Student visa Australia

Contents

On July 1st 2016, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) will introduce several key changes to Australian student visa program.After completion of the trial Streamlined Visa Processing Arrangements (SVP), a new visa framework will be introduced to encompass all sectors of international education. The Simplified Student Visa Framework (SSVF) will replace the current student visa system and replace the previous seven visa subclasses with a single Study Visa Subclass 500. As part of the new visa, a new combined country and immigration risk framework will be implemented to replace the Assessment Level framework and current Streamlined Visa Processing Arrangements. From that date, there will be mandatory online lodgement of all student visas and some simplified policy settings. Nevertheless, all the students who were awarded visas under the previous processes will need to comply with the terms of their visa conditions as before.

 What stays the same after 1st July:

  • GTE
  • Health Requirements
  • Visa Conditions
  • OSHC
  • Packaging arrangements

What no longer exists:

  • SVP and Assessment Level Framework
  • Academic Requirements evidence for visa grants
  • Exceptional circumstances for lodging onshore visa
  • Mandatory ‘no further stay’ condition on some student visas
  • Visa subclasses:
    • 570 – Independent ELICOS
    • 571 – Schools
    • 572 – Vocational Education and Training
    • 573 – Higher Education
    • 574 – Postgraduate Research
    • 575 – Non-award
    • 576 – AusAID and Defence

Student Visas: Basic Requirements and Processes

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) require a number of criteria to be met to provide with Australian student visa:

  • The student must be accepted into full-time study
  • The student must be a genuine temporary entrant
  • The student must meet health requirements
  • The student must be of a suitable age
  • The student must have a “good” character
  • The student must not have any debts to the Australian Government

In addition, if higher risk criteria apply:

  • The student must meet specified financial requirements
  • The student must demonstrate appropriate English language skills

Furthermore, if the student is under 18 years of age, they must have acceptable arrangements for their accommodation and welfare.

(The information apply to persons whose primary intention in coming to Australia is to study, and intend studying for more than 12 weeks. Students who wish to study a short course may be able to do so on other visa classes such as a tourist visa, which allows study for up to three months.)

Criteria Applied to all Student Visa Applications

Full-Time Study

Only students who have enrolled in full-time study can apply for a student visa.

Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE)

The key judgement the Department of Immigration and Border Protection makes in granting a student visa is whether the applicant is a genuine temporary entrant. That is, are they coming to Australia for genuine study purposes and have a realistic prospect of returning home once their studies have finished.

Some factors that the department considers as part of the GTE requirement include:

  • the circumstances in the applicant’s home country
  • the applicant’s potential circumstances in Australia
  • the applicant’s immigration history
  • the value of the course to the applicant’s future
  • any other matter relevant to the applicant’s intention to stay temporarily

Examples of how a student might be considered not to be a Genuine Temporary Entrant are:

GTE Considerations

Negative Examples

Circumstances in the applicant’s home country

Any matter, such as economic downturn , relevant to the applicant’s intention to stay temporarily

The applicant’s potential circumstances in Australia

The student has been in Australia for extensive periods of time, either without having successfully completed a qualification, or has moved education providers on numerous occasions.

The applicant’s immigration history

The student has had previous visa applications refused or visas cancelled.

The value of the course to the applicant’s future

The student is applying for a course that is not related to their career choice or previous qualifications

Any other matter that may be relevant

The student cannot explain how an Australian qualification will benefit them in the future

 Good Character

The student must make a declaration on the visa application form that they:

  • have not been involved in criminal activity, or
  • have not been previously deported.

See more detail here

Good Health

The health of overseas students studying in Australia is important and protects the Australian community from public health and safety risks, particularly active tuberculosis.

To meet the health requirement, a student must be free from a disease or condition that is:

  • considered to be a threat to public health or a danger to the Australian community
  • likely to result in significant health care and community service costs to the Australian community
  • likely to require health care and community services that would limit the access of Australian citizens and permanent residents to those services already in short supply.

 Health examinations

A student may be required to undergo health examinations as part of the visa application process, check the Health Examinations information on the DIBP website. There are specific requirements for arranging a health examination. An online system known as eMedical processes health examinations results electronically and these are forwarded to DIBP for assessment. If your student does require a medical examination outside of Australia, they must contact an Australian panel doctor in their country. A list of doctors is available from Immigration Panel Doctors www.border.gov.au/Lega/Lega/Help/immigration-panel-physicians

 Risk of Tuberculosis (TB)

The following table shows how the risk of Tuberculosis (TB) in different countries impacts on the likelihood of the necessity of a medical examination. DIBP may decide to request a health assessment regardless of the risk assessment detailed for TB below.

