The Australian government has said it would tighten visa rules for international students and low-skilled workers that could potentially cut migrant numbers by 50% over the next two years. This is a part of the government's initiative to overhaul a migration system that it deems “broken”.
The newly disclosed migration plan, revealed on Dec 11, will involve a more thorough assessment of applications and stricter enforcement of elevated English language proficiency requirements for students.
There are about 1.2 lakh Indian students in Australia, making it the second largest group of foreign students in Australia.
Meanwhile the new immigration plan has about 25 policy commitments which includes heightened scrutiny on second visa applications by applicants who want to extend their stays.
From 2024, those applying for a student visa will need a score of 6.0 (up from 5.5) from IELTS or an equivalent test of English language proficiency. The test score required for a temporary graduate visa will increase from 6.0 to 6.5.
The changes to English language requirements have brought mixed reactions from Indian students.
Harsh Dhukal, currently pursuing a Masters of Marketing Management degree at the Australian National University supported the move.
"To be honest, it's quite necessary. When you come to a country where English is their first language, you have to be proficient in it", he said.
However, Kiara Sharma, a postgraduate chemistry student at The University of Queensland, questioned the increase in the language requirement.
"There is a skilled workforce out there which can contribute in their own ways to Australia's economy. How does this one English test, or just a 0.5-band increase make them proficient enough or even sufficient enough to be successful in their careers in Australia?" she asked.
However despite the changes in the visa rules, there seems to be some relief for Indian students.
Australian authorities assured the new visa rules would not impact a majority of Indian students.
Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Philip Green, said that commitments agreed between India and Australia under the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (AI-ECTA) will be upheld under the new Migration Strategy.
He added that applications from high quality students from other countries would continue to be welcomed and he sees no reason why Indian student numbers shouldn't continue to grow.
Indian graduates will continue to be eligible to stay on a Temporary Graduate Visa for two years for a bachelor degree, three years for the completion of a Masters degree, and four years for the completion of a PhD.
Ravi Lochan Singh, Managing Director of Global Reach education agency, highlighted two changes which will impact some current students. The first is lowering of the maximum age limit for seeking PSW which is being lowered to 35 years (from 50 years). The second change is the withdrawal of the “extension of two years” for students enrolled in 400 chosen disciplines that was announced in mid 2023. He said the impact on the onshore students studying those disciplines was not clear.