The Australian government has announced new measures to welcome international students by granting the Australia Student Visa, and retain current foreign students in the country by considering online study hours completed while overseas. These measures have addressed the concern that student intake will be delayed or some students will not be allowed to return post-pandemic – and reinstated Australia as a major overseas education destination, as the country emerges from the COVID-19 impact.
Every year, international students add AUD$40 billion to Australia’s economy, and support around 250,000 jobs. Border restrictions owing to the pandemic have left 22% of university students (roughly 87,000 people) outside Australia. To resume the measured intake of students in a safe manner, the government has implemented the following measures:
- Restart processing of Australia study visa applications lodged in all locations outside the country, so that students can immediately travel to Australia once border closures are lifted.
- If, due to the pandemic, international students cannot complete their studies within the original student visa validity period, they can submit a further visa application for free.
- Those who currently hold a Student Visa but are studying outside the country due to the pandemic can count those hours of online study towards fulfilling the Australian study requirement to obtain an Australia post study work visa.
- Those who have graduated on a student visa, but cannot return to Australia due to the pandemic, can apply for a post-study work visa from outside Australia.
- Since the pandemic has disrupted access to English language proficiency examinations, applicants will be given additional time to provide English language test results.
In a broader sense, these changes will not only provide reassurance to current and aspiring students, but also support the sustenance and recovery of Australia’s 4th largest export sector – international education – which is expected to witness an AUD$16 billion fall due to the pandemic and other factors. While the health of Australians is being prioritized, the government is keen to ensure that international students are not further inconvenienced.
Previously, work restrictions were relaxed for international students engaged in aged/disability care and healthcare sectors during COVID-19. The new measures allow students to plan, pursue and continue their further education in Australia, with visa fee waivers for specific cases. Most importantly, the government has facilitated a smooth transition from the Australia Student Visa to the post-study work visa, which is the main goal for most international students in Australia.