“I feel betrayed”: Australia reduces the post-study work visa age

In 2022, data from the Group of Eight (Go8) and the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) showed that 40% of PhD students in Australia were aged 30 and above.

Starting July 1, the Australian government will reduce the maximum age for  post-higher education work stream visa applicants from 50 to 35.

Additionally, a rule that allowed a two-year extension for certain degrees will end. As a result, the maximum stay period for doctoral graduates will be cut from six years to three years. 

Vertika, aged 42, chose Australia to pursue an MBA because of its generous post-study work visa options that will help her gain more international experience in the field.

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She says: “With the new rule changes, I feel betrayed. I invested a significant amount of money and time in my higher education along with my son’s education here, and now it feels like the promise from the Australian government’s side has been broken. “

“My son doesn’t want to leave Australia, and this new policy adds to our uncertainty. They claim to need skilled people, yet this rule contradicts that by favouring younger graduates, which could lead to an oversupply of entry-level workers,” Vertika adds.

Dr Amit Sarwal, an expert in student mobility and migration, says “This policy change would drastically shrink the talent pool for future PhD candidates.”

“Most researchers seek to pursue a Masters by thesis or doctorate after acquiring valuable teaching or industry experience. Under this biased policy, these experienced professionals would be deemed “too old” to complete their PhD in Australia and remain to work post-graduation. This shift will undoubtedly plunge many researchers and their families into significant uncertainty, disrupting career paths and personal lives,” Dr Sarwal adds. 

In 2022, data from the Group of Eight (Go8) and the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) showed that 40% of PhD students in Australia were aged 30 and above.

The group is urging the Department of Home Affairs to consider exemptions and a transition period for the new rules. The Go8 and CAPA data also revealed that in 2022, there were 28,986 PhD research students enrolled in Go8 universities, with 51% being international students.

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In a statement released in February, Vicki Thomson, the Chief Executive of the Go8, said, “Admission into PhD programs requires extensive academic and often industry experience. Given that completing a PhD in Australia takes four years or longer depending on the research project, this change means many international graduates will not qualify under the new TGV age limit.”

“Exempting PhD students will have a minimal impact on Australia’s migration system in terms of overall numbers but will protect the future of Australia’s research and innovation leadership pipeline,” she added.

A spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told SBS that the goal of the new Migration Strategy is to “reduce migrant worker exploitation by reducing the number of migrants who are permanently temporary.

“The government is committed to repositioning the TGV so that it supports early career professionals to develop the relevant work history they will need to progress to a skilled visa or use their education and skills in the global jobs market.”

The spokesperson added: “Graduates who have relevant work histories but are no longer eligible for the TGV due to age restrictions will continue to have access to other temporary and migration pathways.”

This change is part of the new Migration Strategy announced in December last year. 

These changes do not apply to students from Hong Kong or British national overseas passport holders. 

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