Country TB Risk Level

Student to stay in Australia less than 6 months

Student to stay in Australia more than 6 months

Low Risk

No health examination normally required

No health examination normally required

High Risk

No health examination normally required

Medical examination required

Chest X-ray required (if over 11years old)

Low Risk Countries

Albania; American Samoa; Andorra; Antigua and Barbuda; Argentina; Aruba; Australia; Austria;Bahamas; Bahrain; Barbados; Belgium; Belize; Bermuda; Bonaire; Bouvet Island; Bulgaria;Canada; Cayman Islands; Chile; Christmas Island; Cocos (Keeling) Islands; Cook Islands; Costa Rica; Croatia; Cuba; Curacao; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Dominica; Egypt; Estonia;Falkland Islands; Faroe Islands; Finland; France; French Polynesia; FYR Macedonia (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia); Germany; Gibraltar; Greece; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Heard and McDonald Islands; Hungary; Iceland; Iran; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Jamaica; Japan; Jordan; Kosovo; Kuwait; Lebanon; Liechtenstein; Luxembourg; Malta; Mauritius; Mexico; Monaco; Montenegro; Montserrat;  Netherlands; Netherlands Antilles; New Caledonia; New Zealand; Niue; Norfolk Island; Norway; Oman; Palestinian Authority; Pitcairn Island; Poland; Portugal; Puerto Rico;Reunion Island; Saint Eustatius & Saba; Saint Helena (Ascension and Tristan da Cunha); Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Martin (Dutch); Samoa; San Marino; Saudi Arabia; Serbia; Seychelles;  Slovakia; Slovenia; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; Spain; Svalbard & Jan Mayen; Sweden; Switzerland; Tokelau; Tonga; Trinidad and Tobago; Tunisia; Turkey; Turks and Caicos Islands; United Arab Emirates; United Kingdom (British citizen); United States of America; Uruguay; Vatican City; Virgin Islands (British); Virgin Islands (US);  Wallis and Fortuna Islands.

High Risk Countries

All those not in the above list

Health Insurance for Australian Student Visa

Health Insurance is compulsory and DIBP requires evidence of Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) to demonstrate that the student is insured. There are some exceptions (for example, students from Norway or Sweden who have acceptable health cover from their home country).

Often, the education provider will include the option to pay for health insurance in the enrolment fees. Then, their CoE will indicate that the student is insured, and nothing more is needed. International students have the right to choose their OSHC provider, although their institution may make specific recommendations to applicants because they have negotiated an arrangement with a particular insurer.

If the cost of health insurance is not included in enrolment fees, the student will need to obtain OSHC insurance and show DIBP the relevant documents.

A student (and any accompanying family members) must have OSHC for the proposed duration of their visa (e.g. if the student has a CoE for a 3 year Bachelor course, then they must have OSHC taken out for the 3 years at the time of visa application).

DIBP have further information on their website here and the Department of Health here

 No debts to the Australian Government

The student must not owe money to Australia, or have agreed repayment plans in place. A declaration on the application form will satisfy this requirement.

Risk Rating and Australian Student Visa Processing

All student visa applications follow a similar process, with students providing information in a common online form to DIBP which is then assessed in accordance with established guidelines. Experience has demonstrated that applications from different countries and for different providers show different rates of student fraud and visa cancellation.

DIBP have developed a risk framework called the “Streamlined Student Visa Framework (SSVF)” which provides a rating for each student application on the basis of the student’s country of citizenship and the provider with which they will undertake their principal course of study.

These risks are re-calculated each 6 month period on the basis of:

  • Rate of visa cancellations
  • Rate of visa refusal due to fraud
  • Rate of visa refusal not due to fraud
  • Rate of student visa holder becoming unlawful (overstaying their time in Australia)
  • Rate of student visa holders seeking protection (asylum seekers)

Low-risk applications are provided with streamlined arrangements – generally quicker and without the need for the student to demonstrate their English proficiency or financial capacity. Regular processing arrangements apply to higher risk applications. More than 80% of students receive streamlined arrangements.

Note that a student’s nationality is determined by:

  • the nationality that is recorded in the student’s passport at the date of the application;
  • not where the student lives;
  • not where the student applies for the student visa.

Risk ratings

Immigration risk ratings are calculated using a weighted average based on the total numbers of international students (applicants and holders of Student visas) that have a Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) to study a course from the education provider.

