Recent information on Australia's student visa program is presented in a report from the Department of Home Affairs.
July 25, 2022


For students returning to Australia between 22 November 2021 and 22 May 2022, little under 40% of the approximately 230,000 student visas awarded so far in 2021/22 have gone to students from the following four top nations:

  • India 34,035
  • China 25,689
  • Nepal  18,889 
  • Vietnam 7,172 

More generally, the number of student visa applications peaked at 473,415 in 2018–19 before falling to 262,633 in 2020–21. In 2021/22, the number of visa applications spiked once more, reaching 314,388 as of May 22, 2022.

The key dates to keep in mind are that the Australian government's fiscal year ends on June 30 (the current reporting year is nearly over), but that Australia's borders didn't reopen to foreign students until December 15 of the same year, following a prolonged closure during the pandemic. To put it another way, the return volumes we note here correspond to the number of students who entered the nation between mid-December 2021 and may 2022.

Over the same time period, we observe a similar tendency for Chinese visa applicants (total visa applications lodged): 91,296 visa applications from Chinese students were submitted in 2018–19, fell to 52,041 in 2020–21, and then rose to 55,601 through May 22, 2022. This number for the first half of 2021–2022 is around 60% of the volume for Chinese student visa applications prior to the epidemic.

In contrast, applications from Indian students have increased to 64% of pre-pandemic levels (57,635 year to date for 2021/22 versus 89,868 in 2018/19), and those from Nepalese students have increased to 90% of pre-COVID levels (39,066 year to date for 2021/22 versus 43,190 in 2018/19).

Visas are issued

Regarding the overall number of visas issued, a similar pattern is present. Visa awards peaked in 2018–19 at 405,742, dropped to 232,750 in 2020–21, and are now at 56 percent of pre–pandemic levels in 202–21 with 228,150 visas awarded year–to–date.

There were 469,306 Australian students with valid visas worldwide as of June 19, 2022. Three-quarters of those students (354,475) were in Australia, and the remaining students (114,831) are currently studying abroad. Students from countries other than Australia are permitted to travel if fully immunized.

This total number contrasts with the 578,000 student visa holders stated by the Australian government as of October 2019—a figure that decreased to a low of 266,000 in October 2021. In other words, as of May 2022, the total number of active student visas for Australia has increased to almost 80% of its pre-pandemic levels.

Eliminating the backlog

The Department of Home Affairs admits that it still has a sizable backlog of processing to deal with. The department's website periodically updates the processing standards for student visas, which currently show that 75% of applications are approved within 6 to 10 weeks, with some outliers (particularly post-graduate research and VET) taking an average of several months to process.

In response, the department outlines several measures it has take in order to reduce processing times:

  • Student visa staff continue to process visas over weekends and public holidays.
  • The department has added new processing staff.
  • Other staff resources have been diverted to boost the processing capacity in the student visa programme.
  • Home Affairs has also signaled that incomplete applications (e.g., those lodged without all mandatory documentation required; such as evidence of adequate health insurance or evidence of funds) will now be finalized (i.e., rejected) without asking the applicants to provide further information: “Applicants should ensure that they include all relevant documents when lodging their visa application. The application form in ImmiAccount tells applicants what documents to attach.”

Source: ICEF

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