Australia is poised to tighten visa regulations for international students and low-skilled workers, potentially reducing its migrant intake by half over the next two years. The government aims to overhaul what it deems a “broken” migration system.
Under the new plan, international students will be required to achieve higher scores on English tests, and heightened scrutiny will be applied to second visa applications, leading to prolonged stays.
Speaking at a media briefing, Australian Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil stated, “Our strategy will bring migration numbers back to normal. But it’s not just about numbers. It’s not just about this moment and the experience of migration our country is having at this time. This is about Australia’s future.”
Over the weekend, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese asserted the need to scale back Australia’s migration numbers to a “sustainable level,” emphasising that “the system is broken.” Minister O’Neil highlighted that the government’s targeted reforms are already exerting downward pressure on net overseas migration and will further contribute to an anticipated decline in migrant numbers.
This decision follows a surge in temporary migrants, with approximately half a million entering the country in the past year, marking a post-pandemic boom after years of closed borders. The government is optimistic that its reforms, combined with short-term trends, will bring the number closer to 250,000 in the fiscal year 2024-2025.
Announcing the forthcoming Migration Strategy, Anthony Albanese tweeted, “Our migration system is broken, and we have a plan to fix it. Our new Migration Strategy that we’ll unveil next week will help bring migration back to sustainable levels.”
The Australian Home Minister revealed that the surge in net overseas migration in 2022-23 was predominantly driven by international students. Shares of IDP Education, a provider of placement and education services for international students, experienced a decline of more than 3% in afternoon trade.
In response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and strict border controls, Australia had increased its annual migration numbers the previous year to address staff shortages for businesses.
However, the abrupt influx of foreign workers and students has intensified pressure on an already strained rental market, contributing to a rise in homelessness in the country. A survey conducted for the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper on Monday indicated that 62% of Australian voters perceive the nation’s migration intake as excessively high.
Despite nearly record employment rates, Australians are increasingly frustrated by surging prices and a real estate market that is causing significant concern.
Traditionally relying on immigration to address one of the most competitive labour markets globally, Australia’s Labor government is pushing to expedite the entry of highly skilled workers and streamline their journey to permanent residency. A specialised visa tailored for highly skilled professionals is in the works, featuring a rapid one-week processing time. This initiative aims to assist businesses in attracting top-tier migrants amid fierce competition with other developed economies.
This development unfolds against the backdrop of criticisms from Conservative opposition leader Peter Dutton, who accused the government of maintaining a “big migration programme.” Earlier this month, Dutton expressed concerns about crowded cities, congested roads, and inadequate infrastructure, suggesting a reduction in immigrant numbers as a potential solution.