The following weightings and immigration risk indicators are used to calculate the immigration risk rating of each education provider and country:

Rate of student visa cancellations (25% weighting)

The proportion of cases, once a student has been provided a visa which was then cancelled due to:

  • non-genuineness
  • fraud
  • breaches of visa condition 8202 (i.e. maintaining enrolment, attendance and course progress)
  • breaches of work condition 8105 (i.e. cannot work more than 40 hours per fortnight when course is in session).

Student visa cancellations where the student personally requests visa cancellation are not included. For example, a student who has ceased study and returned home may request visa cancellation.

Rate of refusals due to a fraud reason where the applicant lodged overseas (40% weighting)

The proportion of students who were refused a visa at the application stage due to fraud.  If a visa is refused because of fraud, this measure will apply regardless of whether or not any other refusal reason exists.

Rate of refusals (excluding fraud) where the applicant lodged overseas (10% weighting)

The proportion of how many students were refused a visa at the application stage due to reasons other than fraud.That is, one of the legal requirements for the grant of the visa was not met and no fraud was detected. For example, not meeting the Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE), health or other requirements.

Rate of student visa holders becoming unlawful non-citizens (15% weighting)

The rate that students have overstayed their student visa and have been unlawful. If this is the case for only short time, the student may have the opportunity of applying for and being granted a Bridging visa to resolve their immigration status.  Students who have been unlawful and resolve their immigration status within 28 days are normally unaffected.  These figures represent those visa holders who did not contact the Department to arrange a Bridging visa or another visa and overstayed their visas for more than 28 days.

Rate of Subsequent Protection Visa applications (10% weighting)

The proportion of students who applied for a Protection Visa (PV) where the last visa held by them was a Student visa.

Rating Allocation

Immigration risk ratings are allocated to each education provider and country as follows:

Risk Index

(Weighted average of all risk indicators)

Immigration risk rating

Below 1.0

One

Between 1.0 and 2.70

Two

Above 2.70

Three

An education provider is linked to its students by the Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) held at the time the Student visa application was decided. This means that if a Student transfers to another education provider, their Student visa (and any behaviour linked to risk ratings) will continue to be linked to the original education provider specified on the CoE. This will continue until the student is granted a further visa.

In cases where there are only a small number of students, statistical calculations of risk are unreliable. Such ‘small’ providers (or countries) are those who have less than 50 active students studying on a principal course at any one time during the previous 12 months.

Small providers are given a default rating of Two.

Countries who supply less than 50 students are given a default rating of Three.

These ratings are updated each 6 months from the historical data generated during the previous 12 month period. DIBP do not publicise the actual risk rating of any country or provider, it is expressed through the interaction of the two ratings as described in the model below:

Risk Model

The following table provides an overview of the students that receive streamlined evidentiary requirements under the SSVF.

Eligibility for streamlined evidentiary requirements is determined on the combined immigration risk rating of the student’s country and citizenship and intended education provider.

In the table S refers to streamlined evidentiary requirements while R refers to regular evidentiary requirements. Where regular evidentiary requirements apply the student will generally be required to provide evidence of their financial and English language capacity with their visa application.
SSVF-risk-model

  • The majority of students (more than 80%) will be eligible for streamlined arrangements.
  • DIBP reserve the right to ask any student who might be eligible for streamlined arrangements to demonstrate their ability to meet the regular criteria.

Streamlined and Regular Processing

Streamlined student visa Australia processing

Under the SSVF, students associated with the lowest immigration risk will generally have streamlined evidentiary requirements.

This means these students will generally be able to satisfy the Department of their financial capacity by providing a declaration and their English proficiency by a Confirmation of Enrolment.

The Department will, however, retain the discretion to seek further evidence where appropriate.

Although a streamlined application will be normally faster than regular visa processing, the Genuine Temporary Entry (GTE) judgement remains the key matter which determines if a student will receive a visa for study and the evidence required to obtain a visa.   DIBP retain the right to ask for financial evidence from any student when they have specific intelligence that there may be a problem with the financial capacity of the student.

Regular student visa processing

Regular processing requires a student to present two extra pieces of evidence with their visa application: financial evidence and English language proficiency evidence.

Financial Evidence Requirements

Genuine Access Requirement

All funds that can be accepted as evidence must be clearly available to the student in order to pay for their studies and living costs. The factors that may be considered include:

  • The relationship of the sponsor (e.g. a parent or guardian’s funds are appropriate, but “family friends” bank accounts are not normally acceptable)
  • Income, assets and employment history of sponsor/parent
  • Previous visa history of the student (e.g. have they had difficulties in the past)

Students cannot rely on their ability to earn money through work in Australia as evidence of having funds.

