International students flock to Australia despite immigration crackdown

By Minh Nga   April 6, 2024 | 05:33 pm PT
International students flock to Australia despite immigration crackdown
Students at the University of Sydney Quadrangle Clocktower in Australia. Photo by Unsplash/Ethan Shi
Australia has become home to a record high number international students even though the government has begun tightening enrolment criteria to ensure foreign students are only there to study, not stay.

Upcoming Australian policies will also be more stringent on ensuring foreign students meet required English proficiency standards to study in the county.

There were 713,144 international students in Australia as of Feb. 29, an increase of 7.3% compared to last September, according to data from the Home Affairs Department released this week.

This has been a major contributor to an also record high number of temporary migrants, who now total 2.8 million people.

Abul Rizvi, the former deputy secretary of the immigration department, told the Guardian that the result was an "all-time record."

He noted that the statistics were from before the implementation of new governmental actions, which, according to him, indicated a need for further efforts.

Rizvi said: "The government's policy is to pursue permanent rather than temporary migration – and yet they’re sitting on the biggest temporary migration number in history."

"We’re probably past the peak of net migration, of 550,000, but it’s coming down very, very slowly."

The Australian government has since last year announced a number of new rules to intensify its examination of international student applications to verify that prospective students genuinely intend to study in the country instead of work, and that they possess the necessary English-language skills for success in courses offered by Australian education institutions.

The Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) test previously in use has been replaced by a new "Genuine Student (GS)" criterion, effective immediately for all student applications submitted from March 23 onwards. According to the government, this criterion requires students to provide responses regarding their intentions for their studies and their financial situations, along with a declaration affirming their understanding of what it entails to be a genuine student.

Students now have to achieve a score of IELTS 6.0 and, for graduate visas, IELTS 6.5, to be considered for an Australian study visa. The previously required scores had been 5.5 and 6.0.

In the next few weeks, the government will start to act on its previously stated plan to crack down on education providers it believes are at the highest risk of non-compliance with immigration rules, according to the ICEF Monitor.

A related statement from the Department of Home Affairs said: "In coming weeks, the highest risk providers – otherwise known as ghost colleges and visa factories - will be issued with warning notices. They’ll be given 6 months to get their act together, if not, they’ll be suspended from recruiting international students."

Commenting on the changes that took effect in March, Minister for Home Affairs and Cyber Security Clare O’Neil said: "Since September last year, the government’s actions have led to substantial declines in migration levels, with recent international student visa grants down by 35% on the previous year. The actions this weekend will continue to drive migration levels down while delivering on our commitments in the Migration Strategy to fix the broken system we inherited."

In fact, more than 50,000 international students had their visa applications rejected from November 2023 to February 2024, according to official government data.

In 2022, Australia increased its annual migration cap to assist businesses hiring staff to address labor shortages following nearly two years of stringent border restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which barred foreign students and workers.

However, this rapid increase in foreign workers and students has intensified the strain on an already strained rental market.

Data released last month from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates that net migration surged by 60% to an unprecedented 548,800 in the 12 months ending September 30, 2023, surpassing the 518,000 recorded in the 12 months ending June 2023.

Consequently, Australia's population grew by 2.5% - the quickest growth rate ever recorded - reaching 26.8 million by the end of last September.

The Australian government stated it would implement policies to focus on attracting permanent migrants rather than those staying temporarily.

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