Australia Changed Visa Rules: What You Need to Know

The Australian Government has announced significant changes to the student and further stay visa application process as part of a broader effort to maintain the integrity of the international education system.

Starting from July 1, 2024, holders of certain temporary visas, including Visitor and Temporary Graduate visas, will no longer be able to apply for Student visas while in Australia.

The new regulations are part of the Australian Government's ongoing Migration Strategy, aimed at reducing 'permanent temporariness' and ensuring that visas are granted to genuine students.

Key Changes to Visa Regulations:

Affected Visa Holders:
Subclass 485 (Temporary Graduate) Subclass 600 (Visitor) Subclass 601 (Electronic Travel Authority) Subclass 602 (Medical Treatment) Subclass 651 (eVisitor) Subclass 771 (Transit) Subclass 988 (Maritime Crew) Subclass 995 (Diplomatic Temporary) – primary visa holders only Subclass 403 (Temporary Work) International Relations)) – Domestic Worker (Diplomatic or Consular) stream Subclass 426 (Domestic Worker (Temporary) – Diplomatic or Consular)

From July 1, 2024, holders of these visas will need to apply for Student visas from outside Australia. This move is intended to prevent individuals from exploiting the visa system to extend their stay without meeting the criteria for permanent residency.

Key Points for Temporary Graduate Visa Holders:

  1. Offshore Application Requirement:
    • If you are currently on a Temporary Graduate visa and wish to continue your studies in Australia, you must leave the country and apply for a Student visa from overseas. You can still come back if your current visa hasn't expired. This new regulation only means you cannot apply for a Student visa while you are in Australia. Student visa applicants genuinely intending to pursue studies and meet the criteria will be granted a Student visa.
  2. No Bridging Visa:
    • Because your Student visa application will be made offshore, you will not be eligible for a Bridging visa. A Bridging visa typically allows applicants to remain in Australia while their new visa application is processed. Without this, you must ensure you have another valid visa that permits you to stay in Australia or you must remain outside Australia until your Student visa is granted.
  3. Clear Course Progression Requirement:
    • Your study plans must demonstrate a clear progression in your educational pathway to meet the Genuine Student Requirement. This means that your course choices should logically advance your academic or professional goals. For example, progressing from a Master’s degree to a PhD is seen as clear progression, whereas moving from a Master’s degree to a TAFEcourse may not meet the requirement.

Why These Changes Are Important:

  • Maintaining Visa Integrity:
    • These measures are part of the Australian Government’s strategy to reduce the trend of 'permanent temporariness,' where individuals extend their stay through multiple visa applications without clear intentions of meeting permanent residency criteria.
  • Supporting Genuine Students:
    • By requiring clear course progression and offshore applications, the government aims to ensure that only genuine students who are committed to advancing their education and contributing to Australia’s economy are granted Student visas.

Recommendations for Prospective Students:

  • Plan Early:
    • Start your Student visa application process early from offshore and ensure you have all the required documentation and a clear study plan.
  • Stay Informed:
    • Keep up-to-date with any changes in visa regulations by regularly checking the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs website.

Impact on Temporary Graduate Visa Holders:

Temporary graduates must now leave Australia upon the expiration of their visas or seek alternative pathways, such as employer-sponsored visas or permanent residency. The government encourages graduates to find skilled jobs that may lead to permanent residency rather than returning to further study, which has often been used as a means to prolong their stay.

Visitor Visa Holders:

Visitor visa holders can continue to study for up to three months but must apply for a Student visa from offshore if they wish to study for longer periods.

Government's Rationale:

A key commitment in the Migration Strategy, released last year, was to restrict 'visa hopping' - ending the loopholes that allow students and other temporary visa holders to continuously extend their stay in Australia, in some cases indefinitely.

The changes aim to address the trend of 'permanent temporariness,' where individuals use multiple visa applications to remain in Australia without meeting the eligibility criteria for permanent residency. According to a report by the Grattan Institute, less than one-third of Temporary Graduate visa holders transition to permanent residency, with many opting for cheaper vocational courses to extend their stay.

New English Language Requirements

This change was announced as part of the Australian Government’s Migration Strategy released on 11 December 2023 and applies to all Student and Temporary Graduate visa applications lodged on or after 23 March 2024.

The Migration Strategy outlined how the English language reforms for student visas will support international students to have a positive educational experience in Australia, and prepare them for the skilled workforce should they wish to apply for a graduate visa post study.

Temporary Graduate visa (TGV)

  • The minimum score required for a TGV from IELTS test score increases from 6.0 to 6.5 (or equivalent), with a minimum score of 5.5 for each component of the test (reading, writing, speaking and listening).
  • The test validity window for a TGV decreases from 3 years to 1 year. TGV applicants now need to provide evidence that they have completed an English Language test within 1 year immediately before the date of the visa application.

Student visa

  • The minimum score required for a Student visa from an IELTS test score increases from 5.5 to 6 (or its equivalent).
  • The minimum score required to undertake a packaged ELICOS from IELTS increases from 4.5 to 5.0.
  • For students studying English only through ELICOS, there will be no change.
  • The test score required for students undertaking university foundation or pathway programs that deliver reputable English language training will be IELTS 5.5 (or equivalent).

Increasing English language requirements for students undertaking VET and higher education courses requires a similar increase in score for those taking packaged ELICOS courses.

This ensures that students can transition successfully into their main course, with the appropriate level of English.

Increase to the Financial Capacity Requirement

The amount of money that Student and Student Guardian visa applicants need to have to be eligible for the visa increased from May 2024.

The financial capacity requirement has been updated to align with a proportion (75 per cent) of the national minimum wage. This will better indicate the amount of money considered reasonable to provide a minimum standard of living while studying in Australia. This proportion considers that students are out of course session for 25 per cent of the year. During this time they may return home or have access to unrestricted work.

International students who can show they meet this new financial capacity requirement are better able to make informed decisions about their future.

Students are less likely to:

  • be in financial distress once in Australia
  • breach their visa conditions by working more hours than their visa conditions allow
  • be vulnerable to worker exploitation.

The below table outlines the funds you need to show to meet the minimum financial capacity requirement, which will be changed from 10 May 2024.

Financial capacity requirement before 10 May 2024Financial capacity requirement after 10​​ May 2024
primary applicantAUD24,505AUD29,710
spouse or de facto partner of the Student primary applicant (not applicable to Student Guardian applicant)AUD8,574AUD10,394
dependent childAUD3,670AUD4,449
annual school costsAUD9,661AUD13,502
personal annual income if there is no member of the familyAUD72,465AUD87,856
personal annual income where there is a member of the family unitAUD84,543AUD102,500

For further details, visit the official Home Affairs website.