New figures show that the tax office has approved more than 2300 international students to buy properties in Australia.
Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil will this week reveal a clampdown in response to reports finding widespread abuses of the student visa system, including by organised crime.
Data obtained by The New Daily under freedom-of-information laws shows the ATO has approved 2367 international students’ applications to buy property since the 2016 fiscal year when immigration and foreign investment rules were overhauled.
The number of international students in Australia has reached a record high, amid a reported 60 per cent annual increase in enrolment numbers.
In July, 654,870 people in Australia were on temporary student visas and 197,000 on temporary graduate visas.
This week’s expected crackdown comes after reports about bogus applications and a significant increase in applications to study at newly established or small vocational colleges.
Education Minister Jason Clare said the changes aim to close loopholes that have allowed international students to work in Australia without actually studying.
Industry experts have recently noted international students are increasingly entering the property market.
Sydney real estate agent Peter Li recently told the ABC his foreign student clients typically “will secure the property before they even have the actual permanent residency 100 per cent granted, just so that they have a sense of security”.
The leading property portal for Chinese property investors, Juwai, welcomed a 2016 visa rule change, claiming that most inquiries about Australia came from students or students’ parents.
Regulations prohibit foreign investors from purchasing existing homes; they can only purchase newly built housing stock.
Temporary visa holders such as students are exempt.
Following 2016 changes, including a big-bank ban on mortgages to foreign buyers without local incomes and new levies, the value of residential property purchases by foreign buyers fell sharply.
Last financial year, purchases reached $7.9 billion across 6576 transactions.
Demand from Chinese buyers grew by 40 per cent to $3.4 billion in the 2022-23 financial year.
In 2021-22, there were 588,176 sales of residential dwellings in Australia, of which less than 1 per cent went to overseas buyers.
The government’s response this week will involve tackling one of Australia’s largest sources of export revenue.
Educational revenue from international students reached $21.3 billion in the first six months of this year.
“Where there are shonks or dodgy operators trying to exploit students and make money out of it, it’s important that we crack down on this fast to protect the integrity of the system,” Clare said.
In a joint statement in September, O’Neil, Clare and Skills Minister Brendan O’Connor said they were considering suspending educational institutions with high rates of student visa refusals.
Clare said changes had already been implemented to crack down on potential visa rorting by banning international students from enrolling in two courses at once.
Rebounding international student numbers account for about 50 per cent of this year’s expected migration intake of 400,000.
O’Neil commissioned a review into the immigration system conducted by former Victoria Police Commissioner Christine Nixon following reports of human trafficking and exploitation within the visa system.
“The party is over. The rorts and loopholes that have plagued this system will be shut down,” O’Neil said.
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