A Deeper Look Into the Expected Surge in International Student Arrivals in Australia

Key Takeaways:

  • There is an expected increase of more than 97,000 in student arrivals compared to departures between the latter part of 2021 and early 2022 given the number of students being prevented entry during the global health crisis.
  • The surge in student visa applications is a result of the prospect of unlimited work rights.
  • More than 35,000 international student arrivals have been recorded in Australia this year, an increase of 35,440 students compared with the number recorded in 2021.
  • It is the main goal of the United Kingdom for the student visa application to get back to the 15-day work service standard by the end of 2022

A surge in student arrivals in Australia compared to departures between December 2021 and March 2022 was to be anticipated given the number of students that had been prevented entry during the global health crisis, an Independent Australia report revealed. But what caused this expected surge? Let’s find out.

Independent Australia recently released a report showing the 97,350 excess student arrivals over departures in December last year. It said, in 2020, a QS whitepaper showed about a third of students planning to study abroad were unable to start their international education because of the delays in the processing of their visa application as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

MSM Insight-International Student Visa Application Surges

While there is a net outpouring of students, usually in the middle of each year, this came impossible in June 2022, as there was rather a tiny excess of international arrivals over departures in July and August 2022. More so, there was an unusual excess of arrivals in September also this year, typically a month when there is an excess of departures over arrivals.


Unlimited Work Rights Causing the Surge


Now that most countries, including the United States, have relaxed their COVID-related policies and protocols, foreign students nonetheless, have started entering international airports to fulfill their dream to study abroad.


Following the pronouncement of former Prime Minister Scott Morrison that temporary entrants in Australia “to go home” declined most universities JobKeeper, and denial of the actual support for temporary entrants who were struck in this country, a lot of people considered the nation would struggle to entice international students to enroll once the pandemic ends. 


This struggle for the country was possible perhaps, due to the privileges foreign enrollees were deprived of, like the JobKeeper Payment, in particular. Such a benefit helped Australians in employment and backed businesses impacted by the substantial economic effect of this global health crisis.


Nonetheless, the commentators were unsuccessful in taking into account the enticement of work rights for students that former Immigration Minister Alex Hawke would later offer.


While this policy of Hawke would adversely affect Australia’s international education industry, it would produce a huge rise in offshore student visa applications in students more interested to work than studying.


More Foreign Student Arrivals in Australia


The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that in September 2022, there were 35,560 international student arrivals to Australia, an increase of 35,440 students compared with the number of foreign students in 2021.

MSM Insight-International Student Visa Application Surges

This number, in terms of student arrivals in September this year was 21.5% lower than the pre-pandemic levels in the corresponding month in 2019.


According to the Australian government’s education department, the total student visa arrivals in the year-to-date September 2022 were 46% of their previous record in the year-to-date September 2019. Essentially, arrivals from China to Australia were 21% of what they were in 2019.


In August, a Macrobusiness report said, Department of Home Affairs data showed that a record 42,700 offshore international students lodged a visa application to obtain education in Australia in June with many more applying the following month.


Fast-Tracked Visa Application


The Economic Times reported in October 2022 that according to Alex Ellis, British High Commissioner to India, the number of Indian students increased by 89% since 2021, and visas of skilled workers bring processed faster focusing on the improvement of visa processing times.


According to The Indian Express, it is the main goal for the student visa application is to get to the 15-day work service standard by the end of 2022. Fortunately, the British High Commissioner said, they are on track and he thinks he can get well on track for the next few weeks.


In August 2022, the Australian government said it was working with the Department of Education in considering visa backlog issues as their key priority. It also said they were focusing on measures to address it.


While processing times at present are slower than before the pandemic occurred, Australia favorably compares among key international education competitors, and the sector needs to be confident that significant work is underway to solve the visa backlog, not to mention, bringing processing times back to more normal usual Australian levels.




The unlimited work rights have led to a surge in visa applications from students aspiring for backdoor work visas hoping to transition from temporary to permanent residence. We thus expect to see the number of international students explode over the succeeding years, which may in turn drive foreign migrations to record levels.


The relaxation of work limitations for both student and training visa holders is extended until June 2023 in the hope of easing shortages in labor and skills. Let’s see how this pans out. (SUNEETHA QURESHI)

MSM President

Suneetha has worked for 15 years in the international education sector and 25 years overall for her work for other industries. As president of MSM, she fortifies its business development outreach globally, particularly in the face of MSM’s foray into edtech-based recruitment via MSM Unify. She preserves the premium, value-adding services provided to each MSM partner institute, including dedicated teams on the ground, agent management, lead generation and inquiry management, application prescreening, and student and parent support through pioneering pre-departure briefing sessions.

She has an impeccable track record of successfully launching the representative offices in Asia and Africa of many North American and European higher education institutions. Her key strengths include hiring, training, and developing teams as evidenced by the successful results of the dedicated in-country college and university client teams.


Suneetha also has taken the lead in developing several initiatives at MSM, including building robust standard operating procedures, the Rise ‘n Shine team engagement platform, and the organization’s data analytics and audit segments.



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