Studying in Australia: 8 must-know new rules for international students – The Financial

Australia is a top choice for international students, offering access to 9 of the world’s top 100 universities, 95% of globally ranked universities, and 6 of the top 50 student cities. The number of temporary student visas issued in Australia reached an all-time high of 654,870 in July 2023 (according to Australia Visa News). This number is an increase of 300,000 over the previous year.

The Australian government made several changes to its immigration rules impacting foreigners and international students. Here are some of them impacting the work permit of existing students studying in Australia and new students enrolling in universities of Australia.

Working Hours Cap in Australia

International students have the same rights under Australian workplace law as all other employees. From 1 July 2023, the Australian Government re-introduced limits on the number of work hours allowed for student visa holders (subclass 500) studying and working in Australia. Student visa work restrictions were relaxed throughout the pandemic and temporarily removed in January 2022. This temporary arrangement ended on 30 June 2023.

From 1 July 2023, the number of work hours allowed during study terms and semesters was capped at the increased amount of 48 hours per fortnight, during study terms and semesters. This ensured that student visa holders could focus on their learning in Australia, but also take up paid employment and gain valuable work experience while they study.

48 hours per fortnight cap on the number of work hours continues in 2024 for international students.

The Australian Government also announced that student visa holders already working in the aged-care sector on 9 May 2023 can continue to work unrestricted hours in the aged-care sector until 31 December 2023.

Skilled-Recognised Graduate visa

The Skilled-Recognised Graduate visa, allowing recent engineering graduates to stay, work, or study in Australia for up to 18 months, has been capped since December 22, 2023.

Higher Savings Proof for International Students

The Australian Government has announced an increase to the amount of savings international students will need to apply for a student visa. From 1 October 2023, student visa applicants will need to show they have a minimum of AU$24,505 in savings to cover annual living costs.

To receive an Australian student visa, there is a list of requirements that you need to meet. One of these requirements is proof that you have enough money to cover your travel, course fees and living costs during your stay. This is to reduce your risk of financial difficulty while you are studying.

If you have lodged a new application on or after 1 October 2023, you will be required to show proof of these new amounts. The amount you need to show to meet the financial capacity requirement is the minimum amount needed for the visa. Actual living costs vary throughout Australia and may be higher than what you need for the visa.

Concurrent Enrollments

The Australian Government announced that international students are no longer able to enroll in two courses at the same time within the first six months of study in their principal course.

As a result, concurrent enrolments have been closed to international students in the first six months of study – taking effect from September 8, 2023.

This means that education and training providers will not be able to concurrently enroll students who have not completed 6 months of their principal course. This change does not impact students already holding concurrent enrolments.

Visa Processing Times

Additional resourcing by the Australian Government since 2022 has led to big reductions in average visa processing times. For example, the average processing time for a student visa application in 2023 has been reduced to as little as 16 days. However, if you lodge an incomplete application, you will receive a notification in your ImmiAccount with a Request for Information (RFI) from the Department of Home Affairs to take further action.

Agreement between India and Australia

In March 2023, Australia’s Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, announced a new education agreement between India and Australia. This agreement, called the Mechanism for the Mutual Recognition of Qualifications, is India’s most comprehensive education agreement of its kind with another country.

The Mechanism means that Indian students obtaining a degree from an Australian university will have that degree recognized in India to continue higher education.

New measures to protect international students

Back in November 2023, the Australian Government announced new measures designed to protect international students and make them have the best possible experience while studying in Australia. A new VET Integrity Unit was set up by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) to make sure that students are delivered the highest quality education and training. Student attendance will be monitored more closely by the international education sector’s regulators.

Australian Government’s Migration Strategy

Finally, the biggest reform in Australia’s education kicked off in December last year. The Australian Government’s Migration Strategy was released on 11 December 2023. The Strategy is designed to further strengthen the integrity and quality of Australia’s international education programs.

One of the many actions, the Australian government has proposed to take in the Migration Strategy is to target temporary skilled migration to address skills needs and promote worker mobility. A new Skills in Demand visa with three targeted pathways, and visa settings that encourage migrant worker mobility in the labour market could be launched.

Further, a new Specialist Skills Pathway to make it easier for Australia to attract highly skilled workers, for example in the technology or green energy industries is proposed.

A Core Skills Pathway to meet targeted workforce needs, with a simpler, regularly updated occupation list for the skills Australia needs is also on the anvil.

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