A group of students from a number of countries on SCU International campus. (Photo: Facebook: SCU International)
15 August 2018
Jackson Gothe-Snape – ABC political reporter
International students, graduates and people on bridging visas are continuing to fuel Australia’s immigration boom.
- New figures show a 5 per cent increase in temporary visas over 2017-18
- Almost 2 million temporary visa holders were in Australia in June, up 107,000 in a year
- The Government announced a 20,000 cut in annual permanent visas last month
The number of temporary visa holders in Australia in June increased by 107,000 in the past year — a rise of 5 per cent according to statistics released on Friday afternoon.
These new visa holders easily eclipse the Government’s 20,000 cut to permanent visas over the same period.
The number of bridging visas — now at 176,000, having grown by almost 40,000 in the past year — was described by Abul Rizvi, a senior official in the immigration department during the 2000s, as “unheard of”.
“Bridging visas were introduced as a means of dealing with a situation of keeping a person legal while we processed their visa — it was a stopgap measure and that’s how it should be viewed,” he told the ABC.
“If bridging visas are increasing in number, what it says is that the immigration department is not able to process the visas quickly enough.”
Bridging visas and international students are driving growth in the temporary migration program.
Chart showing increases in student and bridging visa (Source: Dept Home Affairs)
10,000 extra Chinese nationals, 7,000 more people from India and another 4,000 Malaysians were in Australia on bridging visas in June compared with a year ago.
“When I was running the program, a figure of 30,000 was regarded as problematic,” Mr Rizvi said. “200,000 is just a frightening number.”
Multicultural Affairs Minister Alan Tudge declined to address the bridging visa increase, saying that “nearly all the growth in short-term visas since we came to office has been in international students”.
“The vast majority of short-term visa holders are New Zealanders, international students and tourists.”
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said his party had “reintroduced integrity” into the migration program when last year’s permanent cut was revealed in July.
Mr Rizvi said the rise in bridging visas meant that some migrants were taking advantage of delays to enjoy more time in Australia. “It reflects a decline in integrity and a decline in efficiency in administration,” he said.
Migration agent Jonathan Granger from Granger Australia described the bridging visa increase as a “blow-out”.
He said the rise was due to two main factors — the increasing numbers of visa refusals going to appeals and an increase in visa processing times.
“It’s almost like they’ve decided not to put resources there and just leave it.”
The post-study work visa provides for two years following study to international students who complete degrees of at least two years. Primary holders of this visa — that is, excluding partners or children — have increased from 21,000 to 55,000 in the past three years.
Explosion in graduate visas
The number of temporary graduate visa holders is at a record high.
Chart showing an explosion in graduate visas (Source: Dept Home Affairs)
International students are allowed to work for 20 hours per week during semester under their visas.
A study released this week by London Economics, commissioned by the Group of Eight universities, highlighted the economic contribution of international students.
It found overseas students paid an average net tuition fee of $58,000 and they also contributed more than $50,000 each in rent and other living expenses.
[Read the ABC News article].