WHAT’S WRONG?

After a careful review of the Migration System in March 2023, stakeholders who were consulted on this issue shared concerns that international student recruitment is partly being driven by some unscrupulous education providers helping non-genuine students to gain access to Australia’s labour market using a student visa.

The Nixon Review which made recommendations relating to the exploitation of Australia’s student visa program acknowledged that the exploitation appears more prevalent among VET courses. Some of the VET providers have exploited the system and broken the migration law by running ghost schools where non-genuine students maintain enrolment without attending classes.

WHY ACTION IS NEEDED

This threatens the integrity and reputation of Australia’s international education system and erodes public confidence in the education and the migration system. The purpose of the Migration Strategy goes beyond strengthening international education integrity. International graduate students with a tertiary education provide skills that Australia needs and make a strong contribution to the economy.

But there seems a big gap between the degree these graduates hold and the work they are doing. More than 50%, especially in the engineering and IT sector, are working in area below their skill level even though they have a degree in area tied to skills shortages. The government realizes that more needs to be done to support these international students and graduates in the labour market. Working in sectors below their skill levels leads to them being exploited by some employers and also provides no pathways for permanent residence. This is also a reason why international students make up the largest share of permanently temporary migrants in Australia.

To extend their stay in the country in lieu of meeting permanent resident or other skilled visa requirements, former students end up hopping on to another student visa while onshore or shifting back to another student visa from a graduate visa. To improve integrity in international education the government is bringing in measures and future reforms to support genuine international students to study in Australia. The Government will partner with education providers, unions, industry and governments to understand barriers that high-skilled in-demand graduate students face and implement mechanism that support these students who in turn provide future economic needs.

NEW COMMITMENTS:

Increase English language requirements to improve the quality of students’ educational experience in Australia and reduce potential workplace exploitation.

In early 2024, the Government will increase English language requirements for the Student and Temporary Graduate visas:

  • the test score required for a Temporary Graduate visa will increase from an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score (or equivalent) of 6.0 to 6.5.
  • the test score required for a Student visa will increase from IELTS (or equivalent) 5.5 to 6.0
    • the test score required for students undertaking an English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) before their main course of study will increase from IELTS (or equivalent) 4.5 to 5.0.
  • the test score required for students undertaking university foundation or pathway programs that deliver reputable English language training will be IELTS (or equivalent) 5.5.

Apply greater and more targeted scrutiny to student visa applications from high-risk providers.

The Government will introduce a new Genuine Student test for all international students. The Genuine Student test will clearly incentivise applications from genuine students and discourage non-genuine students, whose primary intention is to work rather than study.

Bolster the student visa integrity unit in the Department of Home Affairs to reduce misuse of Australia’s student visa system.

This will reduce the misuse of student visas by those using it to seek work in Australia instead of study and those seeking to exploit international students.

Strengthen requirements for international education providers.

To maintain the highest quality system, it’s important to ensure the appropriate integrity measures are in place to remove unscrupulous providers. The Government will act to assist regulators as they address unscrupulous provider behaviour through further legislative change.

Restrict onshore visa hopping that undermines system integrity and drives ‘permanent temporariness’.

The Government will apply additional scrutiny to international students applying for another student visa.

The prevalence of international students moving from course to course, particularly to courses that are below their current level of study, to prolong their stay in Australia has been growing. Using the new Genuine Student test, the Government will require any eligible students applying inside Australia to provide evidence in their application to demonstrate that any subsequent course is furthering their career or academic aspirations.

The Government will restrict Temporary Graduate visa holders from transferring back to student visas while onshore.

Strengthen and simplify Temporary Graduate visas.

The Government is simplifying graduate visas to improve the applicant experience, and taking action to speed up the transition between student and graduate visas. The Government is also strengthening the pathway from graduate visas to temporary skilled visas to give employers more certainty about a graduate’s ongoing work rights and pathways to permanent residence.