KP Sharma

The Australian government’s new migration strategy for the next 10 years is expected to affect a lot of Bhutanese students applying for international student visas.

According to media reports, the revised strategy aims to reduce the annual intake to approximately 250,000 by June 2025, aligning with the pre-pandemic levels. This reduction involves tightening visa rules for international students and low-skilled workers to reduce the pressure on housing and infrastructure.

One of the new measures include stricter minimum English-language requirements for international students, with the requirement score for student visa increasing from IELTS or equivalent scores from 5.5 to 6.0.

This change is likely to impact Bhutanese students who previously pursued English courses after scoring below 6.0. As a result, those who used to take three-month courses covering reading, listening and speaking and writing similar to IELTS with scores of 5.5 will face challenges under the new rule.

Reliable sources confirmed that at one time in Perth, there were about 200 Bhutanese enrolled in taking the English course, which is 90 percent of the total class.

The chairman of Association of Bhutanese Education Consultancies (ABEC) and head of operations at Global Reach, Palden Tshering said that genuine student test (GST) will be implemented as a part of the new rule. He said that Students applying to high-risk providers, such as private colleges that focus on work hours over studies, may face unfavorable visa outcomes.

Another change in the rule is that to obtain a second visa, applicants must demonstrate that further study aligns with their academic aspirations or career goals.

Palden Tshering added that students on temporary graduate visas from student visas will not be able to transfer back to student visas. This is to cut down onshore visa hopping by students enrolled in low-cost colleges.

However, Palden Tshering clarified that genuine students applying to reputable universities should not encounter issues even under the new rule, as their visa applications will be prioritized.

He stressed on the importance of a strong student profile, aligning to the advice given to students in light of the announced changes.

Further, the maximum eligible age for the temporary graduate visa will be reduced to 35.

According to media reports, there are about 650,000 foreign students in Australia, with about 510,000 arrivals till June, 2023 and many of them on their second visa.

A proprietor of an education and placement firm is confident that genuine Bhutanese wanting to pursue higher education in Australia would not be affected. He attribute this to the good command over English, which said was evident from thousands scoring well over the required IELTS band.  It will, however, he said will affect those who cut corners to get a visa to study in Australia.