Settlement Guide

Settlement Guide: how to get an Australian student visa?

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Want to travel to Australia to study? Australia's student visa program offers different subclasses of visas, which broadly match type of study a person is planning to undertake. Each type of student visa covers different education sectors, ranging from the School Sector, which applies to primary and secondary school courses, to the Higher Education or University Sector.

Australia offers various types of student visas, which are divided into different subclasses. Each subclass corresponds to a particular educational sector. They include the Primary and Secondary School's Sector, the Higher Education Sector, the Education, Training and Sponsorship for Training Sector and the Visiting and Studying Sector. Law Specialist and Migration Agent for national Law firm Holding Redlich, Maria Jockel, (Reg. No: 9802742) explains that a person who applies for an Australian student visa will be assessed against the selection criteria of their respective visa subclass.


Applicants are assessed by various factors, including the sector of study and the passport they hold.

"Assessment level one-passport holders represent the lowest immigration risk. If for example they're assessment level three, that is the highest level of risk and hence they've got to provide more information and documentation. There're a number of countries that fall into these high levels of assessment criteria, Bangladesh, China, Burma, Ecuador, Egypt, Ghana, India, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya."

 The assessment passport level determines the way in students can apply for a particular visa subclass.


"As each country across each education sector is assigned this assessment level, which is based on the calculated immigration risk that the Department of Immigration considers students from that country pose in studying in that education sector, you'll notice that some students are able to apply online and they have access to what we call 'streamline student visa processing'. Other students do not have that sort of access and they must make what we call 'paper based applications'."


Before applying for a visa, overseas students must be accepted into full time study by a registered Australian education provider.


Information on registered education providers in Australia can be accessed online.

"Within the student visa area there is an acronym which is called CRICOS (Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students), you can go onto the website and you can find out which courses have been registered by the Commonwealth of Australia and if you go onto CRICOS, there's a couple of search engines where you can do a course search, which enables you to find out information about courses offered by Australian education providers. You can also do an institution search so that you can find information about Australian educational  institutions that are registered under the CRICOS scheme to provide courses that are CRICOS registered."

Maria Jockel says before accepting and paying for an enrolment offer it's important to understand the conditions.

Once a student is accepted into a course of study, they're ready to lodge a student visa application.


"When a person applies to be enrolled in a particular course and the education provider issues the confirmation of enrolment you'll always find that that will refer to the name of the course, the course duration and then the private health insurance that is paid at that time, so that the person has the private health insurance which is a mandatory requirement of student visas. So yes, find out what is the process; what is their payment policy? If they don't get the student visa granted to them, what is their refund policy? All of these things are very important for the student to know. "

Once a student is accepted into a course of study, they're ready to lodge a student visa application. They need to demonstrate that they genuinely intend to come to Australia only on a temporary basis and for the sole purpose of undertaking full time studies in a particular education sector. Maria Jockel says even though an applicant meets the relevant criteria - this doesn't guarantee they'll be granted a student visa.

 

The Department of Immigration has its own guidelines as to the minimum financial capacity that individuals must have in order to be able to study in Australia.


"Just because a university or a Tafe or a school provides them with what's called a confirmation of enrolment or a letter of offer, the person still has to satisfy the Department that they are genuinely applying for this visa with the intention to obtain a successful educational outcome and in that context that they have the language, educational and material, (material meaning financial and other background), to have a reasonable chance of achieving this educational outcome."

She points out that the Department of Immigration has its own guidelines as to the minimum financial capacity that individuals must have in order to be able to study in Australia.

 

Once the Department of Immigration is satisfied that the student visa should be granted, the person can then enter Australia, if they're not already here, and commence their studies.


"One would look at the return airfares, the course fees and then you'd be looking at the living costs. Currently you've got to show that you've got living costs of $18, 610 dollars per year of intended stay in Australia. Now if you consider for example that a prestigious university may charge between $21 thousand to say $31 thousand per anum in tuition fees, you've got to show that you've got quite a lot of financial capacity if you're an assessment level 3 student applicant."

Once the Department of Immigration is satisfied that the student visa should be granted, the person can then enter Australia, if they're not already here, and commence their studies.

Maria Jockel says it's important to carefully read the visa grant letter and be fully aware of the visa conditions.

The Department of Immigration is likely to cancel a visa if a student is found in breach of any condition.


"People often don't take note of the visa cease date. It is imperative that they do so because if they're in Australia studying and their student visa expires they could in fact find that they've become unlawful. "

She warns that the Department of Immigration is likely to cancel a visa if a student is found in breach of any condition. This includes conditions related to work entitlements.

"The student visa is here for them to primarily study not to work and so they must make their study their focus. However if they are undertaking work and also study and they are working lawfully and not in breach of the work limitations that their student visa is subject to, then international students have the same rights as anybody else in Australia to be employed under the same terms and conditions of employment that would apply to an Australian citizen or permanent resident."

Some students might be disappointed with the education provider or with the content and quality of their courses.

It is not uncommon for overseas students to decide that they want to change courses or education providers once they've commenced their studies in Australia. Maria Jockel says that it's important to seek professional advice on such matters, as any changes to their studies could mean violation of visa conditions.

"One of the things that the Department is very concerned about is that a student picks an educational sector because that might make it easier for them to get their visa granted and then upon arriving in Australia they say, I've changed my mind. The Department does not encourage that sort of thing because it might mean that the person actually misrepresented their true intentions when they were applying for the student visa. But people who are considering changing courses would be well advised to get proper advice from a reputable registered migration agent or registered lawyer and to ensure that their circumstances do permit them to make that application."

The impact of academic and financial pressures as well as social and cultural challenges can hit students hard.

For many foreign students the experience of studying in Australia can be overwhelming. The impact of academic and financial pressures as well as social and cultural challenges can hit students hard. As well as this, some students might be disappointed with the education provider or with the content and quality of their courses. Maria Jockel says all registered educational institutions are subject to the Educational Services for Overseas Student Act so they have a responsibility to protect the rights and welfare of international students whilst in Australia.

"The education institution has to have both internal and if it gets to that point external complaints mechanisms so that the student's grievances can be appropriately addressed. If the person however has got themselves into a situation where they may have potentially breached their student visa conditions or they fail to meet the course requirements or something of that nature then really in that situation they may need to get proper legal advice as to what that means in terms of their ongoing visa status."

As well as contacting their respective education providers with any grievances, students already in Australia, and those planning to arrive soon, can also contact the Overseas Student Ombudsman about an action or decision taken by their private registered education provider in Australia.


For more information visit the Department of Immigration and Border Protection  or the Overseas Student Ombudsman