Australia's targeted visa crackdown is hitting Indian students hard

The Australian government is delaying and rejecting student visas to people from countries like India in its bid to cut immigration by half by 2025. Some Australian universities have stopped intake of Indian students because of visa delays. There is concern in Canberra that the targeted denial of visas could hit Australia-India ties.
Australia's targeted visa crackdown is hitting Indian students hard
Jaano Junction

Australia's massive crackdown on student visas in its effort to cut annual immigration by half has hit Indian students hard. Amid claims of targeted visa denials to Indian students, a former Australian diplomat to India has expressed concern that such moves could hurt bilateral relations.

The Australian government led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has made visa norms stringent, including higher IELTS scores and increased financial requirements.

Tougher norms and an alleged targeted denial of visas to students from particular countries has seen the number of international students dip since 2023.

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Australia's targeted visa crackdown is hitting Indian students hard

Visas granted to Indian students fell by 48% between December 2022 and December 2023, according to a report in The Guardian. The British newspaper, quoting latest Australian home affairs data, said visas granted to students from Nepal and Pakistan fell by 53% and 55%, respectively.

Why the visa denial is of concern to Indian students because "India continues to be the second-largest source country for international student enrolments in Australia", India's High Commission in Canberra said last year.

It said 1.22 lakh Indian students were studying in Australia in the January-September 2023 period.

The home affairs department cites an increase in incomplete applications and fraudulent documentation, contributing to both higher visa refusal rates and longer processing times, the report said.

The tougher visa conditions have prompted Australian institutions to change their policies, with some even imposing blanket bans on Indian students, according to The Guardian.

The visa refusal is intended to curb non-serious international students, who use study visas to work and immigrate to Australia.

The Albanese government plans to cut new arrivals by about 250,000 a year by targeting universities and colleges considered the highest risk of accepting students coming to Australia to work rather than study, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report in April.

It said that some universities were moving to ban or limit certain nationalities to protect their own standing amid the Albanese government’s immigration crackdown.

"Authorities rejected 21% of visa applications lodged from overseas in the second half of last year, with refusal rates reaching 37% for applications from Pakistan, 39% from India and 52% from Nepal," according to a Times Higher Education report in February.

The Australian Home Affairs Department had earlier said its programme was “non-discriminatory”, but some "cohorts" were facing high refusal rates due to "fraud".

Australia has a risk-rating system which is based on the number of potential students at an institution whose visas are rejected, cancelled, or who seek asylum or overstay illegally.

Ravi Lochan Singh, Managing Director of Global Reach education agency, in an interview with The Times Higher Education, compared Australia’s risk-ratings approach to the “caste system”.

“In America, New Zealand, or the United Kingdom, the visa policy remains the same, irrespective of which university you go to. There is no separate fast track," he said.

Singh said it was the long waiting time for visas, not rejections, that was hitting the students. "So many students are waiting for a decision.”

Source countries of dubious international students are experiencing slower processing time. This has hit genuine students too.

Several Australian universities, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, have told education agents that they wouldn't accept students from India, Nepal, or Pakistan into certain courses, or limit their enrolments.

There is concern in Australia that singling out nationalities when rejecting student visas could harm bilateral relations.

“My major concern is the impact upon our bilateral relations with countries which are singled out when government and media seek to highlight these integrity issues by country,” Barry O’Farrell, former Australian high commissioner to India, told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“There are many economic, strategic and social benefits to Australia and the source countries of overseas students wanting to study in Australia. The practice should be encouraged,” O'Farrell, who was High Commissioner to India till June 2023, told the newspaper.

Indian students working part-time help run the gig economy in countries like Canada. The Australian economy, like O'Farrell pointed out, gains in multiple ways from international students.

It was the Australian education system and industry that fuelled the intake of international students over the decades, and a sudden crackdown hurts genuine students hard.

Source: India Today

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