Student Visa Numbers Decline

The outbreak of COVID-19 has a significant impact on the education sector. It started on 1 February 2020, when travel restrictions were put in place for travellers from mainland China, then on 20 March 2020, it expanded to all foreign travellers. The inability for students to travel into Australia has an adverse impact on the education sector. It is estimated that $16 billion in revenue will be lost in the next three years, and there will be an increase in the unemployment rate in the industry.

Data provided by the Department of Home Affairs attest to the decline in the number of students attending school in Australia. The statistics reveal the number of Subclass 500 Student Visa applications that were lodged in 2019 as compared to 2020.

The number of subclass 500 visa applications lodged by onshore applicants has declined since the outbreak. However, the decline is not drastic as applicants are already onshore, and the border closure would have a lesser impact than offshore applicants. Some onshore applicants may also re-apply for a student visa to extend their stay in Australia as they cannot travel back home. Overall, the reduction in subclass 500 applications for onshore applicants is relatively minimal compared to offshore applicants.

Onshore Student Visa Numbers Decline
  2019 2020 Difference % Decrease
April 12,008 11,493 515 4%
May 13,110 11,674 1,436 11%
June 12,399 12,020 379 3%
July 16,114 15,169 945 6%
August 26,227 23,756 2,471 9%
September 19,298 16,628 2,670 14%
Offshore Student Visa Numbers- Rapid Decline

Statistics from the Department of Home Affairs indicate the rapid decline of subclass 500 visa applications lodged by offshore applicants. This is understandable because the closure of borders has a significant impact on the applicant’s ability to travel to Australia. In most months since April 2020, the decline in the number of applications lodged has been more than 50% compared to the previous year.

  2019 2020 Difference % Decrease
April 17,311 2,552 14,759 85%
May 28,460 3,354 25,106 88%
June 34,015 4,062 29,953 88%
July 25,152 4,446 20,706 82%
August 16,456 5,873 10,583 64%
September 15,961 6,596 9,365 59%

To combat the negative impact of COVID-19 on the education sector, the government has put in place measures to support the education industry. Some of the support measures include:

  • Waiving student visa fees to allow students to lodge a further student visa application to complete their studies.
  • Students who undertook studies online due to COVID-19 will still be able to apply for a Subclass 485.

Although some students may decide to enrol to study online, the impact of COVID-19 on the education sector will last over some time. Until travel restrictions are removed, many students will be impacted.

Australia will not allow foreign students to return yet as Canberra is prioritising the return of locals stuck overseas, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on 13 November 2020.

With foreign students worth about AUD$35 billion a year to the Australian economy, Canberra had hoped to slowly allow overseas students to return in 2021. Trials began earlier this year. But with thousands of Australians wanting to return, Morrison there is not enough quarantine facilities.

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