New rules to stop ‘visa hopping’ abuse

International students and graduates have been the focus of a government-led strategy to bring migration back to sustainable levels. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Dan Peled

People travelling to Australia on a visitor visa will be banned from applying for a student visa under new restrictions designed to fix loopholes in the country’s migration system.

As of July 1, the federal government will move to restrict ‘visa hopping’ by banning foreigners on visitor visas from applying for a student visa onshore.

Those staying on temporary graduate visas will also be restricted from applying for student visas, after a Grattan report suggested that up to 32 per cent were returning to study in “mostly cheaper vocational courses” in order to extend their stay.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said the new measures would help to build a better-planned, more strategic migration system.

“Our Migration Strategy outlines a clear plan to close the loopholes in international education and this is the next step in delivering that plan,” Ms O’Neil said.

“We need a migration system which delivers the skills we need, but doesn’t trade in rorts, loopholes and exploitation.”

Clare O’Neil has announced the next phase of the government’s migration reforms. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

The number of international students in Australia on a second or subsequent student visa grew by over 30 per cent last year, according to figures included in the government’s Migration Strategy.

Following the introduction of stricter English requirements, the university sector has recorded a decline in the number of approved international student visas, falling to 11,900 in April compared to the roughly 15,000 issued last year, Home Affairs data shows.

The government’s snap student visa changes are part of broader efforts to drastically reduce net migration in Australia, after temporary migration hit historic highs of close to 500,000 during 2023.

A record spike in migration numbers were largely driven by the reopening of borders following Covid-19. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Swift

Labor’s proposal to introduce caps to limit the number of international students has sparked fears among university leaders that a sharp reduction in foreign revenue could lead to cost-cutting and job losses.

Australian universities collected about $8.6bn from international students in 2022, , according to data from the education department.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said set cap for individual universities to encourage higher education providers to increase student accommodation.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the education minister was consulting with the university sector. Picture: NewsWire / Roy VanDerVegt

“The migration system, though, was in 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 make sure it’s delivered in a way that is good for bringing down the numbers which we had to do.

“It’s good for stopping abuse, but also good to make sure that universities can continue to provide support and to provide places for international students which is an important part of the university sector here in Australia.”