Barista (Photo Credit: International Student)

Australia to cap working hours for students from July 2023

The Australian Government has announced that the student visa work hours’ restrictions which had been temporarily relaxed from January 2022 to meet a workers’ shortage will end on 30 June 2023.

Before January 2022 those on student visas were not allowed to work more than 20 hours a week or 40 hours a fortnight and those doing so would be violating the terms of their visa and Australian laws.

However, due to the tremendous labour shortage faced by Australia due to the pandemic, it lifted this rule temporarily which effectively meant that students could work unlimited hours.

Bhutan’s Ambassador to Australia, Sonam Tobgay, confirmed that he had heard the same too in terms of working hours.

Australia was always an attractive destination for Bhutanese students, but what made it doubly so from January 2022 was the lifting of the 20 hours per week work hours’ restrictions.

The re-imposition of the working hours in another six months or so will impact those Bhutanese students who had paid their first semester fees and planned to pay the other semesters by working there. They will now have to factor in limited working hours from July 2023 onwards and its impact on their income.

The Home Affairs Department in an announcement said after the 30 June 2023, the number of hours a Student visa holder will be allowed to work will again be capped. It said the number of hours a Student visa holder works, ensures that Students focus on obtaining a quality Australian education and qualification.

It is not clear if the working hours will be moved back to 20 hours a week or there will be some change.

A statement from the Australian government said, “From July 2023, the number of working hours for international students will be capped again. The number of hours will be revised with a view to finding the right balance between work and study.”

While the Australia government’s decision to relax working hours had been welcomed by Australian businesses and also international students, it had come under some criticism from some stakeholders in Australia’s education sector who felt it may lower the standards and reputation of Australia as a quality education destination, as students focused more on work.

However, everything is not bad news as the Australian government also announced that it will soon announce a list of select courses whose students can stay on longer then before in Australia after graduation. These courses are likely to be in the medical field like nursing or technical ones like IT, Engineering etc.

Currently those who graduate with a Bachelors Degree can stay 2 years more, but it would be made for 4 years for these courses, for Masters the duration to stay would increase from 3 to 5 years and for PhD from 4 to 6 years.

Once the working cap is back on then three sections of the Migration Act 1958 currently kept on abeyance would become activated again.

Section 116(1)(b) gives the power to cancel a visa if its holder has not complied with a condition of the visa.

Section 235 of the Act is about offences in relation to work if the temporary visa held by a non-citizen is subject to a prescribed condition restricting the work that the non-citizen may do in Australia; and if the non-citizen contravenes that condition.

Section 245AC is about allowing a lawful non-citizen to work in breach of a work-related condition.

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