October 11, 2013

Sept 25, 2011 Strategic Review of the Student Visa Program 2011

The Government has released the report by Hon Michael Knight AO on Student visas, the Strategic Review of the Student Visa Program 2011, and has announced it will accept all 41 of its recommendations, with the majority of the proposals to be implemented through 2011-2013 so that key recommendations can come into effect before second semester 2012.

Notable in these recommendations are the following:

The first criterion in assessing a Student visa application is whether the applicant is a genuine temporary entrant;

A successful applicant must be both a genuine temporary entrant and a genuine Student;

All applicants for higher education Bachelors degree (2+2 or 3+1 arrangements with partner universities), and Masters degree by coursework should be Assessment Level 1 (including packages with ELICOS or foundation courses);

All Australian Bachelors degree graduates (with at least two years study in Australia) be given two years post-study work rights in Australia;

All Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students (visa Subclass 574) be treated as Assessment Level, and be given three years work rights;

Masters by Research graduates be given three years post-study work rights, and PhD graduates be given four years post-study work rights;

HDR students be allowed to extend their student visa for up to six months to allow for the interactive marking process. This should also apply to PHD Subclass 576 visa holders if AusAID is prepared to fund the extension;

The threshold English language test requirements for standalone ELICOS students be removed;

The English language requirements for school students in AL4 be the same as those applying for AL1 through to AL3 and the associated waiver scheme abolished;

The maximum a school student visa holder can study English be 50 weeks across all ALs;

The current restrictions on student guardians of a maximum of three months of study be maintained but unlimited part‐time study rights for ELICOS study only be allowed;

Pre‐paid home stay fees be included in financial assessments on the same basis as pre‐paid boarding fees;

As a matter of some urgency AusAID, DIAC, DOHA and other relevant Australian government agencies develop an integrated policy in relation to the award of scholarships and how visa arrangements for awardees are to be managed. In particular they should address the situation of potential awardees who have a disability or HIV;

That DIAC and DEEWR meet with state education authorities to work out what can be done to avoid the situation where a visa for a child dependent cannot be granted until proof of enrolment is present and state education authorities will not grant such proof until proof of visa grant is made. Any agreed remedy should apply across all Student visa subclasses;

Streamlining applications for semester of year long university non-award courses;

DIAC be appropriately funded to further develop research capability across the program;

In the event that the research over the next 12 months reveals systemic abuse of dependant (secondary applicant) visas, that the government seriously consider mirroring the recent UK policy and restrict dependant visas to Masters and above courses unless the primary applicant is sponsored by a government;

Current arrangements whereby Student Course Variations (SCVs) automatically become NCNs should cease. SCV information should continue to be conveyed to DIAC who should use it as an input into a more targeted and strategic analysis of non‐compliance;

Automatic cancellation of student visas should be abolished and replaced by a system in which information conveyed by SCVs is used as an input into a more targeted and strategic analysis of non‐compliance;

The mandatory cancellation requirement for unsatisfactory attendance, unsatisfactory progress and working in excess of the hours allowed should be removed, giving DIAC officers the discretion to determine cancellation in particular cases on their merits;

DIAC should concentrate its compliance and integrity resources in relation to Student visas on the highest risk areas;

DIAC should not only respond to information generated by PRISMS but also be proactive in detecting the sorts of breaches (for example sham marriages and exceeding permissible work hours) which are not reported in PRISMS;

That student work entitlements be 40 hours per fortnight instead of 20 hours per week;

The necessary legislative changes be made to require the name of any agent involved to be entered into the student’s data into PRISMS, and DEEWR take steps to encourage providers to voluntarily enter agent data into PRISMS in the interim before the ESOS Act is changed to make this mandatory;

That DEEWR and DIAC establish a single student identifier to track international students through their studies in Australia;

That DIAC undertake a review of the AL framework, with a mind to either abolishing the system entirely or modifying the framework to make it relevant to current and future challenges facing the student visa program. This review should be managed by DIAC but should include reference to an external panel or reference group;

That DIAC upgrade its liaison at overseas posts with migration and education agents in relation to the student visa program, including regular meetings to keep agents abreast of any changes in rules and procedures;

That the provision of offshore VET sector education be investigated;

That DIAC constitute an Education Visa Advisory Group as a primary means of regular two way communication between stakeholders in the international education sector and DIAC;

The policy regarding Pre‐Visa Assessment (PVA) be discontinued;

Student visas be allowed to be granted in advance of four months before the commencement of the relevant course. Where necessary, visas should specify a date before which the holder cannot enter Australia;

That DIAC regularly reviews the current living cost amount, and based on the CPI or other measure amend the amount, as required;

That DIAC review the exclusion criteria and policy which relate to student visa non‐compliance.Get more Australian immigration and visa news