Export revenues could be hit by a new $700 levy on visitors applying for a visa onshore, in a move blasted as a ‘revenue grab’.

The education sector has warned that it will hit would-be students wanting to go on to study English or a vocational or undergraduate course. Reports say many have already have held a visa that was granted to them while they were here, such as a previous student or tourist visa, the charge would increase the cost of a subsequent student visa from $535 to $1235.

The Federal Government announced the new visa pricing regime in late 2011, which has now come in to effect. It should raise $613 million over four years, but experts and industry representatives are concerned what impact it will have on students staying on Australian shores.

In the nine months to March 31, some 44,528 former student visa holders moved on to a tourist or another student visa. These numbers don't indicate how many were applying onshore for a second time and so would be subject to the new fee, head of English language college peak body English Australia Sue  Blundell said they weren't trivial numbers, “these student flows are important to the international education and tourism industries, and are now threatened by the new punitive visa regime."

TAFE Directors Australia called the new fee a "disaster." TDA director Peter Holder said "it puts us at a distinct disadvantage with other countries."

Phil Honeywood, executive director of the International Education Association of Australia said the sector already suffers from a higher Australian dollar and comparatively high visa fees, and that the latest charge "is another impediment to international students seeing Australia as a competitive destination.'"