By Renju Jose

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia said on Monday it had more than doubled the visa fee for international students, the latest move by the government to rein in record migration that has intensified pressure on an already tight housing market.

From July 1, the international student visa fee has risen to A$1,600 ($1,068) from A$710, while visitor visa holders and students with temporary graduate visas are banned from applying onshore for a student visa.

“The changes coming into force today will help restore integrity to our international education system, and create a migration system which is fairer, smaller and better able to deliver for Australia,” Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said in a statement.

Official data released in March showed net immigration rose 60% to a record 548,800 people in the year to Sept. 30, 2023.

The rise in fees makes applying for a student visa for Australia far more expensive than in competing countries like the U.S. and Canada, where they cost about $185 and C$150 ($110) respectively.

The government said it was also closing loopholes in visa rules that allowed foreign students to continuously extend their stay in Australia, after the number of students on a second or subsequent student visa spiked by over 30% to more than 150,000 in 2022–23.

The latest move follows a raft of actions since late last year to tighten the student visa rules as the lifting of COVID-19 curbs in 2022 boosted annual migration to record levels.

English language requirements were tightened in March, while the amount of savings international students need to get a visa was raised in May to A$29,710 ($19,823) from A$24,505, the second increase in about seven months.

Universities Australia CEO Luke Sheehy said the government’s continued policy pressure on the sector would put the country’s position of strength at risk.

“This is not good for our economy or our universities, both of which rely heavily on international student fees,” Sheehy said in an emailed response.

International education is one of Australia’s largest export industries and was worth A$36.4 billion to the economy in the 2022-2023 financial year.

($1 = 1.4988 Australian dollars)

($1 = 1.3664 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Jamie Freed)

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