in 2023.

Labour’s proposal to introduce restrictions to limit the number of international students has sparked fears among university leaders that a sharp drop in overseas income could lead to cost-cutting and job losses.

According to the Department of Education, Australian universities raised about $8.6 billion from international students in 2022.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the cap on individual universities had prompted higher education providers to increase student accommodation.

“The migration system was a mess that we inherited and we make no apologies for fixing it,” he told reporters in Adelaide.

“(Education Minister) Jason Clare is consulting very closely with the university sector to ensure that this is done in a way that is good for reducing the numbers, which is what we’ve had to do.

“It’s good to stop abuse, but it’s also good to ensure that universities can continue to provide support and provide places for international students, who are an important part of the university sector here in Australia.”

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