The following are sources of evidence of financial capacity:

  • money deposit with a financial institution (bank)
  • a loan with a financial institution (bank)
  • government loans
  • scholarship

There are three options to provide financial evidence.

Option 1: 12 months living expenses

Show access to the funds for 12 months in Australia, including living, tuition, and travel costs. One year’s living expenses are designated as:

  • Student: AUD$19,830
  • Spouse or de-facto partner: AUD$6,940
  • Any dependent children: AUD$2,970

If a student has dependents, they need to show access to relevant funds for the accompanying family unit (spouse and/or children).

Each school-age child requires AUD $8,000 for each year of schooling they will require (unless they have been provided with an exemption from a Government High School).

Option 2: Annual income of parents

Show that the annual income of the student’s parents (combined if necessary) exceeds AUD$60,000 per year. If one or more members of the applicant’s family unit are seeking to satisfy the secondary criteria for the Student visa, they will need to demonstrate an income of AUD$70,000 per year.

This information must be provided on Government documentation (such as a tax return) which less than 12 months old.

Option 3: Secondary exchange students only

Show a completed Australian Secondary Exchange Student (ASES) Form

English Language Proficiency Requirements

DIBP have designated certain English proficiency tests as acceptable and prescribe minimum standards.

Acceptable Test Scores

Test Type

Minimum Score

Minimum Score  where combined with 10 weeks ELICOS

Minimum Score  where combined with 20 weeks ELICOS

International English Language Testing System (IELTS test)

5.5

5

4.5

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) Paper-Based test

527

500

450

TOEFL internet-based test (also known as TOEFL iBT)

46

35

32

Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) test (also known as Certificate in Advanced English)

162

154

147

Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE)

42

36

30

Occupational English Test (OET) English test: Minimum test score:

Pass

Exemptions

There are exemptions for this requirement to present an English test score for the following students:

  1. ELICOS, Schools, Secondary Exchange, and Postgraduate Research Students
  2. Students who have Completed two years of study in Australia prior to application
  3. Foreign Affairs and Defence Students
  4. Nationals from or Study of more than five years in English in:
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America
  • New Zealand
  • Canada
  • Ireland
  • South Africa

Packaging Arrangements and Australian Student Visa Duration

Packaging Offer Letters and The Principal Course

In many cases, a student comes to Australia with the intention of studying more than one course. Where the student intends to package courses to combine their preliminary course of study with their main course of study, the education provider immigration risk rating applied to the Student visa application would correspond to the student’s main course of study (or principal course).

The principal course is the course that the student intends to undertake in Australia at the highest level. For example, a student may intend to study 3 courses in this order from lowest to highest level:

  1. An ELICOS program, then
  2. A foundation program, then
  3. An undergraduate program (the principal course).

If that student has a package of offer letters that provides a clear pathway to the undergraduate degree, then the risk rating that corresponds to the provider of the undergraduate program will be applied in the visa process.

DIBP will only recognise a package of offers if the student has an eCoE and an offer of a place into all the courses, including the highest-level course from the education institution(s). It is not enough that the student intends to continue to study at a higher level than the first course they undertake but does not have a CoE for the higher level course.

A letter of offer for a course can be conditional on the student successfully completing a previous course. In the above example, the student may have to successfully complete the foundation program before continuing to the undergraduate program.

A package of offers must make sense by increasing in level across the AQF. For example, a student cannot study a course of a lower level after one of a higher level.

Student Visa Duration in Australia

The duration of a student visa depends on the dates of the study detailed in the CoEs that is submitted with the application. The visa awarded will cover the full length of every CoE that is in a sequence or package. The maximum visa grant is normally 5 years

The following table shows the guidelines used to decide when a visa will end:

Duration of Course

Duration of Visa

10 months or less

Student Visa normally granted for one month longer than the end date of the principal course

Longer than 10 months

Student Visa normally granted for two months longer than the end date of the principal course, if it ends before November.

If the course ends in November or December, the visa will normally cease on 15 March of the following year (about three months after)

The Student Visa Application Process

 Check Required Evidence using Online Client Service Tool

Students and agents are able to obtain details about the documentation and evidence that will need to be included with the student visa application by accessing a working sample of the online tool on the Department’s website. The online tool will be fully functional from 1 July 2016 and accessible at any stage of the visa application process, including prior to the submission of a visa application.

