Calling all students
Have you recently completed an English language test?
If so, we’d like to hear from you.
Fill in our short survey and let us know about your recent experience with English language tests. You can find the survey here www.surveymonkey.com/s/RG83W23 If you have any difficulties with the link please copy and paste it into your web browser.
Your feedback is important to us and will help inform the department’s review of its expanded English language testing arrangements for students.
The survey will remain open until 5pm AEST 20 May 2013.
Changes have been made to the cancellation regime for student visa holders who breach their visa conditions. Automatic and mandatory cancellations no longer exist and departmental officers now use a discretionary framework to consider breaches of visa conditions.
Automatic and mandatory student visa cancellations were abolished on 13 April 2013. This means that students who do not meet attendance or course progress requirements, or work for more than 40 hours per fortnight no longer face automatic or mandatory cancellation of their visa.
All international students are required to abide by their visa conditions, however if they do breach them they are now subject to a discretionary cancellation framework. The discretionary framework allows departmental officers to take the circumstances of an individual student into consideration when assessing visa condition breaches and making a decision on whether or not to cancel a visa.
The discretionary framework will lead to fairer outcomes for students. For example, it will enable the department to consider individual circumstances, such as where a student may be struggling with particular unit choices and could benefit from a change of course or education provider.
The move to a discretionary framework does not change an education provider’s responsibility to report a student for breaching a visa condition. Providers still have to advise a student when they have breached a visa condition that they may be reported to the department. The provider should also have in place a process for the student to appeal. If an appeal is unsuccessful an education provider must report the student to the department so that a case officer can consider the breach under the discretionary cancellation framework.
More information about the cessation of automatic and mandatory cancellation is available on the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s website www.immi.gov.au/students/.
Changes have been made to the Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa to introduce new post-study work arrangements for certain graduates of an Australian bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree.
The subclass 485 visa now provides recent graduates with the opportunity to spend more time in Australia following their studies to gain practical work experience to accompany their Australian qualification(s).
Significant changes were made to the subclass 485 on 23 March 2013. Subclass 485 visa applicants must now apply in either the Graduate Work stream or the Post-Study Work stream. Each stream of the subclass 485 visa has its own specific requirements that applicants must satisfy for their application to be successful.
The Graduate Work stream is for international students who have recently graduated with skills and qualifications that relate to an occupation in demand in the Australian labour market, as determined by the Skilled Occupation List.
The Post-Study Work stream is for international students who have recently graduated with a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree from an Australian educational institution, regardless of their field of study. This stream of the subclass 485 is only available to international students who applied for and were granted their first Australian student visa on or after 5 November 2011, which is the day the genuine temporary entrant requirement was introduced in the student visa program.
If you are applying for a subclass 485 visa, you now need to provide evidence with your application of having health insurance to cover your stay in Australia.
More information about the new subclass 485 visa, including information about how to apply, is available on the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s website.
New post-study work arrangements are being introduced in early 2013 for eligible international students who graduate with an Australian Bachelor’s, Master’s or a Doctoral degree.
The new post-study work arrangements will be built as an additional stream in the existing temporary skilled graduate (subclass 485) visa. The subclass 485 currently allows international students who graduate with skills and qualifications that relate to an occupation that is in demand to remain in Australia for an additional 18 months.
From early 2013, the temporary skilled graduate (subclass 485) visa will be renamed the temporary graduate (subclass 485) visa. You may apply for the temporary graduate visa through either the new post-study work stream (the new arrangements) or the graduate work stream (the existing subclass 485 arrangements) provided you meet the specific eligibility requirements.
The post-study work stream of the subclass 485 will be for international students who lodged their first student visa application after the introduction of the genuine temporary entrant requirement (GTE) on 5 November 2011. If you do not meet this requirement, you may still be eligible for a temporary graduate visa through the graduate work stream.
The introduction of new post-study work arrangements for degree level graduates in Australia was a key recommendation of the Strategic review of the student visa program 2011, conducted by the Hon Michael Knight AO.
We have recently published updated information on our website with details about how the new arrangements will work and what the particular eligibility requirements will be. You can view this information here.
More important information about the new post-study work stream of the subclass 485:
To be eligible for the new post-study work arrangements, you must graduate from an Australian educational institution with a Bachelor’s, Master’s and/or Doctoral degree. You may qualify for the new arrangements using any combination of eligible degree level qualifications.
The study used to complete this qualification must have been at Bachelor level and above and must meet the Australian study requirement.
