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Australia plans to halve migrant intake, tighten student visa rules

Sydney, Australia

Australia on Monday said it would tighten visa rules for international students and low-skilled workers that could halve its migrant intake over the next two years as the government looks to overhaul what it said was a “broken” migration system. 

The decision comes after net immigration was expected to have peaked at a record 510,000 in 2022-23. Official data showed it was forecast to fall to about a quarter of a million in 2024-25 and 2025-26, roughly in line with pre-COVID levels.

People cross a street in the city centre following further easing of coronavirus disease restrictions in Sydney, Australia, on 10th December, 2020.

People cross a street in the city centre following further easing of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in Sydney, Australia, on 10th December, 2020. PICTURE: Reuters/Loren Elliott/File photo

“We’ve worked around the clock to strike the best balance in Australia’s migration system,” Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said in a statement ahead of the formal release of the government’s new migration strategy later on Monday. 

“The government’s targeted reforms are already putting downward pressure on net overseas migration, and will further contribute to this expected decline,” O’Neil said. 

O’Neil said the increase in net overseas migration in 2022-23 was mostly driven by international students.

Australia boosted its annual migration numbers last year to help key businesses recruit staff to fill shortages after the COVID-19 pandemic brought tighter border controls, and kept foreign students and workers out of the country for nearly two years.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese over the weekend said Australia’s migration numbers needed to be wound back to a “sustainable level,” adding that “the system is broken.”

Long reliant on immigration to supply what is now one of the tightest labour markets in the world, Australia’s Labor government has pushed to speed up the entry of highly skilled workers and smooth their path to permanent residency.

Under the new policies, international students would need higher ratings on English tests. It will also end settings that allowed students to prolong their stay in Australia. 

A new specialist visa for highly skilled workers will be set up with the processing time cut to one week, helping businesses recruit top migrants amid tough competition with other developed economies.



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