Australian Home Affairs Minister announces reforms in Student and Work Visas

The recent announcement of the migration policy changes leaves many Bhutanese in Australia concerned

The Australian government earlier this week announced that it will halve the migration intake within two years in an attempt to fix the country’s “broken” immigration system, with aims to slash the annual intake to 250,000 – roughly in line with pre-pandemic levels – by June 2025.

Under this initiative, visa rules for international students and low-skilled workers will also be tightened. This includes tougher minimum English-language requirements for international students and more scrutiny of those applying for a second visa – students must prove that any further study would advance their academic aspirations or their careers.

Official records of the Australian government say that there are some 650,000 foreign students in Australia, with many of them on their second visa.

The announcement has alarmed several Bhutanese, who are currently studying and working in Australia, several of them on a second visa. It has also become a cause of concern for many Bhutanese who are planning to go to Australia for their studies and work.

However, the Australian government has not announced when the new migration policies would come into effect and if it would be applied to international students who are already in Australia.

Speaking about it, EducationPro Group Pty Ltd (Mister Visa) stated, “With any changes in immigration policies, it’s essential to approach the situation with a calm and rational mindset,” adding that typically, new measures are not retroactively applied to current applicants. “Instead, they are introduced with a clear cut-off date, allowing existing applications to proceed under the previous regulations.”

Similarly, a consultancy proprietor based in Australia said that with the announcement made by the federal government in Australia, many Bhutanese students and other international students were concerned. The proprietor said that they have been advising them not to panic, and to apply for student visas, temporary graduate visa (TGV), and dependent visa, amongst others as the federal government didn’t say anything about these visas.

The proprietor of a Consultancy Firm in Thimphu said upcoming applicants should study the case very thoroughly and then apply for visa.

He said that it is very important for those who wish to apply for visa to get themselves enrolled in courses such as nursing, primary and secondary education, and information technology (IT), amongst others.

On the current changes in the migration system by the Australian federal government, the proprietor said that the decision has not yet been made for those who are already in Australia.

“I feel that the Australian government will decide wisely and all we can do is to wait for the legislative decision that will be made by the Australian federal government,” the proprietor said.

In addition, the proprietor said that international students in Australia can continue with skills based certification, which is a course that takes five to six months. This would prepare students for skills assessment and by the time their student visa expires, their skill assessments will help them further.

The proprietor said that as of now all they can genuinely advise to their clients is to not to panic and to be calm.

Meanwhile, EducationPro Group said that briefing by an Independent Tertiary Education Council in Australia concluded that the new changes will come into effect only after the signing of “the Determination” which is likely to happen during the Autumn Parliamentary Sitting that is between February-April 2024.

Meanwhile, the current approach in the new migration system by the federal government of Australia includes shorter post-study work rights. The new approach’s initial TGV will be shorter where the extension of post-study work rights will no longer be available.  Only the applicants who study in a regional area will be eligible for an extension.

Similarly, the initial TGV length under the new setting includes an initial TGV of two years for bachelor’s degree, two years masters by course work, three years for a masters by research and three years for PHD (Doctor of Philosophy) and for the second TGV, the new system includes plus one to two years for study in a regional areas.

Currently the maximum eligibility age for a TGV is 50. With the new migration system, the maximum age limit for TGV has been reduced to 35 years.

Amongst the many changes in the migration system by the federal government of Australia, international students who are applying for a graduate visa (temporary work visa) will now need a 6.5 band score in International English Language Testing System (IELTS) instead of the existing 6.0 band under the new migration system.

Similarly, the student visa applicants will need to score a 6.0 band score in IELTS instead of the existing requirement of a 5.5 band.

Migration has climbed to record levels in Australia, adding pressure to housing and infrastructure woes. Media reports from Australia say that a forecasted peak in net immigration at 510,000 in 2022-23, largely driven by international students, caused Australian government to decide on the Australia Work Visa, and Australia Student Visa.

Sherab Dorji from Thimphu