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Net Migration Changes Behind the Scene


A 31% drop in study visa approvals, bringing them back to pre-pandemic levels, is driving a significant reset in migration levels. This shift is a result of efforts to crack down on non-genuine students, which is reshaping the education sector.

Data from the Department of Home Affairs reveals that between July and February, 264,000 study visas were approved, down from 382,000 in the same period the previous year, bringing student migration indicators back to 2018-19 levels. Net annual student arrivals fell to around 191,000 in March, from a peak of 294,000 in July last year. This number is expected to continue declining as government measures both slow the arrival of new students and hasten the departure of those already in Australia. Measures implemented since July include raising English-language requirements, reducing the duration of post-study work visas, and banning students from switching to shorter, lower-cost courses.

The crackdown on student visas, which also affects many genuine students, is contributing to a broader tapering of overall migration. Experts suggest the government will likely miss its forecast of 375,000 migrants for 2023-24 by a significant margin but may still reach its target of 250,000 for the following year. Net migration for the eight months to February stood at 363,550, with four months remaining in the financial year. It was 518,000 in 2022-23.

To further control migration, the government may introduce additional measures due to criticism that migration is exacerbating housing affordability issues and straining major population centres. Potential measures could include a significant increase in visa application fees and a cap on total student numbers.

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