The student (or agent) enters both the student’s country of citizenship and the education provider: the evidence requirements will be displayed. Remember that the education provider is that providing the principal course. See the link here

Lodging Student Visa Application via immiAccount

All agents should create an online account “immiAccount” which will enable them to lodge applications on behalf of their students through an online form. Don’t get fulled by the simplicity of the process. Although the process looks to be quite straightforward, you must remember all the required supportive documentation must be attached to the application, and that’s sometimes tricky.

Link to immiAccount.

Log-in to immiAccount and an agent can submit an application for a student visa as follows:

The My applications summary window displays

How_to_Create_New_Application_in_IMMI_Account

1. Click New Application

The New application page displays.

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2. From the applicable Application group click the icon to display the types of applications available.

3. From the Application type list, select the applicable application type.

4. Click Expand all to display all applications in all the Application groups. Click Collapse all to close all Application groups.

The Application for a Student Visa Terms and Conditions window displays for the visa you have selected.

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5. To read the terms and conditions of the application, follow the View Terms and Conditions link.

6. Select the I have read and agree to the terms and conditions checkbox. to confirm you have read and agree to the Terms and Conditions

7. Click Next.

A list of questions relating to the application displays.

Answer each question, then click Next.

Repeat this process until all the questions have been answered.

Once you have completed and reviewed your application, the Application for a Student Visa page displays.

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Your application will not be processed until you pay the application fee. You can save the application and come back later with payment details.

8. If you choose this option, click Go to my account.
You have completed the process as far as you can at this stage and do not need to complete the rest of the steps in this guide.

Alternatively, you can make the visa application payment now. If you choose this option, proceed to the next step in this guide.

9. Click Submit Now.
The Make a payment window displays.

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Enter the payment details.

11. Click Submit.

The Confirm payment by debit/credit card dialog box displays.

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12. Click Submit

The payment is confirmed and the Debit/credit card payment confirmation page displays.

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13. Click Next

The window displays a summary of the application.

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14. Click Go to my account

The My applications summary window displays. The status of the application has been updated.

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Points to Note

1.International students outside Australia must be enrolled in a registered course of study and provide a Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) when they lodge their Student visa application.

2. Students in Australia may still apply with a letter of offer or a CoE but must obtain a CoE to be granted the visa.

3. Students must apply using the online form 157A. Authorisation by DIBP for the use of paper form 157A is given in special circumstances. These special circumstances include applicants who encounter difficulty with online lodgement due to technical and systems based issues; or sensitive or high profile applications.

4. All students complete the same form and are asked to provide financial and english proficiency information regardless of if they have access to streamlined or regular processing. While these questions are non-mandatory for streamlined visa processed students, it may make the application process quicker in some cases for the student to provide any English proficiency information, and support the student’s GTE assessment.

Requirements for Students Under 18

 Under Australian law, an individual under 18 is not yet an adult.

1. The student must show that she/he will either:

  • go into care arrangements that have been approved by the education provider;
  • or live in Australia with a parent or legal custodian;
  • or live in Australia with a relative over 21 years-of-age who is nominated by a parent or custodian

2. If the student will be living with a suitable relative (but not the parent), the nominated relative must:

  • be a brother, sister, step-parent, step-brother, step-sister, grandparent, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, step-grandparent, step-aunt, step-uncle, step-niece or step-nephew;
  • be aged over 21 years;
  • have the right to remain in Australia until the visa expires or the student turns 18 years-of-age (whichever happens first);
  • and have a police clearance check.

3. The student’s parents or custodian need to prove that the nominated relative meets these criteria.

All students under 18 must continue to have welfare arrangements in place for the duration of their stay in Australia and provide one of the following forms of evidence at the time they lodge their visa application:

  • Form 157N which nominates a suitable relative in Australia
  • Form 157N and an application for a Student Guardian (subclass 590) for a nominated relative
  • A Confirmation of Appropriate Accommodation and Welfare letter from the education provider
  • An Acceptance Advice of Secondary Exchange Students (AASES) form. (Secondary Exchange Students)

Confirmation of Appropriate Accommodation and Welfare (CAAW)

If a younger student is not living with a parent or suitable relative, the education provider must sign a letter called the Confirmation of Appropriate Accommodation and Welfare (CAAW): approving the student’s living and welfare arrangements before the student visa can be issued. The provider must nominate two dates:

  1. when the provider has elected to begin taking responsibility for the student’s welfare, and
  2. when the provider will cease to take responsibility for approving the welfare arrangements for that student.

