Australia resumes processing international student visas to boost numbers post-coronavirus

A raft of measures have been announced by the federal government to ensure Australia remains an attractive destination for international students.

International students

International students provided $40 billion of income to Australia last year. Source: AAP

The federal government has resumed the processing of student visa applications lodged in locations outside Australia in an attempt to boost the number of international students once borders reopen.

It is part of five measures announced on Monday aimed at keeping international students in Australia amid concerns some won’t return after the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

Current international students unable to complete their studies within their original visa due to COVID-19 will also be able to lodge a further visa application for free, and additional time will be given to applicants who need to provide English language results.

Visa holders studying online outside Australia will be able to count that towards an application for a post-study work visa, and those unable to return due to COVID-19 will be eligible to apply for a post-study work visa outside Australia.

Acting immigration minister Alan Tudge speaks to the media  at Parliament House in Canberra.
Source: AAP

“These measures back the international education sector – our fourth largest export sector – and will assist its recovery,” acting immigration minister Alan Tudge said.

“[They] will not only support the education sector, it will also have flow-on effects for many local communities and businesses, including accommodation services, tourism, hospitality and retail.”

International students contribute an estimated $40 billion annually to the Australian economy and support around 250,000 jobs.

“As well as supporting jobs, international education builds our connection to the rest of the world and supports a number of critical industries like health, aged and disability care,” Education Minister Dan Tehan said.

Bijay Sapkota – the co-founder of Student Job Australia, a job portal that aims to connects employers with international students and graduates – welcomed the moves but said there is “a lot more that needs to be done”.

“The government is stepping up to help international students and potential international students stranded in a really complex situation,” he said.

“Given the circumstances, these moves are very welcome … but there are still issues around workplace exploitation and mental health.”

The federal government has previously relaxed some work restrictions for international students working in the health, aged and disability care sectors during the pandemic.

But with the vast majority of the some 565,000 in Australia ineligible for federal government support measures, many international students have been doing it tough.

Mr Sapkota said he would like to see international students given access to the JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs, which are set to be extended beyond September, albeit at a lower rate.

"If the government was to do that, it would put Australia in a position to be one of the most welcoming and supportive countries in the world for international students," he said.

Last month, thousands of international students were photographed lining up in the Melbourne rain to access Victorian government support.

In April, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told temporary visa holders to return to their home countries if they could not support themselves during the pandemic.

China has also urged students to think carefully before choosing to study in Australia due to a spate of racial incidents targeting Asians.

Australia's overseas migration intake is expected to shrink by more than 85 per cent on 2018-19 levels this financial year due to widespread travel bans brought on by the coronavirus.

Australian universities have warned they are set to lose up to $16 billion in revenue over the next four years due to coronavirus travel restrictions.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

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Published 20 July 2020 at 2:19pm, updated 20 July 2020 at 2:40pm
By Evan Young