Australian Visa Policy Changes Pose Challenges for International Students.

New migration rules in Australia are leading to an increase in visa rejection rates, causing concern for international students hoping to study in the country. Some educational institutions have even withdrawn admission offers to students under the new “Genuine Student Test”, making it harder for many to achieve their goal of studying abroad.

Australia’s new migration strategy – announced in late 2023 and in effect now – has led to significant confusion and disruption in the international education sector as it is disproportionately affecting prospective students from key sending markets. From sharply increased visa rejection rates to slow visa processing to – in some cases – rescinded offers from Australian institutions, international students are feeling the impact of Australia’s strategy to reduce migration levels.

Under Australia’s new migration settings, prospective students must now prove a higher level of savings and a higher level of English proficiency, and must pass a “Genuine Student Test.” But there are complaints that there is a lack of transparency regarding exactly why one visa is refused and another accepted – and even a suggestion that many students are being refused because their own economy offers fewer job prospects than Australia’s does.

Dirk Mulder, the founder of the influential industry journal The Koala News, says that he has obtained wording from visa rejection letters and “while they do change from officer to officer and post to post the following is consistent:”

“[Wording in rejection letter] I have considered all the information provided with the visa application. Given the comparatively greater economic opportunities in Australia and the applicant’s own country, I am not satisfied that the applicant is a genuine applicant for entry and stay as a student.”

Institutions scramble to avoid being penalised

Many institutions are alarmed about the high rejection rates because rejections are pinned to institutions and influence their ability to recruit students successfully. Here’s why:

  • When introducing the reforms, the government warned that providers judged to be at “higher risk” [of accepting unsuitable students or providing sub-par education/supports] would experience slower visa processing times. This refers to a long-standing system in which institutions are categorised into one of three levels: 1 is least risk, 2 is medium risk, and 3 is high risk, where risk refers to the likelihood of accepting non-genuine students based on (recent) historical data.
  • Suffice to say that an institution’s ability to meet its recruitment and admissions targets becomes much more unpredictable if it finds itself categorized as in Level 3, and high visa refusal rates are a major determinant of whether an institution finds itself in that category (other factors are fraudulent applications and students who overstay their visas).

In addition, the “risk list” is expected to be updated soon, heightening concern about extending enrolment offers to students who might be refused a visa. 

Concern about potential visa refusals has reached such a level that some universities have withdrawn confirmations of enrolment to students they feared would not have their visas approved. Meanwhile, other international schools have chosen to limit the countries from which they will accept applications in a bid to increase its visa approval rate.


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