Australia’s new migration rules to stop “Visa Hopping” – what students need to know

The Australian government has announced a series of significant changes aimed at ending “visa hopping” within its migration system. Starting July 1, visitors and temporary graduate visa holders will no longer be able to apply for a student visa while remaining onshore. This major policy shift was revealed by Clare O’Neil, the Minister for Home Affairs, on June 12.

Ending Visa Hopping

These new regulations are designed to close existing loopholes that have allowed temporary visa holders to remain in Australia by switching between different types of visas. Clare O’Neil emphasized that the move is part of a broader strategy to ensure that the migration system is used appropriately. 

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“Our Migration Strategy outlines a clear plan to close the loopholes in international education, and this is the next step in delivering that plan,” O’Neil stated. She stressed the need for a migration system that delivers the necessary skills without trading in rorts, loopholes, and exploitation.

Impact on Visitors and Temporary Graduates

The new rules specifically target the practice of transitioning from a visitor visa to a student visa while in Australia. This change is expected to have a significant impact, given that the government reported over 36,000 applications for such transitions between July 1, 2023, and May 31, 2024. Additionally, temporary graduate visa holders will no longer be able to apply for student visas from within Australia, which has been a common pathway for extending stays.

Managing Population Growth

One of the primary goals of these changes is to better manage population growth in Australia. Clare O’Neil cited Australian demographer Peter McDonald, who argued that curtailing “visa hopping” by reducing the number of visa applications from individuals already in the country would be more effective than cutting the intake of permanent migrants. 

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The number of international students on subsequent student visas has surged by over 30%, reaching more than 150,000 in 2022/23. This rapid increase has prompted the government to take decisive action.

Changes in Higher Education Sector

The announcement comes at a time of considerable upheaval in Australia’s higher education sector. Over the next three months, enrolment caps on international students are expected to be introduced. This is part of broader efforts to control and manage the number of international students entering the country, making sure that the system remains sustainable and beneficial for all parties involved.

Other Migration Changes

In addition to these new restrictions, there have been other significant changes to the temporary graduate visa program. Since March 2024, the duration of post-study work rights has been shortened. The age limit for some visas has been reduced from 50 to 35 years old, and language requirements have been increased. These measures are intended to streamline the visa process and ensure that only those who meet Australia’s skill needs can remain in the country.

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Reducing Net Overseas Migration

The government aims to reduce net overseas migration through these changes. “Together, these changes will continue to reduce net overseas migration, with the Government on-track to halve net overseas migration by next financial year,” the announcement stated. This ambitious goal reflects the government’s commitment to managing migration in a way that benefits the country’s economic and social fabric.

These new restrictions represent a significant shift in Australia’s approach to managing temporary visas and international education. By ending onshore transitions from visitor to student visas, the government aims to create a more controlled and fair migration system that aligns with Australia’s long-term strategic goals. The changes underscore the importance of having a migration system that is transparent, fair, and capable of delivering the skills Australia needs without being exploited.