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Labour shortage prompts big change to international student visas

University buildings; students graduating amid labour shortages
International graduates will be able to extend their stay in Australia to alleviate the nation's labour shortage. (Source: Getty)

The Australian Government has announced changes to the post-study work rights of international students in a bid to combat labour shortages.

The announcement, made by the departments of Home Affairs and Education on Friday, will allow specific degree holders to stay for an additional two years.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil said the working hours of international students "will be capped again in June next year" to strike the right balance between work and study.

Nursing, engineering, IT and data degrees top of agenda

The Government revealed post-study work rights for graduates in industries with skills shortages would be extended to four years. Master's degree holders will be able to stay for five years, and PhD students for six.

According to reporting by the Sun-Herald and Sunday Age, nursing, engineering, IT and data degrees will be at the top of the agenda to help fill the major jobs shortages in Australia.

International students on campus at university
The visa changes will allow specific degree holders to stay for an additional two years to work in their chosen field. (Source: Getty)

As part of the program, a working group will be established to advise the ministers for Home Affairs and Education on the development of this program and related issues.

The working group will include representatives from the Council of International Education, the National Tertiary Education Union, Universities Australia, and the departments of Home Affairs and Education.

Working-hours cap in place from June 2023

The Department of Home Affairs confirmed to SBS Hindi that the work hours cap for international students would come into place from June 30, 2023.

"Allowing international students to work provides valuable skills to the Australian workforce, while enhancing the social and educational experience of students during their stay in Australia," the department siad.

"However, work should always be ancillary to study."

O'Neil echoed these sentiments, saying the outcomes from the Jobs and Skills Summit focused on supporting international education and allowing recent graduates to contribute to the productivity of the Australian economy.

O'Neil said the review into the migration system would look into better recognising prior qualifications and skills and getting more refugees into the workforce.

Fewer students stay after study

Only 16 per cent of international students stay on to work after their studies end in Australia, compared to 27 per cent in Canada.

"We can do so much better with this critical decision we make about who we should invite here and getting them on a pathway to permanency and citizenship, and we're just not being strategic about that at the moment," O'Neil said.

The Federal Government said it would invest $36.1 million in visa processing to support 500 surge staff over the next nine months.

They will also look to significantly fast-track visas for foreign graduates so they can begin working in their field of study.

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