If a student’s welfare arrangements are approved by education provider students must not travel to Australia until the welfare arrangements are due to commence. Dates are nominated by the provider not the student.

Specific Requirements in Particular Cases

 School Sector Provisions

There are age limits set for international students intending to study in School.

These are the age requirements that apply:

  • A primary school student must be at least 6 years of age.

Secondary students must:

  • be less than 17 years old when commencing the Academic year Grade 9.
  • be less than 18 years old when commencing the Academic year Grade 10
  • be less than 19 years old when commencing the Academic year Grade 11
  • be less than 20 years old when commencing the Academic year Grade 12

Primary school age students are considered as potentially unable to meet the genuine temporary entrant requirement when there might be little likelihood of reintegration back into their country after their study. This would be relevant when a student’s parents were expecting them to remain in Australia for many years. As a result, a maximum stay of 2 years for primary school-aged students will generally be applied.

Secondary exchange students have an option of providing a completed ASES form as meeting their financial evidence requirement.

School students are exempt from providing evidence of English language proficiency.

 Other Matters

ELICOS Courses

There is no limitation on the maximum duration of ELICOS study that may be undertaken. Genuine students will be able to undertake as much ELICOS study as either a standalone course or prior to their principal course, as required.

Family Members

Students have to declare all family members on their visa application, if not, these family members won’t be able to travel to Australia to visit at a later stage.

DIBP require the financial details for the subsequent entry of family members. Not only for the person applying for the visa, but also including sufficient funds to cover their whole family unit in Australia. E.g. If my wife is on a student visa in Australia and I apply to join her, DIBP will look at the combined financial capacity for both my wife and my living expenses and also her course fees as well.

Guardian Visas

The Student Guardian visa is for foreign nationals applying to stay in Australia as the guardian of an under 18 student who is studying in Australia.The student must not remain in Australia when their legal guardian is not in Australia. In some special circumstances, guardian visas can be obtained to look after students who are over 18 years old.

All applicants for a student guardian visa must have sufficient funds to support themselves, the nominating student(s) and any secondary applicants for the duration of their intended stay in Australia.

Under the SSVF, the single immigration risk framework will not apply to student guardian visa applicants. Rather, all guardians must provide evidence of their financial capacity with their visa application.

Evidence of financial capacity can be provided in either of the following forms:

  • Evidence that their spouse has annual income of $70,000 or more; or
  • Evidence of sufficient funds to cover travel costs, and the first 12 months living costs for themselves and each dependent child included in the application.

Subsequent applications by family members of guardians will not be accepted. Guardians wishing to bring additional family members under six years of age to Australia must apply for a new student guardian visa for themselves and these students.

Examples of Integrity Concerns for DIPB

The examples below demonstrate the concerns that have been identified in some circumstances when processing student visas.

English language skills

A visa applicant, who did not have the English language skills to meet the visa requirements, arranged for an impostor to sit the English language test on their behalf. DIBP identified this fraud through (a) a facial comparison of the photo on the test results with another photo of the applicant; (b) an interview with the applicant which indicated a low level of English proficiency and (c) verification of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score online. While DIBP has processes in place to detect and take action against English test fraud, education providers normally check of test results using the online verification tools available from the test providers.

Genuine student/temporary entrant

A DIBP case officer had to consider a student visa application concerning an applicant from a country with high unemployment, who had strong family ties to Australia and who had not studied for a significant period of time. The case officer requested an interview with the applicant to obtain further information. At the interview, the applicant was unable to explain why he had chosen his proposed course and provider and how the course would benefit him. Given the applicant’s low employment prospects in his country of origin, strong ties to Australia and the applicant’s inability to provide basic information regarding his proposed course of study, the application was refused.

Family background and financial support

A DIBP case officer received an application in which the student’s parents claimed to be in high-paying jobs in a reputable industry. The case officer requested an integrity check on the application as these claims were uncommon in the region from which the visa applicant came. The officer was able to identify that the student’s parents did not have sufficient funds to contribute towards the student’s expenses. The application was refused as the case officer was not satisfied the applicant had sufficient funds to support himself in his studies onshore and, therefore, was not planning to come to Australia with the genuine intention to study.

Document fraud

An overseas post identified an offshore website which claimed to be selling high-quality forgeries of academic transcripts for use in migration applications. In these cases, DIBP officers are briefed on the basic characteristics of the forged documents and arrangements are put in place to verify qualifications with the issuing education providers.

Visa Conditions

 When a student is issued with a student visa, there are conditions attached to it. These visa conditions are often expressed as numbers.

