By Nishi Borra
International students now wanting to study in Australia will benefit from the new simplified student visa framework which came into effect from 01st July, 2016.
Overview & Key changes
- International students will apply for a single Student visa (subclass 500), regardless of their chosen course of study
- Student guardians will apply for the new Student Guardian (subclass 590) visa
- All students and student guardians will generally be required to lodge their visa application online (evisa) by creating an account in ImmiAccount.
(More information about ImmiAccount is available at: www.border.gov.au/Trav/Visa/Immi)
A single immigration risk framework applies to all international students and replaces the previous streamlined visa processing and Assessment Level frameworks. Under the SSVF, the combined immigration risk outcomes of the student’s education provider and country of citizenship will be used to guide the level of documentary evidence of English language and financial capacity that the student needs to provide with their visa application.
Streamlined evidentiary requirements:
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.
By using the online client service tool students will be able to obtain details about the documentation and evidence that will need to be included with their student visa application.
Financial Capacity & Requirement:
All student visa applicants must have sufficient funds available for the duration of their stay in Australia. Students associated with higher immigration risk, based on their country of citizenship and education provider immigration risk outcomes, will generally need to provide additional documentary evidence of financial capacity with their visa application.
The immigration department’s online client service tool will indicates that documentary evidence of financial capacity is required based on the institute the student is applying for. Where additional evidence of financial capacity is required, the student will be able to demonstrate this by providing either:
- Evidence of funds to cover travel to Australia and 12 months living, course fees and (for school-aged dependants) schooling costs for the student and accompanying family members or
- Evidence of meeting the annual income requirement or
The income demonstrated must be the personal income of the student’s spouse or parents only. In circumstances where both the student’s parents are working their combined income can be considered for this requirement. In all cases the evidence of annual income must be in the form of official government documentation, such as a tax assessment.
All students must show evidence of the first 12-month living costs. The type of evidence, where required, includes: money deposit or education loan with a financial institution, government loan, scholarship or sponsorship.
Living cost amounts From 1 July, 2016, the 12 month living cost will be:
- Student/guardian AUD19,830
- Partner/spouse AUD6,940
- Child AUD2,970
(For any dependent children aged 5 years and above the evidence of school costs also applies)
Please Note: Financial amounts including annual income, living costs and schooling costs will be regularly reviewed and adjusted from time to time
All student visa holders must maintain adequate arrangements for health insurance while they are in Australia. Evidence of the cover must be submitted at the time of visa application.
English language requirements:
Where evidence of English Language proficiency is required, the following minimum English language test scores will be accepted:
- English Language Testing System (IELTS) overall band score of 5.5 or
- IELTS overall band score of 5 when packaged with at least 10 weeks English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) or
- IELTS overall band score of 4.5 when packaged with at least 20 weeks ELICOS. The equivalent of the above minimum IELTS test scores from the following English language providers will also be accepted:
- Test of English as a Foreign Language paper based test (TOEFL)
- Pearson Test of English Academic
- Cambridge English: Advanced
- Occupational English Test.
The Immigration Department’s online client service tool will indicates that documentary evidence of English language proficiency is required, it is important for applicants to attach these documents to their visa application prior to lodgement. Failure to do so may result visa refusal.
English language exemptions:
Currently some institutes offer some students exemption from providing evidence of an English language test score, regardless of the level of immigration risk that applies. Under the SSVF, the following student categories will continue to be exempt from providing evidence of English language proficiency requirements with their visa application regardless of the immigration risk rating that applies:
- Students enrolled in fulltime school studies as a principal course, including secondary exchange programmes; postgraduate research courses; standalone English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS); and Foreign Affairs or Defence sponsored students
- Students who have completed at least five years study in one or more of the following countries; Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, or the Republic of Ireland
- Citizens and passport holders of one of the following English-speaking countries; UK, USA, Canada, NZ or Republic of Ireland
- Students who have successfully completed in Australia in the English language either the Senior Secondary Certificate of Education or studies at the Certificate IV or higher level, in the two years before applying for the Student visa.
Packaging English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS):
Under the SSVF, 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.
Genuine access to funds:
The funds shown in the visa application must be available for use by the student to financially support them and any accompanying family members during their stay in Australia.
When considering whether the funds shown will be genuinely available, the Department will take into account factors including:
- The nature of the relationship between the student and the person who is providing the funds, where applicable
- Income, assets and employment of the student or the other person who is providing the funds
- Previous visa history of both the student and the person providing the funds.
Evidence of enrolment:
All students must be enrolled in a registered course of study and provide a Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) when they lodge their student visa application.
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 or
- Form 157N and an application for a Student Guardian (subclass 590) for a nominated relative or
- A Confirmation of Appropriate Accommodation and Welfare letter from the education provider or
- An Acceptance Advice of Secondary Exchange Students (AASES) form.
Course Packaging Arrangements:
All students will continue to be able to package two or more courses on the one student visa where there is progression from one course to another.
Processing time frame:
The Department aims to finalise 75 per cent of complete student visa applications within 4 to 6 week from the time of lodgement. To reduce visa processing times, students are strongly encouraged to submit all required documents with their visa applications. Failure to submit all required documents may lead to processing delays or visa refusal.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will continue to focus on ensuring that only applicants, who are genuine students, and their immediate family members, are granted a student visa to Australia. Instances of fraud are taken very seriously and are thoroughly investigated by the Department. An individual’s visa application may be refused or their visa may be cancelled if there is evidence that the individual has given, or caused to be given, a bogus document or false or misleading information.
(The writer Nishi Borra is the Director at Atlas Consultants.)