The Australian study requirement
Regardless of whether you are applying under the new post-study work stream or the graduate work stream, you must meet the Australian study requirement in the six months before making your subclass 485 application. The Australian study requirement is defined as study in Australia in a registered course for a period of at least two academic years. The course must be conducted in English and must be completed in no less than 16 calendar months.
We have developed a fact sheet with information on how the Australian study requirement is assessed for the purposes of applying for a temporary graduate visa. This new fact sheet can be found here.
Are the new arrangements linked to skilled migration?
The new arrangements are not linked to skilled migration and do not provide a pathway to permanent residence. Therefore applicants under the new post-study work stream will not be required to nominate a skilled occupation or submit a skills assessment. Applicants under the graduate work stream of the subclass 485 will still be required to nominate a skilled occupation and submit a suitable skills assessment.
It is important to note that student visas and the graduate work visa are temporary visas and there is no guarantee that, on the basis of having held one of these visas, you will meet the requirements for grant of another visa.
Under the new post-study work arrangements, the duration of the subclass 485 visa you are granted will depend on the qualification that you have used to qualify for the arrangements.
Graduates who have completed a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s by coursework degree or Master’s extended degree may be eligible to apply for a two year post-study work visa. Graduates who have completed a Master’s by research degree or a Doctorate may be eligible to apply for a three or four year post-study work visa respectively.
Other graduates may be eligible to apply for an 18 month subclass 485 visa through the graduate work stream.
The department and the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to formalise information sharing between the two agencies. The MoU allows joint audits to be conducted of organisations or individuals where they are suspected of perpetrating immigration fraud or they fail to deliver quality education and training.
This joint action will contribute to quality assurance of the international education industry as well as maintaining high levels of integrity in the student visa program.
The MoU is a positive outcome in line with recommendations from the strategic review of the student visa program, the Knight Review, which recognised the need for cooperation between government agencies to facilitate information sharing and to inform evidence-based decision making.
The department is working closely with ASQA, as they are the national regulator for Australia’s vocational education and training sector. ASQA regulate both courses and training providers to ensure that nationally consistent standards are met. This includes standards to be met by training providers who deliver training to international students.
More information about ASQA can be found on the ASQA website.
Student visa numbers appear to be increasing according to the latest Student Visa Program Trends report.
During 2011–12 student visa applications increased by 0.4 per cent, which may be seen as a minor increase, however, it’s the first increase in lodgements since 2008–09.
Changes to the student visa program during 2011–12 and higher offshore lodgements (which grew by 4.4 per cent) have influenced the increase in students applying to study in Australia.
In November 2011, the department reduced the financial requirements for some prospective international students, and in March 2012, streamlined visa processing was introduced for certain prospective students of participating universities.
Streamlined visa processing means that specified applicants will have reduced evidentiary requirements when applying for a student visa. These changes to the student visa program, along with others, are expected to continue to boost the numbers of genuine international students.
Here are more interesting figures from the report:
- As at 30 June 2012, there were 307 050 student visa holders in Australia.
- 90.1 per cent of student visa applicants were granted a visa during 2011–12
- Most visas granted were higher education visas (113 160 grants), followed by vocational education and training visas (69 944 grants).
- China remains the top source country for international students with 49 592 student visa grants. Indian nationals were granted the second highest number with 33 764 visa grants.
The full report is available on the department’s website.
New web page for Student visa holders who were affected by the skilled migration reforms announced on 8 February 2010.
There is a new web page for current and former Student visa holders who held a Student visa on
8 February 2010, when the Australian Government announced the skilled migration reforms.
The new web page can be found here.
Increasingly in the years leading up to the reforms, the composition of the skilled migration program was being determined by those who wished to apply, rather than by labour market demand. A series of reforms were necessary to reposition the program as demand driven and able to respond better to Australia’s skilled labour needs.
One of the key changes was the withdrawal of the Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) and the introduction of a new Skilled Occupation List (SOL). The SOL is a list of occupations that are eligible for independent, or unsponsored, skilled migration. The new SOL consists of 192 occupations, down from more than 400 on the old list, and delivers a skilled migration program that is tightly focused on high value skills that will assist in addressing Australia’s medium to long term skill needs.
When these reforms were announced, the Australian Government also announced generous transitional arrangements for those who held Student visas when the changes were announced. The new web page includes information about these transitional arrangements, as well as other information about extending a Student visa, and also information about the skilled migration program. We plan to expand the page with further information in the coming months.
