Last year, the Home Affair’s Minister, Clare O’Neill commissioned a review into the Australian migration system and it was led by three eminent persons; Dr Martin Parkinson AC PSM, Professor Joanna Howe and Mr John Azarias. The reviewers considered 483 public submissions from a range of interested parties and held 8 roundtable discussions to generate the almost 200-page document.
This article is a first of series of the Migration Review Paper (“The Review”) where we will provide a summary of the Review Paper with respect to a category of the migration system and how it may affect you, Australian businesses, the Australian workforce and various industries.
First up, international students.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the latest figures (2019-2020) showed that international education was worth AUD $37.4 billion to the Australian economy. Australia offers quality education and globally recognised qualifications and hence, attracted 590,566 international students for this year’s quarterly data. In fact, international education is the fourth largest export in Australia.
Asides from the economic benefits that international students bring in, they make a great contribution to our labour force whilst they are studying but Dr Parkinson warned that the current system is failing to retain ‘the best and brightest’ international students in the country, with many struggling to transition into the labour market or consigned into jobs below their skill level.
Firstly, The Review found that English proficiency has a direct relationship with good education and labour market outcomes in Australia. However, many students’ English start from 5.5 in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) for the least linguistically demanding courses and rising to 7.5 for linguistically demanding courses.
In fact, some of the top Australian education providers already recognises this and impose a higher standard of English for international student enrolment applications – unless you are a citizen from Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, the UK or the US or you have completed at least 5 years of full-time studies in at least a secondary level institution where most classes were delivered in the English language. Asides from these exemptions, it otherwise indicates that the English requirement levels may be low for students to keep up with and complete their studies in English especially in higher education courses. A public submission written by IDP Education states that ‘[h]aving the right level of English proficiency is critical to achieve successful career outcomes long-term, particularly in jobs that require a high level of language capacity like teaching, nursing, allied health, medicine and law.’
Secondly, the panellists looked at the Genuine Temporary Entrant (“GTE”) requirement. The GTE had a policy intent to (i) ensure that overseas students come to Australia for the sole purpose of studying, (ii) sought to determine what ties the student had to their home country, and (iii) whether they had an intention to return home at the conclusion of their studies but The Review found that the GTE is subjective and arbitrary in its application which is of no surprise to us here at Longton Migration. It was recommended that the GTE be replaced by a new Genuine Student criterion which would ultimately require the student’s main purpose is to simply, study in Australia.
Finally, The Review found that student visas contains a finite number of work hours in a given fortnight when school is in session. As of 1st of July 2023, the Government has increased the hours from 40 (pre-Covid 19) to 48 a fortnight – this is still more than competitors such as Canada and the UK. The current exception to this is for students working in the aged care sector where students are allowed to work unlimited hours to cover workforce shortages.
The Review also found that for overseas students to do well in the Australian labour market and have a competitive edge by having work experience but frankly, the 48 hours-work cap inhibits their opportunities. It is noted by the author that in The Review, the panellists are under the impression that ‘unpaid work’ (such as internships and work experience) are all counted towards the cap on working hours but this is not the case. Any unpaid work be in unpaid internships, volunteering hours are not counted towards the 48 hour work cap.
Overall, the Review found that the student visa program should be an important source of high performing skilled migrants but has not delivered on its potential.
Upcoming Changes in response to the review
More recently, the Minister has announced a package of changes, including not allowing education providers to seek commissions from students changing courses while onshore. This will stop what the minister called “poaching” of students to avoid swaying vulnerable students into other courses than their intended courses.
Furthermore, a change to the minimum funds to prove financial capacity requirements for student visa applicants, raising the amounts from $21,041 per year for a single student to $24,505 per year, as well as raising the same requirement for the spouse/partner of the student from $7,362 to $8,574, and the requirements for each dependent child from $3,152 to $3,670. Additionally, the financial capacity required to prove ability to enrol dependent children who are of school age were increased from $8,296 per year to $9,661.
Overall, all figures were increased by 16.45%, which aims at ensuring that applicants for a student visa in Australia have sufficient funds to sustain while pursuing their studies, and to bring the figures in line with the recent inflation and increase in costs of living, to avoid putting students in a vulnerable position.
How can Longton Legal help you?
Unsure about what English scores are required for your course entry of which English test are more suitable? Do you need assistance on the GTE statement or the Genuine Student Criterion when the new criterion becomes available or do you have questions relating to your work, work type and work hours? Contact Longton Legal today and we can assist you with answering your queries.
*Disclaimer: This is intended as general information only and not to be construed as legal advice. The above information is subject to changes over time. You should always seek professional advice before taking any course of action.*
Doing Business in Australia: Your free business health check and guide to overcoming cashflow challenges
This is a challenging financial and economic climate for companies, businesses, and families. If you want to outwit, outplay, and outlast the competition (or simply survive) – cash(flow) is king.
Doing Business in Australia: Insolvency Snapshot for 2024
Corporate insolvency appointments have more than doubled since this time last year.
Can my relationship status change while awaiting the decision on my General Skilled Migration (GSM) visa?
With prolonged processing times, changes in circumstances usually happen. People get married or enter de facto relationships, or they get separated or divorced. Children are born sometimes.
Aged Care Industry Labour Agreement
Labour Agreements are bespoke agreements between the minister for Immigration and a specific company, an industry, or a designated area such as a region, a state, or a territory.