Temporary Visas

Student Visa Changes

Student Visa Changes

Almost 700,000 foreign students were studying in Australia in 2018. In the same year the international education sector contributed $35 billion to the Australian economy and provided 240,000 jobs. In recent months the federal government introduced three important changes that may have mixed effects on the industry. Notwithstanding one positive change that is intended to strengthen the integrity of the international education sector, the remaining two changes may prompt some prospective students to choose other countries for their studies and will adversely affect student numbers from India, Nepal and Pakistan.
Australia Student Visas Changes

The Good

Education agents play an important role in Australia’s international education sector and in 2018 they accounted for approximately 75 per cent of overseas student enrolments. The Federal government has announced new measures to improve transparency about the operation of education agents through the publication of education agent data.

According to the released industry report, there were 6,878 agencies and 19,413 agents involved in enrolments of overseas students last year. The percentage of enrolments assisted by agents is varied across different educational sectors and also influenced by student nationalities. People planning to study English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) and students from Brazil and Colombia are the most reliant on education agents.

  • Schools
  • VET
  • Higher Education
  • Non-Award
Enrolments %
  • 86
  • 78
  • 74
  • 73
  • 49
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • South Korea
  • Nepal
  • Vietnam
Enrolments %
  • 92
  • 89
  • 85
  • 84
  • 77

Other information in the report include education agencies characteristics such as size, length of operation, enrolment numbers, student incompletion and visa refusals. The publication of this data will help educational providers and students to make informed decisions when choosing which agents to work with.

The Bad

From 23 October 2019 the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has increased the amounts of annual living expenses that student visa applicants are required to demonstrate the evidence of, in addition to the course fee.

Annual Living Expenses
  • Student or Guardian
  • Partner or Spouse
  • Child
  • School costs for school-age child
  • AUD $21,041
  • AUD $7,362
  • AUD $3,152
  • AUD $8,296
If students are staying less than 12 months then they need to show evidence of pro rated living expenses. The minimum annual income that an applicant’s spouse or parents have to provide evidence of, in case if they can’t show the required funds, has also risen to $62,222 for a single applicant and to $72,592 if there’s a secondary applicant.

Although, the annual living costs and the annual income amount have been increased in line with the consumer price index, they may put further pressure on Australia’s international student industry as prospective students might choose other countries with a lower entry threshold.

And The Risky

Under the current student visa framework, all Australian education providers and each foreign country are assigned an immigration risk rating of 1, 2 or 3. The combination of the risk levels of the country of passport and the education provider determines whether streamlined or regular evidentiary requirements apply. In case of regular requirements, students generally need to provide evidence of their financial and English language capacity at the time of visa application.

From 30 September 2019 the DHA has downgraded the immigration risk rating for India, Nepal and Pakistan from Level 2 to Level 3. As a result, international students from these countries will now have a mandatory requirement to provide evidence of English proficiency and sufficient funds. These changes are applicable to all students from affected countries unless an education provider has the immigration rating Level 1, which is usually the case with the reputable Australian universities.

India and Nepal are currently Australia’s second and third biggest markets for international students respectively. Although these changes should not affect genuine top-quality students, they will inevitably have an impact on the number of future enrolments from these countries and may also impact applicants that are still waiting for the decision on their student visa applications.

Coupled together with falling numbers of enrolments from China, Australia’s biggest market for international students, the changes may threaten Australia’s boom in international students unless education providers can tap into other markets, like Latin America that is becoming the fastest-growing region for international enrolments.

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