Approval rate for international student visas in Australia drops to 18-year low

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23rd February 2024 – (Sydney) The Australian government’s latest data reveals a significant decrease in the approval rate of international student visas, with figures plunging to an 18-year low. In the latter half of 2023, only 80.9 per cent of these applications were sanctioned, a decline from the 86 per cent approval rate of the 2022-23 financial year and a stark contrast to the 91.5 per cent rate in the 2021-22 period.

This downturn in approvals aligns with the Australian government’s introduction of a new migration strategy in December, which aims to bolster the integrity of the student visa process. The strategy involves heightened scrutiny of applications to curtail the misuse of the system.

The government’s reform categorises educational institutions into three distinct tiers, based on historical instances of visa fraud and issues related to international students. Tier one institutions, which count some of Australia’s largest universities among their number, receive preferential treatment in visa processing.

The repercussions of this new tier system have been particularly pronounced for tier three institutions, which have seen a dramatic 60 per cent drop in visa approvals for prospective students in 2023.

The Independent Tertiary Education Council of Australia’s (ITECA) CEO, Troy Williams, has voiced concerns about the impact of the stringent measures, particularly on Indian students, and the potential damage to Australia’s educational standing.

In a letter to Immigration Minister Andrew Giles, Williams highlighted the extraordinary rate of visa rejections, questioning the equity and transparency of the assessment process. “Decisions appear to be made on criteria other than the individual merits of the applications,” he stated, as disclosed in Nine Entertainment newspapers on Thursday.

The government’s figures further show a sharp decline in the endorsement of higher education applications from Indian students offshore, which stood at 60.8 per cent in the last six months of 2023, down from 74.2 per cent in the 2022-23 financial year and 84.6 per cent in 2021-22. Similarly, visa approvals for Nepalese students plummeted from 65.2 per cent in 2022-23 to just 47.8 per cent.

A Department of Home Affairs spokesperson, speaking to local public broadcaster SBS, insisted that Australia’s student visa programme does not discriminate and is dedicated to aiding educational providers in delivering superior education to international students. Each application is evaluated on its own merits, in line with Australia’s migration laws, with a critical stipulation being the authenticity of the student’s intent.

The spokesperson attributed the declining visa grant rates to a concentrated effort, initiated in August, to root out fraud and insincere applications, as well as to prepare for the new ministerial directive for priority visa processing.