Big News: Australian Government’s Crackdown on Student Visa “Visa Hopping”

Published on June 13, 2024

Big News: Australian Government's Crackdown on Student Visa "Visa Hopping"

Australian Government’s Crackdown on Student Visa “Visa Hopping”

The Australian Government’s commitment to reforming the student visa framework is underscored by recent developments. A significant announcement from the federal government on 12 June 2024 marked a crucial policy change:

Effective July 1, 2024, individuals on the visitor visas and the 485 visa (temporary graduate visa) will no longer qualify to apply for student visas while within Australia.

For more details about the visas affected by this policy, please refer to the following link: Home Affairs Visa Information:

student visa

Ending ‘Visa Hopping’ in the Migration System

A key aspect of the Migration Strategy, released last year, was to end ‘visa hopping’—a practice where students and other temporary visa holders continuously extend their stay in Australia, sometimes indefinitely. According to the Migration Strategy, the number of international students staying in Australia on a second or subsequent student visa has grown by over 30% to more than 150,000 in 2022–23.

Peter McDonald, a renowned Australian demographer, recently stated that severely curtailing visa hopping by accepting fewer visa applications from people already in the country would better manage population growth than cuts to the permanent migration intake.

The government has already addressed this issue by imposing ‘no further stay’ conditions on visitor visas through the Genuine Student requirement implemented in March. This has prevented thousands of students from hopping from one student visa to another without credible course progression. This measure complements more than a dozen other policies to restore integrity in the international student system, such as ending unrestricted work rights and the previous government’s COVID visa.

“Unable to apply”

In the Departments news letter, they chose the phrase “unable to apply”. This infers that the new student visa regulatory changes will be made on Schedule 1 of the Regulations, which prevents visitor visa holders and graduate visa holders to even file and pay the student visa applications. Hence, no associated bridging visas, and even if the Department accepts payment by mistake, they will refund it to you and consider the application ‘invalid’.

Major Changes Effective from July 1, 2024

1. Visitor Visa Holders:

Visitor visa holders will no longer be able to apply for student visas onshore. The pathway from visitor to student visa has become increasingly prevalent, with over 36,000 applications from July 1, 2023, to the end of May 2024. This measure aims to close a loophole used to subvert the government’s strengthened offshore student visa integrity measures.

2. Temporary Graduate Visa Holders:

Temporary Graduate visa holders will also be unable to apply for student visas onshore. According to the Grattan Institute’s recent “Graduates in Limbo” report, 32% of Temporary Graduate visa holders return to study when their visa expires to prolong their stay in Australia. This change clarifies that graduates should be seeking skilled jobs and aiming for permanent residency or departing the country instead of becoming ‘permanently temporary’.

These changes support a range of other adjustments for Temporary Graduate visa holders, including significantly shorter post-study work rights, reduced age limits from 50 to 35 years, and increased English language requirements implemented in March.

Who Will Be Affected?

The recent changes to the student visa policy will impact individuals entering Australia on a visitor visa or holding a temporary graduate visa. Here is a detailed breakdown of the affected groups:

Visitor Visa Holders:

– A significant number of genuine international students tend to utilise the visitor visas to first come to Australia and tour the schools to ensure that they are ‘choosing’ the right institution and courses, as they are expected to spend tens of thousands of dollars on education and living expenses in Australia during their studies. The new law change makes this ‘due diligence’ quite impractical as they are required to return to their home country to apply for the visa and wait for it to be granted before they can travel back to Australia and start the course.

– Potential problems arise when there is an undue delay in the Department’s student visa assessment. For example, in the past six months, we have observed a significant delay in the government’s decision-making with student visas both offshore and onshore. Those who were already in Australia with a visitor at the time of applying for the student visa were at least able to attend the classes; however, those who were offshore could not. We expect this issue to be a common problem.

– Further issues that we foresee are those who may be affected by unfair decisions. Currently, amidst the record number of student visa refusals, we are seeing a significant number of decisions from the Department made without genuine consideration. The main purpose and reason for the rights and entitlement for a merits review application at a relevant Tribunal (currently the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the AAT) is to review the Department’s decisions and provide a more logical and intellectual assessment of the case with full consideration of their matters. However, student visas applied offshore do not have the right to appeal.

Temporary Graduate Visa Holders:

– Graduates must secure skilled employment or leave Australia. Those wishing to pursue further studies must apply for their student visa offshore and wait outside the country.

This policy particularly affects those who are invited or want to participate in PhD and research programs. For example, a master’s graduate on a temporary graduate visa who begins working and then receives a PhD offer will need to leave Australia to apply for a student visa, leading to substantial costs such as job loss and relocation expenses.

– Additional detailed policies for higher education visa applications may be introduced in the near future.

Other Visa Holders:

– Holders of other visas, such as TSS (Temporary Skill Shortage) visas and current student visas, can still apply for student visas onshore.

– A significant advantage for onshore student visa applicants is the ability to appeal in case of refusals. Conversely, offshore students must wait outside Australia, facing different intake times and school fees without the option for appeals, putting genuine students at a disadvantage.

Stay tuned for more updates as these significant changes unfold.

Disclaimer: Not Legal Advice

The information provided in this blog post/article is for general informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice or create a representative-client relationship. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, the content may not reflect the most current legal developments or specific circumstances.

Do not rely solely on the information presented here – but please book in a consultation with us to see how you this information applies to you and may benefit you. Any reliance on the material in this post is at your own risk.

Australian immigration law is arguably one of the most complex laws in Australia. Seek professional legal advice tailored to your individual needs before making any decisions based on the content of this post.