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Australia Tightens Immigration Rules Amid Housing Market Strain

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The Australian government is implementing measures to manage record immigration levels that have exacerbated the nation’s tight housing market. A significant part of these measures is a substantial increase in visa fees for international students, aimed at regulating the influx of foreign nationals into the country.

Student Visa Fee Hike and Application Restrictions

Starting today, the fee for an international student visa in Australia has increased to A$1,600 (HK$8,330) from the previous A$710. Additionally, visitor visa holders and students with temporary graduate visas are now prohibited from applying for a student visa while onshore. This policy change aims to restore integrity to Australia’s international education system and create a fairer and more manageable migration framework.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil emphasised the importance of these changes, stating, “The changes coming into force today will help restore integrity to our international education system, and create a migration system which is fairer, smaller, and better able to deliver for Australia.”

Impact on Immigration and International Education Sector

Official data released in March revealed that net immigration rose by 60 percent, reaching a record 548,800 people in the year ending September 30, 2023. The increased visa fees make Australia a more expensive destination for international students compared to the US and Canada, where student visa fees are significantly lower.

Furthermore, the government is closing loopholes in visa regulations that previously allowed foreign students to extend their stay indefinitely by continuously applying for subsequent student visas. This move follows a 30 percent surge in the number of students on a second or subsequent student visa, totaling over 150,000 in the 2022-23 period.

In addition to raising visa fees, the government has tightened English language requirements and increased the financial savings required for international students to secure a visa. These measures are part of a broader strategy to control the record-high migration levels following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in 2022.

However, these policies have faced criticism from the education sector. Universities Australia CEO Luke Sheehy warned that continued pressure on international students could jeopardise the sector’s strength. “This is not good for our economy or our universities, both of which rely heavily on international student fees,” Sheehy said.

International education is a significant export industry for Australia, contributing A$36.4 billion to the economy in the 2022-2023 financial year. The ongoing policy adjustments are likely to have substantial implications for this critical sector and the broader Australian economy.

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