The sector has been lobbying for months for this and other changes to help stem what is forecast to be a $16 billion downturn over the next three years.

Currently, only overseas students who complete their studies within Australia are eligible for the visas which allow them to remain in the country for work for two years after graduation, however, the government is expected to announce that international students stranded overseas because of Covid-19 will still be granted work rights.

It is hoped the work visa changes will allow Australian universities to be more competitive with institutions in Canada in the UK which are expected to welcome large numbers of international students to arrive in time for start of the northern hemisphere academic year.

“We are working closely with universities to try and limit the impacts of Covid-19 on international students”

In June, the UK confirmed international students will remain eligible for post-study work rights upon graduation if they begin or continue their studies online in the 2020/21 academic year.

Canada announced “flexible” post-graduation work permit rules for international students studying at a distance.

Another measure being proposed is reductions or removal of visa renewal fees for students who have had to extend their stay in Australia due to being unable to return home.

While a formal announcement of the concessions is yet to be confirmed, federal minister for Education Dan Tehan told The PIE the government is “guided by the principle that students should not be disadvantaged by the impacts of Covid-19”.

“International students are important to Australia and we want to ensure we remain a preferred international study destination,” he said.

“We are working closely with universities to try and limit the impacts of Covid-19 on international students who are in Australia and those who can’t travel because our international borders are closed.”

In another blow for the industry plans to bring back thousands of students have been put on hold amidst a new outbreak of the virus.

It is understood universities in NSW had developed a plan with NSW state government to fly into Sydney 250 international students every day for 100 days, beginning later this month, while Victorian universities had a proposal to bring in 7000 international students.

However, a spike in cases in Victoria and increased restrictions on international flights into Sydney has seen those plans delayed.

The minister said his government is continuing to work with universities to facilitate the return of students from overseas, however he warned there is no fixed timeline.

“Preconditions to this happening include the reopening of internal state and territory borders within Australia, as well as the return to on-campus learning for the benefit of domestic students and the international students who are already in Australia.

“Robust health, quarantine, border and provider protocols also need to be in place.”

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