Australia Boosts Student Visa Fees by 125% to Slow Migration

(Bloomberg) -- Australia dealt a severe blow to international students Monday by raising visa application fees by 125% to boost the “integrity” of its fourth-largest export and help slow overall migration.

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The increase to A$1,600 ($1,067) per application, from A$710 starting July 1, will help “create a migration system which is fairer, smaller and better able to deliver for Australia,” Home Affairs Minister Clare O’ Neil said in a statement. Other migration-related measures also came into effect on Monday.

Australia has one of the biggest international education sectors in the world, worth about A$48 billion a year, or 7% of total exports. International graduates account for one-third of the nation’s permanent skilled migrant intake, according to the Grattan Institute.

The extra revenue will be used to help implement measures including government’s funding of Australian students’ education as well as financial support for local apprentices and employers, the government said.

Vicki Thomson, chief executive of the Group of Eight which represents Australia’s top universities, said the government is making a “critical mistake by using international students as a scapegoat to manage a short-term spike in migration and ease housing pressure.”

“It is death by a thousand cuts to our most successful services export sector,” Thomson said in a statement.

An influx in arrivals since borders reopened after the pandemic is running headlong into a chronic shortage of homes to accommodate them, forcing the government to limit the inflow. Migration is expected to be a key plank on which Australia’s 2025 election will be fought, with opposition leader Peter Dutton also promising measures to slash migrant numbers.

International student numbers have surged since the pandemic to more than 650,000, well above pre-Covid levels and nearly double where they were almost a decade ago. Australia has more three times the number of international students, per head of population, than either Canada or the UK, according to Grattan.

These previously announced migration policies also took effect:

  • Raising the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold to A$73,150 from from A$70,000 based on annual indexation

  • Shortening the duration of Temporary Graduate Visas and reducing the age eligibility

  • Ending “visa hopping” by closing the loopholes that allow students and other temporary visa holders to continuously extend their stay in Australia, in some cases indefinitely

  • Extending the length of time temporary skilled migrants can remain in Australia between employer sponsors to 180 days from 60 days

  • Implementing the Strengthening Employer Compliance Bill 2023 against employers engaging in the exploitation of migrants

  • Introducing the Workplace Justice Visa Pilot to enable temporary visa holders to remain in Australia for a short period when pursuing workplace justice

--With assistance from Ben Westcott.

(Adds comment from Group of Eight CEO in fifth-sixth paragraphs.)

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