NOTE: Australian authorities do not require students to have a paper visa label in their passport. VEVO  is a free online facility that allows Australian visa holders, employers, education providers, financial institutions and government agencies to check the visa status and entitlements of a visa holder. VEVO requires a registration and login. To check/verify the status of a student visa and its conditions, go to the VEVO website.

It is essential that every agent informs their students of the need to comply with their visa conditions. If a student does not comply, their visa may be cancelled and they may need to return home. There is also a three-year ban (exclusion period) on re-entry to Australia if a visa is cancelled for breaching visa conditions.

The following table explains visa conditions that are relevant to most students:

Condition

Explanation

8202

The student must maintain enrolment in a registered course and satisfy their providers requirements for attendance and course progress.

8501

The student must maintain health insurance (OSHC) during the time they are in Australia.

8516

The student’s main course of study must continue to be a course in the education sector that matches their student visa.The student must continue to have sufficient financial capacity to support their study and stay in Australia.

8517

The student visa holder must maintain adequate arrangements for the education of any school-age dependant who is in Australia for more than 3 months.

8532

If the student is under 18, he or she must maintain welfare arrangements with either a parent, close relative or legal custodian or if welfare is approved through the education provider the education provider must approve arrangements including when arrangements change.

8533

The student must keep the education institution informed of their current address in Australia. They have 7 days to notify them of any changes.

8534

The student will not be eligible to lodge a new visa application in Australia and must return to their home country first, unless exceptional circumstances apply.

8535

The student will not be eligible to lodge a new visa application in Australia and must return to their home country, unless the applicant gives evidence, in writing, that the Commonwealth or the government of the foreign country, as the case requires, does not oppose the applicant undertaking a further course of study.

8105

The student cannot work more than 40 hours per fortnight when their course is in session (other than work which has been registered as a part of the course). No work limits apply during recognised periods of vacation offered by the education provider. No work limits apply for Postgraduate Research students (subclass 574) once their course has commenced.

8104

The student’s family member, who was included in the primary applicant’s (i.e. student visa holder) application and was granted a visa, can work up to 40 hours per fortnight.

8203

The student must inform DIBP of any change in a course of study, thesis or research topic.

8204

The student must not change their course without approval from the department.

Meeting Student Visa Conditions

 Attendance

A student must attend at least 80% of their scheduled lessons, unless they are enrolled in a higher education (i.e. University) course. If this does not happen, then:

  • The education provider will have documented policies and procedures stating whether they will consider compassionate and compelling circumstances;
  • The provider must issue the student a written notification of their intention to report the student to DIBP. The letter must also inform the student they have 20 working days within which to access the provider’s complaints and appeals process.

Once this timeframe has lapsed or the appeals process has been finalised and found in favour of the provider; the provider reports the breach of the student visa condition using PRISMS.

The student will then receive a notice informing them that they must attend at an Immigration office within 28 days. Should they not do this, their visa may be cancelled.

Academic performance

A student must achieve satisfactory academic results. However, often an institution cannot immediately exclude the student for failure, and so the student continues on their student visa. In this situation the students needs to follow the relevant appeal process. If the appeal is unsuccessful, then:

  • The education provider must have documented policies and procedures for monitoring course progress and determining when a student has failed to make satisfactory course progress;

  • The provider must issue the student a written notification of their intention to report the student to DIBP. The letter must also inform the student they have 20 working days within which to access the provider’s complaints and appeals process.

Once this timeframe has lapsed or the appeals process has been finalised and found in favour of the provider; the provider reports the visa breach using PRISMS.

Current address

The student must keep the education provider informed of their current address in Australia. This is because all formal notices are sent to this address. If the address changes, the student must inform the education provider within 7 days.

An under 18 student must have the approval of their education provider to move to another address if they are not living with a parent, guardian or relative.

Changing courses and institutions

Changing Course

If a student wants to stay at the same institution but wants to change courses to another of a similar type or level this should not require them to get a new student visa.

If the new course is longer than the original course, the student should be able to get an extension when their visa is due to expire. If a student wishes to undertake a shorter course than that for which the visa was granted, when they have completed the shorter course they must, within 28 days, either depart Australia or, if they wish to enrol in a further course of study, notify DIBP and apply for a new student visa as required.

