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More than 55,000 foreign student visas cancelled in four-year period

Melbourne is popular with overseas students. Courtesy: BBC

Tens of thousands of foreign student visas have been cancelled in recent years on grounds including bad character and fraud.

Overseas students are a major contributor to net overseas migration to Australia, with more than 374,000 visas approved in 2016-17.

The figure was 278,000 in 2010-11.

Department of Home Affairs figures reveal that more than 55,000 student visas were cancelled in the four years from 2013-14 on grounds such as bad character, breaching work rules and suspected fraud.

This comprised of 42,025 visas cancelled offshore and 13,416 onshore.

The department said that the number of cancellations was broadly linked to the number of foreign students in Australia during certain years.

“The increase in offshore cancellations through 2014-15 (7850) and 2015-16 (16,885) coincides with a new business model deployed by the department to reduce the time frame for cancellation decisions,” it said.

The number of cancellations for 2017-18, as of December 31, 2018, was 7519.

Migration expert Dr Bob Birrell, from the Australian Population Research Institute, said that the scale of the overseas student market was affecting entry-level jobs prospects for young Australians and also competition for housing.

“It is the biggest factor driving net overseas migration to Australia,” he said.

Dr Birrell said there had been pressure on migration authorities in the past to go soft on transgressions by foreign students.

“But it’s obviously evident from these cancellation figures they still are taking action against students if education institutions actually report it to them,” he said.

Another significant migration stream is people coming here as partners or spouses of Australians.

For some years the annual partner program has been capped at 47,825 places out of a total 190,000 visas issued for permanent migrants.

There is also a massive pipeline of applications for partner visas.

In 2014-15, Victoria absorbed 12,316 foreign partners, with China, India and Vietnam the biggest source nations.

The figures for later years are not publicly available.

There were 1350 cancellations of partner visas from 2013-14 to 2016-17.