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Unrestricted Work Rights For Student Visa Holders to End on 30 June 2023

Australia is facing unprecedented skills shortages, according to a new National Skills Commission report. Nearly a third of all Australian sectors are confronting serious labour shortfalls. Of the 20 largest employing occupations, more than half face serious shortages. To address these shortages, there is currently temporary relaxation of student visa work limits to all sectors of the economy. However, this provision will change for student visa holders in June 2023.

Until 30 June 2023, all student visa holders as well as secondary visa holders are able to work more than 40 hours a fortnight in any sector of the economy. They can also work before their course of study commences. In addition to unrestricted work rights, the Australian Government will increase the duration of post-study work rights of international students. Their main goal is to strengthen the pipeline of skilled labour.

Post-study work rights for select degrees in areas of verified skill shortages will be increased from:

  • Two years to four years for select Bachelor’s degrees
  • Three years to five years for select Masters degrees
  • Four years to six years for select PhDs

Helping the Economy

Minister for Home Affairs, Claire O’Neil, announced the changes in early September. She explained, “The outcomes from the Jobs and Skills Summit are geared towards supporting international education and giving the students who earn degrees in Australia the chance to contribute to the productivity of our economy.​”

Students are grateful for the opportunity to remain in Australia for a longer period of time after graduation. The rights apply to current students set to graduate in this financial year. However, many expect the rule to be extended over the coming years. In the past, finding graduate roles has been difficult for international students because employers see them as temporary workers. The new extensions are likely to provide employers with a reason to invest in the training of international students. The changes are also a considerable benefit for the Australian economy. They provide a wider selection of skilled applicants for available roles.

What Students Need to Know

Unrestricted work hours for international students are a temporary adjustment. After 30 June 2023, the number of hours a student visa holder will be allowed to work will again be capped. Limiting the number of hours a student visa holder works ensures that students focus on obtaining a quality Australian education and qualification. Even as students take advantage of these extended work opportunities, they must make sure they are aware of any changes to visa conditions, including work rights.

Students are also responsible for continuing to balance study and work commitments even with this extra flexibility. To remain compliant with their student visa, students must still:

  • Maintain their course enrolment.
  • Ensure satisfactory course attendance.
  • Ensure satisfactory course progress.

Students who cancel their enrolment, stop attending classes, or fail to meet satisfactory course progress may be in breach of visa conditions. In turn, they are at risk of visa cancellation.

Information for Employers

Employers must continue to follow Australian workplace law. Overseas workers, including international students, have the same rights under Australian workplace law as all other employees.

This temporary change enables employers to roster students without the need to ensure a maximum of 40 hours per fortnight is not exceeded. While these measures are in place, the Department of Home Affairs and Australian Border Force will:

  • Not cancel the visas of students who work more than 40 hours each fortnight to support your organisation.
  • Not refer student visa holders for investigation of any potential offence relating to hours worked by a student visa holder in breach of their visa conditions.
  • Not refer employers or relevant third-party labour hire companies for investigation of any potential offence relating to the allowance of a student visa holder to work in breach of their visa conditions.

Maintaining Compliance Obligations While Employing Australian Visa Holders

Australia is taking impactful measures to counteract the prolonged effects of previous travel restrictions on both international students and employers who depend on these students to fill out the labour force. While these temporary changes are in place, employers can gain the advantage of employing students for longer hours. The changes also minimise the issues present as a result of the domestic skills shortage. Employers across many sectors welcome this opportunity as they have been hoping for such changes. However, employers are still responsible for ensuring that all overseas workers are complying with their respective visa requirements.

Avoid Exploitation

International students are often eager to work more hours. The increased earnings help to cover the costs of their accommodation and living wages. Yet, they’re still responsible for ensuring work doesn’t impact their educational performance. Students already spend as many as 40 hours a week at their studies. As such, there are some concerns that international students may face exploitation in the workplace. The responsibility of avoiding this issue will fall to employers. Employers are aware of the financial challenges international workers face. They believe the changes will help allow international students to be better utilised during their stay and allow them improved compensation for their efforts.

A key challenge will be to avoid wage exploitation of international students. Australian law requires that all workers in all industries (including international students) must be paid the Award Minimum wage for normal hours and all appropriate shift penalties and overtime. This means that employers will be responsible for keeping up with significant hourly changes for student visa holders and how their wages are affected. Furthermore, many employers employ overseas workers with other types of visas.

Ensure All Visa Requirements Are Met

Maintaining the different requirements for varied visa holders with rapidly changing conditions can be challenging. While providing unrestricted work rights offers a variety of advantages for both international students and the companies who employ them, it’s essential to ensure that all other visa requirements are met. Employers who knowingly or unknowingly employ international students beyond the boundaries of their student work visas can face significant fines and penalties. To avoid non-compliance, it’s a good idea to consider an automated solution.

With automated solutions offered by CheckWorkRights, you can maintain compliance and arrange smooth work operations when hiring and employing visa-holding employees. Schedule a demo to learn more about the features of our solution, explore use cases for your business, or to get pricing information.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is general only, and not to be taken as Migration Advice. Please be aware that visas and regulations are subject to frequent change. It is advisable to verify the latest information from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and or seek specific advice relating to your circumstances from a MARA Registered Migration Agent.