SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Australian government said on Saturday it will close effective immediately a loophole in its visa rules that allowed international students to enrol for cheaper vocational courses as soon as they arrive in the country.
International students can undertake additional courses along with their core studies called the "concurrent study" rule, which is designed to help prepare them for the job market through short courses.
But the government said recent investigations have identified that many were misusing this rule to ditch their university courses and permanently switch to cheaper courses.
There has been a sharp uptake in the use of the concurrent study, with 17,000 concurrent enrolments created in the first half of 2023 versus 10,500 for the same period in 2019 and 2022 combined, data showed.
"This change will work to stop predatory 'second' providers from enrolling students before they have studied for the required six months at their first provider," Education Minister Jason Clare said in a statement.
International education is Australia's fourth-largest export industry and maintaining the sector's integrity was critical for the country's economy, Clare said.
The government will also increase the amount of savings international students will need in order to get a student visa. From Oct. 1, foreign students will need to show evidence of A$24,505 ($15,693) in savings, up 17% increase on current levels, to take into account higher living expenses.
($1 = 1.5615 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Michael Perry)