It is important for students to be aware that the Student visa program and the skilled migration program serve different purposes. A Student visa allows a person to come to Australia and study for a specified period. On the other hand, the skilled migration program has an economic focus. It is designed to meet the needs of the Australian labour market and strengthen the whole economy. Because of this, the requirements for skilled migration may change depending on the economic circumstances of the time, and that is why students should study a course based on their academic interests, rather than to achieve a particular migration outcome.
Student visas are temporary visas, so students should be mindful of their visa expiry date so they can consider their options early. It takes time to apply for another visa, and if a person is unable to obtain another visa they must depart Australia before their Student visa expires. There can be serious consequences for overstaying a Student visa and becoming unlawful, including being unable to return to Australia for up to three years.
Some students might be thinking about lodging an Expression of Interest (EOI) in SkillSelect when their student visa expires. An EOI is not the same as a visa application. It is an indication that a person would like to apply for a skilled migration visa, rather than an application itself. A Bridging visa will not be granted after submitting an EOI. If a person is not invited to apply for a skilled migration visa before their existing visa expires, they will need to obtain another visa or depart Australia.
At the end of 2010, the Hon Michael Knight AO was appointed to conduct the first independent review of the Student visa program (the Knight Review).
Mr Knight made 41 recommendations in his report, Strategic Review of the Student Visa Program 2011, to improve the competitiveness of the Australian international education sector and to strengthen the integrity of the Student visa program. All of the recommendations have been accepted in principle by the government. For more information, visit www.immi.gov.au/students/knight/
Stage one of the Knight Review changes was implemented in late 2011 and a number of key stage two Knight Review changes were implemented recently on 24 and 26 March. The remaining stage two changes are proposed to be implemented later in 2012 and in early 2013.
Changes implemented for applications made on or after 24 March 2012
- Streamlined visa processing for applicants studying Bachelor, Masters and Doctoral courses at participating universities in Australia are assessed as though they are a lower risk (similar to the current Assessment Level 1), regardless of their country of origin. This means that these applicants will generally have reduced evidentiary requirements when applying for a Student visa.
- The maximum period of English language study that a Schools sector (subclass 571) visa applicant subject to Assessment Level (AL) 3 and above can undertake, has been increased to 50 weeks. Prior to 24 March 2012, the maximum period of English language study for Schools sector applicants was 40 weeks for AL 3, 30 weeks for AL 4 and nil for AL 5. The arrangements for AL 1 and AL 2 applicants remain unchanged, with no English language study period restrictions.
- New Student Guardian (subclass 580) visa holders can undertake English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) study on a part-time basis (less than 20 hours per week) for the duration of their visa. However this change only applies to ELICOS study—other study restrictions remain unchanged.
Changes implemented on 26 March 2012
- More flexible work conditions for Student visa holders have come into effect. Postgraduate Research (subclass 574) visa holders can now work unlimited hours once their courses have started and all other Student visa holders work entitlements are now 40 hours each fortnight instead of 20 hours each week.
- The above changes apply to both new and existing Student visa holders.
You can access Mr Knight’s full report, fact sheets and frequently asked questions on the stage one and stage two Knight Review changes on the department’s website: www.immi.gov.au/students/knight/
Last Sunday, Department of Immigration and Citizenship representatives from the skilled migration policy areas joined our colleagues from the NSW Student Visa Centre at the NSW International Student Festival.
Our stall was one of the busiest, with students from across the state enquiring about Student visas,
Post-Study visas, Skilled Migration visas and in particular, SkillSelect. It was a fantastic opportunity for us to talk directly to students and receive their feedback on our Student visa and Skilled Migration programs.
There was a lot of interest in skilled migration among the students we talked to. Many of the students were in their final year of study and were considering their options for permanent migration to Australia. While we welcome this interest it is important for student visa holders to be aware that a Student visa is a temporary visa and there is no guarantee of a permanent migration outcome.
Skilled migration to Australia is highly competitive. It remains possible for students to compete for a place in the program, however to do so you must meet the eligibility requirements in place at the time you lodge your application. Students who do not meet the requirements for another visa should make arrangements to depart Australia before their visa expires. There are serious consequences for overstaying your visa that may affect any future visa applications you may make.
It is also important to remember requirements for skilled migration can change from time to time. For this reason students should choose their field of study based on their academic interests and not in the hope of achieving a particular migration outcome.
With SkillSelect being introduced on 1 July 2012 it was great to see so many students taking an interest in how the new system will affect the Skilled Migration program.
The festival allowed us to answer some of the key questions around SkillSelect. Some of the most common SkillSelect questions we received were:
Will I be granted a Bridging visa when I lodge my expression of interest (EOI)?
