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The Australian Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, along with the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, have released this month key information about a set of reforms to the country’s student visa programme, to be phased in from late 2011 through mid-2013. The reforms come as a result of the work of the Hon Michael Knight AO, who was charged in December 2010 (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, January 2011) with leading a review of Australia’s approach to student visas, with the goal of strengthening both the integrity of the visa programme and the competitiveness of the Australian education system. The government has now officially announced its support “in principle” for all 41 of Mr. Knight’s recommendations.
Among the key reforms, the “assessment level” (AL) framework will immediately be streamlined so that all university-level applicants will be ‘upgraded’ to AL1, the level at which applicants are considered least “risky” for student visa abuse. However, this approach to visa risk will likely be adjusted as early as the second half of 2012 in favour of a “provider-based risk management model”. A similar model has been introduced in the UK and another is under consideration in New Zealand. The idea is to give substantial weight in the student visa decision process to the track records of the specific institutions where the applicants are planning to enrol.
Other notable components of the revised visa programme:
The Australian authorities are also planning to introduce an important new threshold criterion for all applicants, to be known as the “genuine temporary entrant” (GTE) test. As in the US, where student visa applicants have to prove they do not intend to immigrate, the Australian GTE requirement will “explicitly address whether the individual circumstances of an applicant indicate that their main aim is for a temporary stay in Australia to study and then return home”.Department of Immigration and Citizenship