Visa denials, high cost of living push international students to abandon their ‘Australia dream’

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jul5,2024
  • The number of student visa applications approved by the Australian Department of Home Affairs continues to decline.
  • Housing in several Australian cities among the most unaffordable in the world, according to a new report.
  • The fee for international students to apply to study in Australia has risen to $1,600 from $710 this financial year.
Amanda Marques arrived in Sydney from São Paulo, Brazil, in 2023 with the goal of studying English, while considering possibilities for staying in Australia.
Marques said she went through a migration agency that sold her an image of the country that ultimately “did not match reality”.

“The agency said it would be super-easy, that they would help me with housing when I arrived and that I would just take a barista course and everything would be fine,” she told SBS Portuguese.

But when I arrived here, I realised that international student agencies are more interested in selling their services, than in providing accurate information.

Amanda Marques

Now she said she was prepared to give up her “Australian dream”, amid new government migration policies and the rising cost of living.


More than 35 per cent of student visa applications from July 2023 to May 2024 were denied, up from 3 per cent in 2022-2023. Source: Getty / Getty Images/urbazon

Data from the Department of Home Affairs shows that 441,613 student visas were lodged from July 2023 to May 2024, with 289,509 granted.

More than 35 per cent of student visa applications from this period were denied, up from 3 per cent in 2022-2023.

Marques, who arrived in Australia with a degree in administration and work experience as a nanny and school assistant, said she feared changes to the

Most people I know are in this situation, struggling to survive with the high cost of living and, at the same time, worried about renewing their visa with these new migration policies.

Amanda Marques

In the first semester of 2024, when Marques needed to renew her student visa, she said her migration agency had advised her to undertake vocational education and training (VET) in aged care, as it was an industry facing critical shortages.
“The agency argued that after obtaining my permanent residency, I would no longer need to work in this field. But I thought that this was not the right thing to do; if the country needed it, it’s because there is demand,” she said.
Even though the course had no relation to her previous career, Marques said she was convinced.
A few months after applying for a student visa, Marques received news that her visa had been denied.
She said the reason given was that the course indicated in the application did not match her previous qualifications.

Marques said the agency suggested she appeal the decision, but she began to question the process.

The agency was requesting a lot of money to carry out the appeal.

Amanda Marques

“I started to question whether this whole process was worth it for a student visa in a field I didn’t want to pursue. So, I decided to return to Brazil,” she said.

Narrowing the doors for international students

The federal government has committed to the next three years, requiring the number of students arriving in the country to fall to around 95,000 — 40 per cent below pre-pandemic numbers.
On the other hand, the Opposition presented an even lower number, of 160,000, if its leader Peter Dutton is elected.
In an interview with the , Abul Rizvi, former deputy secretary of the Department of Immigration, said that based on the Opposition’s stance, only 10,000 to 15,000 new student visas could be granted annually.
“Students are the biggest contributors to the net migration,” Rizvi said.
Another change that directly impacts international students is the increase in from 1 July.

The cost for overseas students to apply to study in Australia more than doubled, from $710 to $1,600.

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International education is one of Australia’s largest export industries and was worth $36.4 billion to the economy in the 2022-23 financial year.

International student visa fees are now about 10 times higher than countries such as the US and Canada.

Based on her experience, Marques warned against the idea of “doing anything to get a visa”, which she said may lead people to engage in dubious practices.

There were even groups created by agencies encouraging people to take courses unrelated to their career, promising an easy path to residency.

Amanda Marques

She pointed out that not all agencies were like this and that some offered a transparent analysis for each case.

“People need to distinguish what is right from what is wrong, instead of simply following what everyone is doing,” Marques said.

Cost of living and reduced opportunities

Australian cities have dominated global housing unaffordability rankings recently.
The Chapman University Frontier Centre for Public Policy’s report analysed housing affordability for middle incomes in 94 major markets across eight countries — Australia, Canada, China, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK and the US.

The report uses what it calls the median multiple — a ratio between median incomes and average house prices — to assign a numerical value to a city’s unaffordability.

A graphic depicting the most unaffordable cities by median multiple

The most unaffordable cities by median multiple. Source: SBS

Sydney came second in the ranking of the most expensive cities in which to live in the world, with an average housing price of $1.3 million.

Other Australian cities on the list are Melbourne in 9th, Adelaide in 14th and Brisbane in 15th. Perth came in 50th place.

Gabriela Bertotti, who came to Melbourne to study English, also decided to return to Brazil due to the high costs of living in Australia and bureaucracy associated with a nursing course.

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International student Gabriela Bertotti decided to leave Australia. Credit: Supplied

“In addition to the very high prices for university education, which are three times more expensive for international students than for nationals, people who had studied nursing in Brazil, the United States, even in Europe, who were taking the tests requested by universities or applying for visas, they are being turned down too,” she said.

“For me, returning to Brazil seems to be the best option.”
Claudio Garzini is a migration agent with more than 10 years experience in Australia.

He said students choosing to pursue courses with a “lower academic standard” than they already had in their country of origin, often due to prohibitive study costs, was leading to higher visa rejection rates.


Claudio Garzini is a registered migration agent with over 10 years of experience. Credit: Supplied

“Applicants with a bachelor’s degree are expected to pursue higher qualifications, but many pursue lower-level courses, which is seen as an attempt to remain in Australia without a clear qualification purpose in their careers,” he said.

Universities oppose proposed international students cap

In an , Universities Australia chief executive Luke Sheehy expressed opposition to the proposed cap on international students.

“The current political approach to international education is anything but cohesive — it is political chaos,” Sheehy said.

University Graduates

Some say the government’s proposed cap on international student intake will cause cuts to research funding and the loss of up to 4,500 jobs at universities. Source: Press Association

“The latest crackdown aims to defuse an electoral battle over the argument that migration is the cause of the housing crisis.”

Sheehy emphasised how much international students contributed to the country’s economy.
According to the in 2022-23, international education was worth $36.4 billion to the Australian economy.
He argued that the consequences of the proposed cap would be cuts to research funding and the loss of up to 4,500 jobs at universities.
“Is now really the time to water down a major export industry?” Sheehy asked.
also published a statement saying it “strongly opposes” the Australian government’s proposed international student caps, which it says “will wreak havoc on the sector, harm Australia’s reputation with international students, and lead to significant budget cuts that will affect Australian students and result in job losses”.
To listen to the full interviews click ‘play’ on this page, or listen on the SBS Portuguese profile on your favourite podcast platform.
Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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