Since the outbreak of COVID-19, international students have been struggling to meet some visa requirements and related criteria. Students and visa applicants have been significantly concerned about travel restrictions, the quality of online education and how the remote study would impact their current visa conditions and future applications. An example of this is the Post-Study visas. International students who complete eligible study in Australia may be able to apply for Post-study work visas onshore allowing them to remain in Australia and gain professional experience. Current travel limitations and associated COVID-19 restrictions have prevented eligible students from meeting the requirements and criteria of these visas. However, a set of changes and initiatives are being considered by the Department to support international students in and outside Australia.
Today, 20th July 2020 acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge and the Minister for Education, Hon Dan Thean, have released a media statement which includes five key student visa changes to support international students who may have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
These changes include:
- Restart granting student visas in all locations lodged outside Australia: This means that once the Australian borders re-open, international students who have been granted student visas offshore will be ready to make arrangements to travel to Australia
- Free of charge student visa applications: International students who are unable to complete their studies within their original visa validity due to COVID-19 will be able to lodge a further student visa application free of charge.
- Online Study and Post-study work visas: Current offshore student visa holders studying online due to COVID-19 will be able to use that online study to count towards the Australian study requirement for a post-study work visa.
- Post-study work visa offshore applications: Graduates who held a student visa will be eligible to apply for a post-study work visa offshore if they are unable to return to Australia due to COVID-19.
- English language requirement: Additional time will be given for candidates to provide English language results where COVID-19 has disrupted access to these services.
The above initiatives will require changes in current legislation that have not yet been released.
These changes aim to support international students and the Australian education sector in this unprecedented time. Today’s announcement by the Government is also a recognition of the contribution and importance of international students to Australia’s economy.