A student must remain enrolled in a course at the same or higher AQF level for which their visa has been granted (unless changing from AQF 10 to AQF 9). If the student wishes to change to a lower level program, they should apply for a new student visa. Otherwise, a student is in breach of their visa conditions and may liable for visa cancellation, or the refusal of a subsequent application. DIBP place a particular focus on;

  • Students who change very soon after arrival in Australia
  • Large changes in level eg Bachelor courses to Cert III
  • Change to very different course types

Where students are studying in Non-AQF courses (i.e. Foundation programs, ELICOS) and they wish to change to an AQF course, this would be acceptable.In contrast, the reverse is not be normally allowed, e.g. changing from an undergraduate program to a stand alone ELICOS program.

Student breaches do not involve automatic cancellations of visas, but more extreme cases do risk visa cancellation.

Changing Institution

If a student has not completed six months of their principal course and wants to change education provider, the ESOS National Code sets out the circumstances in which this will be possible. Unless special circumstances apply, they are required to have the permission of the existing education provider (through a letter of release) in order to transfer to another education provider.

The education provider must assess a request to transfer a student and all education providers have documented procedures on their transfer policy. Agents should make sure they understand their education provider’s transfer policy, and the written agreement with the student, before attempting to enrol a student with a new education provider.

If an education provider does not give permission to transfer to another education provider and the student is not satisfied with the outcome of the process, they should first access the internal appeal process with the education provider. If still not satisfied, they can appeal the education provider’s decision at an external complaints handling body, such as the State or Territory Ombudsman or the Overseas Student Ombudsman.

If the student has completed six months of the principal course, no permission from the current institution is required.

In cases where students are changing from an institution that affords streamlined arrangements to one that requires regular processing arrangements, this may trigger DIBP to request appropriate Financial & English Proficiency documentation from the student.

Working Rights as a Student

An agent needs to inform their students that:

  • They cannot expect to meet their tuition fees from the work they undertake in Australia; There is no guarantee that suitable work will be available;
  • Working may help them financially, but it is unlikely to provide substantial funds.
Student Visa Holder

Student visas are granted with permission to work. As a result, the student visa holders (and their family members travelling with them) do not need to apply for permission to work separately once they arrive in Australia.

A person on a student visa permits the student to work 40 hours per fortnight while their course is in session and unlimited hours while their course is not in session.

A student’s course is considered to be ‘in session’:

  • for the duration of the advertised semesters (including periods when exams are being held);
  • if the studies have been completed but the Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) is still in effect, and
  • if a student is undertaking another course during a break from their main course and the points will be credited towards their main course.

Note: The student cannot undertake work until they have commenced their course in Australia. DIBP considers work to also include some volunteer work or unpaid work. If a student is doing voluntary, unpaid work, it is not included in the limit of 40 hours per fortnight if it:

  • is of benefit to the community
  • is for a non-profit organisation
  • would not otherwise be undertaken in return for wages by an Australian resident (that is, it is a designated volunteer position), and
  • is genuinely voluntary (that is, no remuneration, either in cash or kind is received, – board and lodging acceptable).

These conditions do not apply to work that is required as part of a student’s course. The educational institution will advise a student if this is the case.

Dependent of the student holder

A dependant of a student visa holder is subject to condition 8104 which permits the holder to work a maximum of 40 hours per fortnight once the student (main applicant) has commenced their course. If the student’s course of study is a course for the award of a masters or doctorate degree that is registered on CRICOS, a dependant may work unlimited hours.

Travel

Students can enter and leave Australia as often as necessary while they have a current student visa. Students must check that their passport will not expire while they are outside of Australia.

If they obtain a new passport after they have already got a student visa, they must inform DIBP of the new passport details before they travel overseas.

If an under 18 student has their welfare arrangements approved by their education provider, they will not be able to travel to Australia until the date their provider nominated as the start date for the approved arrangements.

Duration of visa

The visa has an expiry date.

In the case of a student who is under the age of 18 whose welfare arrangements are being approved by their education provider, the expiry date of the visa will be in accordance with the end of the students approved welfare arrangements as indicated on the students CAAW.

An expired visa

If a student’s visa expires and they are still in Australia, they become “unlawful”.

This means that if they do not contact DIBP within 28 days after the expiry date, they will not be eligible for the grant of a further Student visa in Australia and may then be subject to a risk factor called an ‘Exclusion Period’.

An exclusion period prevents a person from being granted certain visas, including student visas, for a period of three years after last departing Australia unless certain circumstances apply.

A cancelled visa

Similar to an expired visa, if a student’s visa is cancelled in Australia, they will not be eligible for the grant of a further Student visa in Australia and may then be subject to an ‘Exclusion Period’.

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