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Immigration Minister announces changes to benefit international students

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has announced changes to the visa system that will support international students re-entering Australia to start or complete their education.


Education Minister Alan Tudge worked with Minister Hawke to ensure that 30,000 students whose visa expired after 1 February 2020 will be able to reapply for a new 485 visa of the same duration as their original visa.


Graduates of masters by coursework programs, around 170,000 pre-pandemic visa holders, will be able to stay on to work for three years instead of two and vocational education graduates will be eligible for a two-year temporary visa instead of 18 months.


Students who spent time studying offshore will be recognised for the purpose of meeting the two years study in Australia when applying for a 485 visa.


The decision comes after the government announced fully vaccinated skilled migrants, international students and humanitarian visa holders would be able to travel to Australia from 1 December 2021.


The overhaul of the visa settings came after concerns were raised by 485 visa holders about the prospect of their visas expiring and then facing almost two years locked out of the country.


While the latest data (August 2021) shows international student enrolments were down 17 percent overall compared with August 2019, the ELICOS sector (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students) has experienced the greatest decline in enrolments at 71 percent for that same period. In other words, 200,000 fewer international students enrolled in August 2021 than two years earlier.


More than $37 million will be available to support those international education providers most affected by COVID-19. Extended regulatory fee waivers and additional grants are elements of this.


An additional $9.4 million will go to extend the Innovation Development Fund delivering a further short term targeted support to private ELICOS providers to diversity educational offers into online and offshore delivery.


Now that fully vaccinated international students can return to New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT from 1 December 2021 along with the visa changes and financial incentives should ease the pressure on the education system which was valued at around $40 billion in 2019.


It is expected that 160,000 new student visas will be issued.


The return of students to Australia is a major milestone which will be appreciated not only by the education sector which has been struggling during the pandemic but also many other

industry sectors who rely on international students to fill vacancies particularly in the hospitality area.


Now to regain entry into Australia


The government hopes that the changes to assist international students re-enter courses in Australia will aid the country’s economic recovery post COVID.


To be eligible to return students must be fully vaccinated with a TGA recognised vaccine and provide proof of vaccination, provide a negative PCR test taken within three days of departure and hold a valid visa. A minimum of seven days must pass since the administered final dose of vaccine was given for a student to be considered fully vaccinated.


On top of that there are differing quarantine requirements in each state and territory with only Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT open with quarantine free arrivals. Other states have quarantine rules which vary, and some may be quite prohibitive. Arrivals may therefore come in through Sydney or Melbourne wait 14 days before taking a domestic flight into South Australia or Queensland. Western Australia is still out of bounds.


If that hurdle is overcome then there is still another to face, international commercial flights into Australia are 40 percent down on pre-pandemic levels and it has been reported that some universities are exploring charter flights to get students into Australia in time for the academic year.


Travel bubbles have already been set up with Singapore, Japan and South Korea with Singapore open in November and the latter two in early December.


Contact Assent Migration Lawyers to help you navigate the ver changing landscape of the Australian visa requirements.

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