Australia introduces “No Further Stay” Clause in Student Visa

Australia introduces “No Further Stay” Clause in Student Visa

The Australian government’s recently introduced several stricter student visa regulations, which is a notable shift in immigration policy with potential implications for the future of immigrant students in Australia, including Bhutanese. While the changes that would immediately affect students are in many areas, one of the most important changes is the implementation of the ‘No Further Stay’ (8503) clause.

Coming into effect from March 23, 2024, English language requirements for student and graduate visas have been increased, while the government will get the power to suspend education providers from recruiting international students if they repeatedly break rules.

Accordingly, a new “genuine student test” will be introduced to further crack down on international students who look to come to Australia primarily to work, while the imposition of “No Further Stay” conditions will be used on more visitor visas. The Genuine Student Test replaces the Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirement and will be used to filter out applicants who might not be coming to Australia with genuine academic goals. Applications deemed high-risk will undergo more rigorous scrutiny.

All the above come in wake of recent changes, such as increase in the financial requirements for student visa applicants from at least $24,505 – a 17 per cent hike from previous a level, that was implemented in October 2023.

While Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said in a statement that the actions “this weekend will continue to drive migration levels down while delivering on our commitments in the migration strategy to fix the broken system we inherited,” international students, especially those planning to stay longer in Australia will face several challenges due to stricter implementation of the NFS clause.

The ‘No Further Stay’ (8503) condition, often abbreviated as NFS, prohibits visa holders from applying for any other visa within Australia, such as work visas or permanent residency, without first leaving the country after their student visa expires. It would prevent certain visa holders from extending their stay or applying for a different visa while in Australia, and serve as a deterrent to individuals seeking to remain in the country beyond the intended duration of their study. This measure aims to address concerns about the misuse of student visas as a pathway to long-term residency, thereby curbing the influx of migrants who may not have genuine intentions for pursuing education in Australia.

For foreign students, the NFS condition means that they cannot apply for another visa (except for a few limited exceptions) while they are in Australia. This restriction applies regardless of whether the student’s current visa is still valid or has expired.

While this was initially applied to short-term visas like tourist visas to prevent extensions of stay through different visa categories, its application to student visas adds a new layer of complexity for international students and workers. This is why people are looking at the NFS as becoming stricter.

The introduction of a NFS clause in Australia’s student visa regulations can have profound implications for foreign students, especially those considering extending their stay in the country beyond the duration of their initial visa. One significant implication is the restriction it imposes on the ability of foreign students to transition smoothly to other visa categories or extend their stay in Australia for further studies, work, or other purposes.

Typically, if a student wishes to remain in Australia after the expiration of their student visa, they would need to return to their home country and apply for a different visa from there. This process can be cumbersome, time-consuming, and costly, potentially deterring students from pursuing further opportunities in Australia.

Moreover, the ‘No Further Stay’ clause limits the flexibility and options available to foreign students who may have legitimate reasons for wanting to extend their stay in Australia. For instance, individuals seeking to pursue advanced degrees, gain additional work experience, or establish themselves professionally in the country may find their plans hindered by this restriction, forcing them to reconsider their future aspirations or explore alternative pathways to residency.

Meanwhile, the presence of such restrictions underscores the importance of careful planning and understanding visa conditions before entering Australia. Foreign students must be aware of the implications of the ‘No Further Stay’ clause and any other limitations associated with their visa status to avoid unintended consequences or complications in the future. This includes seeking guidance from immigration experts, researching visa requirements thoroughly, and developing contingency plans to navigate potential obstacles or changes in immigration policies.

However, the Australian Department of Home Affairs can consider waiver of the NFS condition. “You can ask us to waive the No Further Stay condition if there is a major change in your situation. This change must be out of your control – you could not have prevented or stopped it. Examples of major changes that are reasons for waiver: unable to travel for medical reason; death or serious illness of close family; natural disaster in home country; war or civil unrest in home country; your school cannot provide your approved course,” the Australian Federal government says.

Examples of major changes that are not reasons for waiver include marriage or starting a de facto relationship with an Australian citizen or permanent resident; failing your course and, pregnancy. Not knowing the condition was attached to your visa is also not a reason for a waiver.

Meanwhile, as announced in the Migration Strategy released on 11 December 2023, the Australian Government has made changes to English language requirements for Student and Temporary Graduate visas. The new English language requirements apply to all Student and Temporary Graduate visa applications lodged on and after the 23 March 2024.

Concerning English Language requirements for student visa, the minimum test score for a Student visa has increased from International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score 5.5 to 6.0 (or equivalent). The minimum test score for students undertaking an English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) course before their main course of study has increased from IELTS score 4.5 to 5.0 (or equivalent). The minimum test score required for students undertaking university foundation or pathway programs that deliver reputable English language training is IELTS 5.5 (or equivalent).

Similarly, the minimum test score required for a Temporary Graduate visa has increased from IELTS score 6.0 to 6.5 (or equivalent), with a minimum score of 5.5 for each component of the test (reading, writing, speaking, and listening).

Passport holders from Hong Kong and British National Overseas (BNO) are not required to meet this increased minimum English language requirement. The settings for this cohort remains at IELTS 6.0 (or equivalent), with a minimum score of 5.0 for each component of the test (reading, writing, speaking and listening).

Further, applicants must provide evidence that they have completed an English Language test, meeting these requirements, no more than one year immediately before the date of the visa application.

According to the Australian Government, the new English language requirements will support students to have a positive student experience in Australia and, if one chooses to apply for a graduate visa, support one to succeed in the Australian workplace.  Strong English skills will help one to engage with the Australian community and understand your workplace rights and responsibilities.

By Ugyen Tenzin, Thimphu