International Students in Australia – Overview for Employers
The number of international students continues to grow strongly, and there are now over 617,000 of them in the country.International students tend to be highly skilled and motivated, and they are a large potential workforce for employers. This article looks at the overall trends for international students in Australia and tips for employers looking to hire them.
Overall Number of Student Visa Holders
There were 617,000 international students in Australia in March 2019, compared to 334,000 in March 2012.As a percentage of the total number of temporary residents in Australia, they have moved from 21% in 2012 to 27% in 2019. The growth in international student numbers accounted for over 50% of the increase in the number of temporary residents in Australia from 2012 to 2019, and hence growth in Net Overseas Migration (NOM) has largely been driven by international students.
Growth in International Student Numbers in Australia
|Temp Grad 485||28||53||81|
|Other Temp Res||49||18||67|
|Employer Sponsored (457/TSS)||160||-6||154|
Students by Educational Category
Students can obtain visas to study in a range of different courses – all the way from school study, through to English language tuition, vocational education (TAFE and private colleges) and higher education (bachelor and higher degrees).Most of the recent growth has been in higher education, with university studies now representing some 62% of students now studying in this sector. Vocational students are the next largest group, representing 23% of students – unchanged since 2012.
International Students by Sector
|Higher Education Sector||198,468||182,601||381,069||62%|
|Vocational Education and Training Sector||80,151||60,523||140,674||23%|
|Postgraduate Research Sector||19,702||6,846||26,548||4%|
|Independent ELICOS Sector||14,920||11,087||26,007||4%|
|Foreign Affairs or Defence Sector||6,504||-1,512||4,992||1%|
Students by Area of Study
A breakdown of students by area of study is available for Higher Education, the most popular sector.Overall, there are around 1.5 million students enrolled in higher education studies as of 2017, 431,000 of whom were international students (29%). However, in certain courses, the number of international students approaches or exceeds the number of domestic students. Examples include:
- Management and Commerce
- Engineering and Related Technologies
- Information Technology
- Non-Award (foundation courses for commencement of university studies usually)
|Area of Study||Domestic||International||Total||% International|
|Management and Commerce||187,981||201,573||389,554||52%|
|Engineering and Related Technologies||66,520||48,775||115,295||42%|
|Society and Culture||288,990||33,519||322,509||10%|
|Natural and Physical Sciences||101,204||23,121||124,325||19%|
|Architecture and Building||25,720||9,944||35,664||28%|
|Agriculture Environmental and Related Studies||13,840||4,546||18,386||25%|
|Mixed Field Programs||10,823||1,644||12,467||13%|
|Food Hospitality and Personal Services||2,776||240||3,016||8%|
Students by Nationality
When looking at students by nationality, China is the largest single source country for international students, representing almost 30% of the total.However, there are other countries which have been growing more quickly. In the top 10 countries as of May 2019, the following countries have more than doubled their numbers since December 2012:
International Students by Nationality
Work Rights for Student Visa Holders
Most international students have work rights in Australia. In most cases, they can work for 40 hours per fortnight during semester. However, students can work time in semester break, and once they have completed their studies. Students doing a masters by research or a PhD can work full time during their studies.Spouses in Australia as a dependent of an international student also have work rights in general. They can usually work for 40 hours per fortnight (whether during semester or not). However, if the student is doing a Masters or PhD, the spouse is usually able to work full time. Some tips for employers looking at hiring international students:
1. Work rights only start on commencement of course
Prior to this, students cannot work in Australia
2. Get a copy of the ECoE
The student’s visa condition does not tell you how many hours the student can work per fortnight – this depends on the type of course being undertaken.The ECoE or “Electronic Confirmation of Enrollment” will confirm the type of course and hence work rights.
3. Tracking hours is critical during semester
Employers should ensure that the student is not scheduled to work for more than 40 hours per fortnight during semester in general.
4. Watch for cancellations or status change
Student visas may be cancelled if the student does not attend classes or breaches their work condition.Students may transfer onto a less favourable visa in terms of work rights – for instance onto a Working Holiday Visa which allows them to only work for 6 months with the employer or a visitor visa which has no work rights.
5. Track visa expiry
Employers should ensure that the student still has a visa with work rights after expiry of their student visa.
6. Completion of Studies
After completion of course, many students may move onto a graduate temporary visa or a bridging visa with work rights
International students form a very large group of highly skilled workers in Australia.However, employers should put appropriate processes in place to ensure that international students are not working in breach of visa conditions. If you would like to discuss putting into place a suitable process, please contact us.