As a part of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) discussion between India and Australia, both countries are exploring the possibility of allowing Indian students to extend their visas for an additional period of three to five years.
Dan Tehan, Australian Trade Minister, is currently in India to fast-track negotiations for a proposed FTA that aims to promote economic ties between the two countries and showcase Australia as a premium destination for students and tourists alike.
According to reports, easier visa access for Indian students and professionals in Australia is a key demand of New Delhi. The number of Indian international students going to Australia fell by 62% in the 12 months to September 2021 compared to 2019. In contrast, new Indian international students to the UK more than doubled, jumping by 174%.
This fall in numbers could have been related to the ban on Indian arrivals in Australia in late April 2021, which required anyone, including Australians, who had been in India in the previous two weeks and making an attempt to return to Australia, face jail time and large fines of up to AU$66,000.
According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald, the Indian student market was worth 6.6 Australian billion dollars to the country’s economy in the 2019-20 financial year, second only to China as the top source country of international students studying in Australia. The loss in student numbers was consequently having an impact.
Both sides have agreed to conclude a long-pending FTA, officially dubbed as Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), by the end of 2022.
“Goyal and I have been in regular contact over the Christmas/New Year period because we are both committed to concluding an interim free trade agreement,” Dan Tehan was quoted in the statement.
The statement also reiterated that the trade pact could be a “potential game-changer” in opening Australia and India and boosting post-Covid economic recovery.
“Australia and India are important trading partners, and we share a strong desire to further enhance our bilateral trade relationship,” Mr Tehan said.
Tehan would also sign a memorandum of understanding on behalf of the Australian government with the Indian government to promote further travel and tourism between the countries. The bilateral trade between the nations stood at USD 12.3 billion in 2020-21 as against USD 12.63 billion in 2019-20. The trade gap is in favour of Australia.