Australia will tighten its visa rules for international students and low-skilled workers in its efforts to overhaul a broken temporary migration system, said the country’s Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil on Monday, reported Reuters.
Flagging that overseas migration has peaked in Australia, O’Neil said that international students would now need to secure higher ratings on English tests, in line with those for skilled workers, according to The Guardian. The students would also have to prove that their Australian studies will further either their career or learning.
“Our strategy will bring migration numbers back to normal,” said O’Neil. “But it’s not just about numbers. It’s not just about this moment and the experience of migration our country is having at this time. This is about Australia’s future.”
This comes as the net immigration to Australia peaked at a record 5.1 lakh in 2022-’23. The increase was mostly driven by international students, said the minister.
To deal with this, the government is looking to shorten the duration of graduate visas. Currently, the visas allow students to stay in Australia for up to eight years. According to O’Neil, this was “the longest in the world” and the government’s move is aimed at preventing students from becoming “permanently temporary”.
The minister said that the new migration strategy will block the usage of student visas as a “back door” entry for employers looking to import low-skilled workers, reduce exploitation and improve the work prospects of international students.
Additionally, the government is considering ways to bring in lower-skilled workers that are needed for critical sectors such as the care industry, reported The Guardian. The minimum $70,000 a year salary for that visa – known as the temporary skilled migration income threshold – will also now be indexed annually.
A new specialist visa would be created for people who earn over $1.35 lakh a year to target highly skilled people in growth industries such as cyber or green technology. The new top-tier visa is expected to apply to 3,000 people a year.
Changes in migration policy may result in nearly 1.85 lakh fewer people coming to Australia over the next five years, said O’Neil. She insisted this was “not a target, it’s an estimate”.
Her statements came in the backdrop of a survey done for the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper on Monday, which said that 62% of Australian voters believe the country’s migration intake was too high. imposing tougher tests on overseas students and turning away workers with low skills
The measures may impact Indians living in Australia, who currently form the second-largest migrant group in the country, according to the BBC. The 2023 International Migration Outlook report said that Australia granted citizenship to 24,000 Indian citizens in 2021.