Visa changes to benefit international students
In welcome news for international students many of whom are stranded offshore due to the coronavirus-induced border restrictions,
The federal government has announced a raft of changes to visa arrangements to prop up Australia’s position as a destination for international students.
There are five major changes that will impact students who are currently in and outside the country.
Announcing the changes, acting minister for immigration, Alan Tudge said the changes will provide “assurance” to international students already in Australia and those who haven’t been able to travel due to COVID-19 border closures.
“These measures back the international education sector – our fourth-largest export sector – and will assist its recovery,” Mr Tudge said.
He said the changes were aimed at limiting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international students – a cohort of visa holders that contribute $40 billion annually and support 250,000 jobs:
The government says it will recommence the granting student visas to new students meaning that when borders will re-open, students will already have visas and they will be able to make arrangements to travel.
International students will be able to lodge a further student visa application free of charge if they are unable to complete their studies within their original visa validity due to COVID-19.
Also, current student visa holders studying online outside Australia due to COVID-19 will be able to use that study to count towards the Australian study requirement for a post-study work visa.
And graduates who held a student visa will be eligible to apply for a post-study work visa outside Australia if they are unable to return due to COVID-19.
Also, extra time will be given for applicants to provide English language results where COVID-19 has disrupted access to these services.
Minister Tudge said that the government has been guided by the principles that the health of Australians is key, “but the international students should not be further disadvantaged by COVID-19”.
But the minister did not provide a specific timeline indicating when the international students will be able to return to the country, amid speculations that the pilots initiated by universities across the country have been abandoned.
The initiatives come as university workers are bracing for more than 30,000 job losses as the COVID-19 pandemic devastates foreign student enrolments.
Peak industry association Universities Australia has previously warned that 21,000 full-time university jobs are at risk, with major universities like the University of New South Wales (493 job losses), Monash (277), and Melbourne (300) already putting a number on likely losses.
But other estimates says the 21,000 figure doesn’t include casuals, many of whom lost their jobs when the pandemic hit. If casuals are included, the figure could be as high as 30,000.