Australia offers to refund international students’ visa fees

Sector says overseas learners should be able to focus on their courses, but government also has an eye on labour shortages

January 20, 2022
Melbourne, Australia - April 15, 2014 Australian Customs and Border Protection checkpoint in Melbourne airport. The agency responsible for the safety, security and commercial interests of Australians
Source: iStock

Australia has offered to refund the visa fees of overseas students who arrive in the country over the next eight weeks as it seeks to reboot its faltering international education industry.

Prime minister Scott Morrison said that there were about 150,000 students holding visas who were eligible to enter Australia and that the rebate – worth A$630 (£335) – was “a thank you to them for coming back and continuing to choose Australia”.

While the offer is likely to be welcomed by universities and their local economies, as students switch from remote to on-campus learning, it is also aimed at solving labour shortages in key Australian sectors, with the government also lifting the 20-hour limit on the number of hours that student visa holders can work in a week.

Some 324,000 international students are now onshore in Australia following the reopening of borders last month after long-term Covid closures.

The visa fee rebate offer applies to international students arriving in Australia by 19 March, while the lifting of the 20-hour rule is due to be reviewed in April.

Peter Chesworth, acting chief executive of Universities Australia, said overseas learners had “shown a remarkable commitment to Australia throughout a long and difficult period of uncertainty”, and he described the rebate as “a positive gesture as they journey back to our campuses and communities”.

“International students are focused on resuming – face-to-face – the world-class university education they chose Australia for. For some, this will be the first time they have set foot on campus since beginning their studies,” Mr Chesworth said.

“The support offered by our community should prioritise their health, safety and studies, above all else.”

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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