Australia wants international students to stay and work after graduation. They find it difficult for 4 reasons

COVID-19 did many things to the socio-economic landscape of Australia, one of which was droves of international students returning to their home country, with no idea of when they may return. As the world has moved on and new transit procedures are in place, international students are finally starting to return to Australia.

2023 is currently predicted to have the highest number of overseas students the country has seen to date. The Albanese government has welcomed this prospect with open arms but is still struggling to keep international students in Australia, to help boost the domestic workforce. While many proposed policies are floating around to try and convince international students to stay, many of them are not working. One suggestion from the Education Minister Jason Clare was to allow those studying for bachelor’s degrees to stay for four years, up from two. Minister Clare hopes such a policy would motivate students to join a skilled labor industry, many of which are currently struggling with low workforce numbers.

However, the ability to keep international student graduates in Australia, has always been a problem, but why?

A study by Deakin University in 2020 identified that many employers are hesitant to hire international graduates on temporary visas as they are concerned with the longevity of their employment. Many employers have favored permanent residents or Australian citizens, over temporary visa holders, when given the choice. From the employer’s perspective, they do not want to invest money into an individual who may not stay in Australia. Employers have also confessed that they believe international graduates would take longer to understand the Australian workplace culture and may require more hands-on training.

COVID-19 pushed both international and domestic graduates to learn a majority of their degrees online. This also meant that off-campus presence at networking events, internships and practical placements was extremely limited in certain areas of study. As such, a flock of international students graduated with limited work experience opportunities and exposure to Australian workplaces. When combined with the findings of the Deakin Report discussed above, this has led international graduates to a sticky place of limbo when it comes to convincing an employer to favor their employment over domestic students’ employment.

The combination of the above factors has led to one-third of international students failing to secure a post-study position. This is shocking considering Australia is currently experiencing record-low unemployment rates. However, these figures have been consistent for a few years now; in 2021 only 43% of international graduates held a full-time role after finishing their undergraduate degree, compared to 68.9% of domestic graduates finding a role.

In all, this has caused a trove of highly qualified students from a range of backgrounds, being pushed into jobs that have nothing to do with their field of study, so that they can meet the cost-of-living pressures. With little to no access to government-subsidized services such as Medicare and Centrelink, the quality of life they experience in Australia is much less compared to domestic students.

It is clear why International Students feel it is in their best interest to return to their home country. It is also why simply policy changes such as those suggested by Minister Clare are not sufficient. These students have the potential to advance and change the Australian workplace. Yet, due to employers’ uneducated hesitancy and fear of cultural shift, as well as, Australian laws impacting international students’ access to health care and welfare assistance, they have no choice but to return home. We are hoping to see changes across the board from a range of Ministers but will have to wait and see.


Talk to the migration team at No Borders Law Group today.

Email: [email protected]

Tel:  +61 7 3876 4000


Book a free consultation today and let us help you find a way forward.