A simplified process of applying for student visas came into effect from 1 July 2016. Under this framework:
- A single student visa subclass (Subclass 500) came into existence to cover all international students, whatever their chosen course of study;
- The student Guardian subclass became Subclass 590;
- What the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (“DIBP”) call a “single immigration risk framework” applies to all international students. Effectively this means that the “risk outcomes” of the Australian education provider, as well is the citizenship of the applicant, are used to assess the level of financial, as well as English language proof, which needs to be lodged with the student visa application.
In very general terms, the following requirements apply to student visas:
- Financial capacity: put simply this means that an applicant needs to have sufficient funds, not only to pay course fees, but also travel and living costs for themselves and any accompanying family members, whilst they study in Australia. Again in general terms, evidence of funds to cover the cost of travel, course costs and 12 months of living expenses need to be provided. In relation to short courses, this requirement only extends to the period of the intended stay.
Evidence such as monies deposited into banks are other financial institutions, or government loans, or sponsorships, or scholarships may be provided.
In the alternative, an annual income option is available such that evidence of personal income of a non-travelling spouse of the student, or the student’s parents may be provided. This income must be of it least AUD $60,000 but where the student has accompanying family members, it needs to be at least AUD $70,000
Benchmarks for “living costs” were set at the following levels:
- student/guardian AUD $19,830
- spouse/partner AUD $6,940
- child dependent AUD $2,970
Where a child dependent was school-age, a further AUD $8,000 for each child is required.
Genuine access to funds evidence may be required. DIBP take into account in that regard, the following factors:
- the relationship between the student and the person providing the funds;
- the history of the student’s income, assets and employment, or the person providing funds;
- prior visa history of the student or the person providing funds.
- English language capacity: only some students need to provide the results of English language testing with their application. Some exemptions apply. For instance, students who will be studying stand-alone ELICOS courses, Foreign Affairs or Defence sponsored students, students who have completed at least 5 years study in Australia, UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, or the Republic of Ireland, or those citizens/passport holders of the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand or the Republic of Ireland, are exempt.
- Genuine Temporary Entrant (“GTE”) requirement: this applies to all student visa applicants and effectively means that you’ll need to satisfy DIBP that you have a genuine intention to stay in Australia temporarily. Evidence is generally required. This includes a statement as to why the applicant satisfies the GTE requirement, as well as evidence or documents to support such claims. That evidence could include for instance, evidence of employment, or previous qualifications. The GTE requirement takes into account the applicant’s personal circumstances and immigration history, as well as the immigration history of any parent, legal guardian or spouse (if you were under 18) and in addition, “any other relevant matter”. This is an issue which in our experience can cause difficulty for some applicants. It needs to be handled carefully.
- Health requirements: all applicants will certainly need adequate health insurance in the form of Overseas Student Health Cover (“OSHC”). Health assessment may also be required.
- Character requirements: you may be required to undergo assessment against the character requirements of the Migration Act. This will require you to provide a police certificates/clearances or other evidence in order to be met.
- Enrolment: note that all students who are outside of Australia must prove that they are enrolled in a registered course of study. A document called a Confirmation of Enrolment (“CoE”) is generally issued electronically by the registered educational institution providing the course. Students already in Australia can usually apply with a letter of offer, but they will still need a CoE before their visa can be granted.
A note on changing courses:
Also from 1 July 2016 the Australian Government has required all subclass 500 holders to maintain enrolment either at the same level, or at a higher Australian Qualification Framework (“AQF”) level for which they were granted their student visa, unless they are undertaking a Doctoral degree, and transferring to a Masters (AQF 10 to AQF 9). Student visa holders should be aware that transferring to a lower AQF course is going to be a breach of their student visa conditions and that their visa may be cancelled. This doesn’t mean that all applications asking to transfer down, will be refused. You will however, need to apply for, and be granted, a new student visa before you may change your course.
Australian Visa Law can help all students through the maze of information and evidence that will be necessary in order to obtain the correct student visa. It is important that this be done correctly, particularly if students apply under streamlined visa processing arrangements.