No. The EOI is not a visa application and you will not be granted a Bridging visa. A Bridging visa would only be considered once a valid visa application is lodged.
If you do not receive an invitation to apply before your student visa expires you will need to apply for another visa if you want to remain in Australia, or leave Australia before your visa expires.
Can I submit an EOI at any time?
You may submit an EOI from 1 July 2012. However, in order to submit a complete EOI you must meet the necessary requirements for the visa you are expressing an interest in.
Will SkillSelect be able to find me a job?
SkillSelect is not an employment service and will not be able to help you find a job.
If, in your EOI, you choose to be considered for an Employer Sponsored visa, employers will be able to access some of your details in SkillSelect (such as your occupation, work experience and English ability). This information will assist them to consider you for employment. In this way SkillSelect may be able to assist you in finding an employer sponsor.
Some of the other skilled migration questions we received over the course of the day were:
What visa options are available within the Skilled Migration program?
Within the Skilled Migration program there is a range of permanent and temporary visa options. For an overview of the different Skilled Migration visa categories see our fact sheet.
We advise students looking to progress to a Skilled Migration visa to confirm the requirements of the visa they wish to apply for before they lodge their application or submit an EOI.
What are the new post-study work arrangements for students?
Graduates of an Australian Bachelor degree, Masters by coursework degree, Masters by research degree or Doctoral degree will have access to a new post-study work visa scheduled to be introduced in early 2013.
Further information is available on our website.
Do I need to use a migration agent to lodge a skilled migration application or EOI?
No. You do not need to use a migration agent to lodge your application. However, a registered migration agent can advise on visa requirements, help you lodge a visa application and deal with the department on your behalf—usually for a fee.
You can choose to use a migration agent to assist you in submitting an EOI. However, you will only have one login to access your EOI account. You can only specify one email address to be contacted by SkillSelect about any invitations or messages in relation to your EOI account. All email notifications will be sent to your nominated email address and it will be your responsibility to ensure you can access your emails and update your account with any change of email address.
We wish international students all the best with their studies in Australia. If you are a current or former student with a general question about skilled migration, feel free to post it here and we will try to answer it as best we can.
Yesterday I attended the International Higher Education Conference in
Melbourne. It was a great opportunity to listen to some interesting presentations and hear the views of the industry and their thoughts about the Knight Review of the Student Visa Program. This blog was mentioned at the conference so I hope some of the attendees stop by and have a look.
Peter Speldewinde, who has posted on this blog before, spoke at the conference. His presentation topic was ‘the role of DIAC in assessment and monitoring standards in the new era’. The new era refers to how international education will operate in a post-Knight Review environment where education providers and key stakeholders work closely, in a partnership with government. Peter’s presentation gave an interesting perspective to the group, as it provided context about how the recent reforms to skilled migration support a sustainable international education sector.
Before I touch on the key points Peter raised, I’ll provide you with a brief background. The international education sector experienced unsustainable growth in the 2008-09 period. Growth in parts of the sector brought major issues around quality in some parts of the sector and high levels of fraud in the student visa program. Following this period, a number of key changes to both the student visa and migration programs were necessary to maintain the integrity of these programs.
During his presentation Peter explained the impact of this growth, which I’ll paraphrase here.
While there had been an increase in the number of students coming to Australia, the majority of these international students were staying in Australia, reaching a point where close to four times as many people were arriving on a temporary student visa than were departing.
This had an impact on Net Overseas Migration (NOM) – which is the difference between inflows and outflows of long-term residents. This rapid acceleration of visas granted to students with no intention of returning home not only put pressure on the department to maintain the integrity of the student visa program, this rapid growth led to questions about credibility in our international education sector.
The reforms announced by the Australian Government on 8 February 2010 and the subsequent introduction of the Skilled Occupation List (SOL) have resulted in a critical shift towards a labour market demand-driven program. They have effectively decoupled the international education and migration programs, breaking a link that had led to negative outcomes for both international education and the skilled migration program.
The interesting trend Peter discussed was the immediate effect this reform package has made in contributing to a decline in NOM, which has now almost halved from its peak of more than 315 000.
The purpose of the Knight Review was to examine how the student visa program could best support Australia’s international education sector while at the same time preserving the integrity of Australia’s migration program. The changes that are occurring as a result of the Knight Review should ensure the student program remains broadly NOM neutral, as we expect to see genuine students coming to Australia, with the view to complete their courses and then return home – unless they have been sponsored by an Australian employer or have been offered a place in the Australian independent skilled migration program.