Home | Policy & Reform | Foreign students now facing stricter genuine student test
Minister for Home Affairs Clare O'Neil. Picture: NCA Newswire

Foreign students now facing stricter genuine student test

International students will be interrogated about their prior education and reasons for wanting to study in Australia, under a new immigration requirement to be introduced this week amid a federal government crackdown on overseas students in a bid to curb migration.

Under changes announced in Labor’s overhaul of the migration system, designed to weed out applicants using the student visa scheme as a backdoor to gain work rights, foreign students will no longer be penalised for revealing a desire to emigrate to Australia in their visa application.

In a document sent to the international education sector on Friday outlining details of the reforms, the Department of Home Affairs informed industry leaders that the transition from the Genuine Temporary Entrant requirement to a new Genuine Student Test will take place on March 23.

The test will ask international students direct questions about their links to Australia, for an “explanation of their choice of course” and the benefits the course will provide them, replacing a requirement to write a 300-word statement. Students will also be asked for details on the visa type they currently hold, their reasons for applying for a student visa, and their study history.

The change comes as the sector’s peak bodies prepare to meet on Wednesday to discuss the impacts of a raft of integrity reforms targeting the sector, as part of a push from the Albanese government to halve net migration in the next two years. 

Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia chief executive Troy Williams has criticised the government for introducing the changes with just over a week’s notice, accusing Labor of introducing “punitive regulations”.

“ITECA members were informed of this implementation date on March 15, an eight-day period in which to get ready for implementation of one of the most significant changes to the student visa framework in more than eight years,” he said.

Mr Williams said the change, which was one of a suite of reforms announced under the Migration Strategy in December, was an attempt by the government to address the “regulatory failure” after it allowed a record number of international students to enter the country to address crippling labour shortages in the wake of the pandemic.

“To deal with this regulatory failure, the government is implementing additional and more punitive regulations,” he said. “Red tape sales must be going through the roof in Canberra.”

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil has sought to bring down the number of temporary migrants by tackling integrity issues with the international student visa by cracking down on students whose main reason for coming to Australia was not study, known as “non-genuine students”.

“A sector-appointed special working group was set up months ago to advise on these changes, which involved broader consultation across the sector,” a spokesman for Ms O’Neil said.

“We make no apology for working with the sector to end rorts and reintroduce integrity to our higher education system.”

International Education Association of Australia CEO Phil Honeywood said he was broadly supportive of the reforms, which would boost the government’s efforts to attract high-quality international students by no longer penalising those who reveal a desire to emigrate.

“However, the key concern is that the implementation date of March 23 is very early for education providers and their agents to have the requirements systems in place,” he said.

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