Hammer drops on fraudulent international student visas


The latest monthly arrivals and departures data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) suggests that Australia’s net overseas migration (NOM) has passed its peak; although we won’t know officially until the quarterly data drops over coming months.

As shown in the next chart from CBA, monthly net arrivals are finally falling from record highs:

NOM vs net arrivals

This decline is being driven by falling net student visa arrivals:

Net arrivals by visa type

This reflects both slowing arrivals as well as rising departures:

Student visa arrivals and departures

New figures from the Department of Home Affairs reveal that the number of visas granted to overseas students declined to 139,132 in the first half of the financial year, with almost 20% of applications rejected.

“The department has seen increasing levels of integrity concerns across the student visa program”, a Department of Home Affairs spokeswoman said.

“The department received higher levels of fraudulent documents, fraud related to English language testing, non-genuine claims and non-genuine subsequent marriages being presented in student visa applications”.


“The department will refuse a visa application to non-genuine applicants who do not meet regulatory requirements and where fraud is present”, she said.

Should the approval rate continue in the second half of the financial year, it would mean 91,715 fewer overseas students will arrive in 2023-24 when compared to the previous year.

Commenting on the figures, International Education Association of Australia CEO Phil Honeywood says they reflect the federal government’s crackdown on spurious visa applications from people who are more interested in work rights than study.

“The focus has been on winding back a large number of diploma-level vocational students doing courses such as diploma of leadership, and instead the primary focus is on students who can add skills to the Australian economy”, he said.


The below chart from Justin Fabo at Antipodean Macro shows that “the flow of international students to Australia is slowing as evidenced by a decline in student visa grants”:

Student visa grants

The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Update forecast NOM of 375,000 in 2023-24, down from the record high 518,000 recorded in 2022-23:

NOM projection

While this 375,000 figure would still be the second highest NOM in Australia’s history, it should at least reduce pressure on the nation’s rental market; although, this will also depend on the extent to which housing construction declines alongside the moderation in immigration.

About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.