Australia introduces new IELTS requirement with “genuine student” test for international students

This "genuine student" test is expected to crack down on international students coming to Australia primarily to work rather than study.

In a major crackdown on ‘ghost colleges’ and international students who are not serious about studies, the Australian government has started implementing changes to fix the rort in the higher education industry.

Following a migration review, the federal government has reduced the number of student visa approvals, increased English language requirements for student and graduate visas, and introduced a new “genuine student” test.

Image: Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil (Source: X)

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said the government’s push to bring down net migration would likely not yet be captured by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data.

“Since September, the government’s actions have led to substantial declines in migration levels, with recent international student visa grants down by 35 per cent on the previous year.” 

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The minimum test score for the English proficiency requirement for an international student visa has been increased from 5.5 to 6.0 (or equivalent) in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

The minimum score required for a Temporary Graduate Visa has been increased from IELTS 6.0 to 6.5 (or equivalent), with a minimum score of 5.5 for each component of the test (Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening).

The test validity window for all Temporary Graduate Visa applications has been decreased from three years to one year.

Here is an overview of the English language requirement changes: 

  • Temporary Graduate visa will increase from IELTS (or equivalent) 6.0 to 6.5 
  • Student visa will increase from IELTS (or equivalent) 5.5 to 6.0
  • ELICOS will increase from IELTS (or equivalent) 4.5 to 5.0
  • University foundation or pathway programs that deliver English language training will be an IELTS (or equivalent) 5.5  

With changes in rules, all applicants must provide evidence that they have completed an English language test no more than one year immediately before the date of the visa application.

This “genuine student” test is expected to crack down on international students coming to Australia primarily to work rather than study.

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The government will also have enhanced powers to suspend high-risk education providers, “ghost colleges” or “international student visa factories”, from recruiting international students.

Image: Skills and Training Minister Brendan O’Connor (Source: X)

Skills and Training Minister Brendan O’Connor said there was no place for dodgy providers:

“We put a premium on ensuring students — international and domestic — feel safe and welcome while they learn skills in our high-quality VET sector. Increased powers for the regulator and tougher penalties will deter dodgy providers who currently see fines as a risk worth taking or merely a ‘cost of doing business.'”

The government is aiming to establish a clear pathway for temporary visa holders, decrease the number of non-genuine students, and ensure that international students contribute to addressing Australia’s skills shortages.

These changes will apply to all Student and Temporary Graduate visa applications lodged on and after 23 March 2024.

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