Like many OECD countries, Australia has, over the last 15 years, experimented with ‘the education–migration nexus’: policy frameworks that create pathways for international students to become skilled migrants. This article draws on student-migrant narratives to highlight some key aspects of migrant experience within the education–migration nexus, most notably extended periods of temporary status and the frequent need to adapt life and education goals around migration policy changes. The analysis finds that the uncertainty and precariousness inherent in the student-to-migrant process create significant tensions in the daily lives of most student-migrants, both as individuals and as members of transnational families with long-term collective migration strategies. Yet, uncertainty also resulted in some strategic responses to mitigate risk and attempts to transform waiting times into opportunities. We also argue that student-migrants represent a ‘middling’ experience of migration. Although they have access to various resources as educated and skilled migrants, they are far from experiencing a true form of elite and mobile ‘flexible citizenship’.