New student visa rules set to boost property markets: Pete Wargent

Pete WargentJune 6, 20160 min read
I recently visited the wildlife sanctuary at Currumbin, and it occurred to me that without the scores of Chinese visitors in attendance on the day, the place would have been four-fifths empty!
As it was the attraction was absolutely packed to the rafters with camera-toting tourists. 
It's a trend that is being reflected right across Australia, with the number of visitors from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong continuing to multiply at a record pace.

That's just one part of the Asian century story for Australasia.

Meanwhile, a recently released report on global migration of the super-wealthy found that the two most popular cities in the world for net inflow of millionaires in 2015 were Sydney (4,000) and Melbourne (3,000). Australia is becoming a playground for wealthy Asians.

As noted in these pages many months ago, though, perhaps the most significant change for Australia will be the record boom in international students, since this will in turn lead to higher permanent residency uptake.

The government has announced that from 1 July 2016 - just a few weeks away - that there will be a series of important changes to the student visa programme.

There will now only be one visa class only for international students, subclass 500, and under the new streamlined process three quarters of applications will be waved through in less than one month.

International students with the requisite funds or income and English language skills will be able to apply for the new visa, including Primary School student applicants (from the age 6 or above) and their guardians or family members.

This represents a very significant shift in policy.

The rules have also been relaxed with regards to course duration and immigration risk assessment.

As a result of the new changes, there could potentially be a huge increase in the number of Primary School age Chinese students and their guardians, with many ultimately going on to become Australian citizens.

With a combined population of about 2.7 billion or so, there is boundless potential for uptake from China and India in particular.
Immigration eases
The latest ABS Overseas Arrivals and Departures figures to April 2016 rolling annual number of net permanent and long arrivals eased to +270,200, the lowest number since May 2007. 

The impact of this will mainly be felt in regional Australia and in resources regions, with population growth in the largest cities continuing to expand at around 80,000 to 90,000 per annum. 
Some 59 percent of permanent settlers hailed from Asia in the year to April, with the volumes arriving from New Zealand and Britain having slowed markedly.

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Rebalancing continues
The lower dollar continues to drive tourist and other short term arrivals to record highs, with the 7.69 million short term arrivals over the past year being a punchy 9 per cent increase from April 2015.

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Most notably, the number of visitors from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong continues to multiply at an extraordinary rate, up by a tub-thumping 21.2 per cent over the year to 1.49 million. The compounding effect of such a growth rate implies a doubling of that number within 3.5 years. Incredible stuff.

Most short term arrivals come for holidays (3.79 million), but more than 2 million now cite their main reason for travel as being visiting friends and family, thereby reinforcing the Asian connections.

After a rare blip last month, the number of education arrivals is now on the march again, with the 489,900 arrivals over the past year representing a romping increase of 17 per cent.

And thanks to the streamlining of visa rules from 1 July 2016 the number of international students will likely begin to flow freely more or less in perpetuity.

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This is another trend which is largely driven by China and India, and it is also heavily focussed upon the largest capital cities. 
The wrap
The significance of the unprecedented boom in Chinese tourism and students seems largely to be lost in the popular narrative, which continues to discuss economic malaise when the economy is growing at a faster pace than even the most bullish of commentators expected (an annualised pace of 3.6 per cent in the last six months reported).

It is true that net exports are leading growth, and certainly there has been concentration risk aplenty, but the international trade data confirmed that the pace of education, tourism and other services exports to China and other parts of Asia is accelerating.

No doubt there will be the usual shrill complaints from the anti-immigration lobby about the streamlining of entry rules for international students, but overall this should be be a material boost for the Australian economy - and indeed for the beleaguered new apartment market. 

PETE WARGENT is the co-founder of AllenWargent property buyers (London, Sydney) and a best-selling author and blogger.

His latest book is Four Green Houses and a Red Hotel.


Pete Wargent

Pete Wargent is the co-founder of, offering affordable homebuying assistance to all Australians, and a best-selling author and blogger.
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