The Department of Home Affairs in Australia is expected to announce changes for those applying for a visa under the Post-Study Work Stream programme which enables international student graduates to work in the country for two to four years.
With this visa, they can live, study, and work in Australia after graduation and even bring immediate family members to stay.
This post-study work visa programme is a major draw for international students in Australia, and the government intends to keep it that way.
Migration agent Ranbir Singh told SBS: “The Post Study Work Stream visa is a highly sought-after visa among international graduates who wish to extend their stay down under for gaining local work experience or working on a pathway towards their permanent residency.”
Under current regulations, international students who graduate from Australian institutions are only allowed to apply for this visa if they were physically present in Australia for at least 16 calendar months to complete their studies.
As the pandemic has forced many international students to either return home or prevented them from returning to Australia to begin the July semester, the government is expected to announce regulation changes so that they’re still eligible for the post-study work visa.
The Australian reported that the proposal under consideration by the federal government will grant international students work rights even if they have been studying online for the past few months.
Canberra-based migration lawyer Ben Watt told SBS, “What the department has said through various channels quite recently is they are going to count online study and there is going to be some sort of a facility so that students do not miss out on graduate visa if they are stuck overseas six-months after the completion of their course.”
Federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan told The PIE the government is motivated by the principle that international students should not be disadvantaged by the impact of COVID-19, and that there is no fixed timeline on when they can facilitate their return.
“Preconditions to this happening include the reopening of internal state and territory borders within Australia, as well as the return to on-campus learning for the benefit of domestic students and the international students who are already in Australia.
“Robust health, quarantine, border and provider protocols also need to be in place.”
New South Wales, Australia was initially planning on flying international students back to Sydney, but a spike in infected cases has put that plan on hold.
The news about upcoming flexibility for students applying for the post-study work visa in Australia comes at a time when the US has announced they are sending international students home if they are in online-only programmes.
Canada and the UK have also made changes in post-study work visa rules to accommodate the disruption caused by COVID-19.