Student Visa Framework to be Simplified from 1 July 2016
By Mark Webster
Monday, 27 June 2016
From 1 July 2016, the application process for student visas will be streamlined and simplified - the Department of Immigration refers to this as the Simplified Student Visa Framework (SSVF).
The main changes are as follows:
- Elimination of current student visa subclasses and introduction of a new Subclass 500 Student Visa
- Onshore lodgement is possible for all students - providing they do not hold certain types of prohibited visas
- Simplification of English and financial requirements for Student Visas
- Changes to the 8202 "Maintain Enrolment" visa condition
Introduction of New Student Subclass 500 Visa
There are currently 7 student visa subclasses 570, 571, 572, 573, 574, 575 and 576. The subclass currently depends on the type of course you are completing - school, English language, vocational education, higher education or PhD. The current student subclasses will be closed to new applications from 1 July 2016.
These will be replaced by a single subclass 500 visa. This will mean criteria will be more straightforward to understand for applicants, and applications will be lodged online in most cases.
Onshore Lodgement for All Students
Under the current legislation, it is only possible to lodge a student visa application from within Australia where:
- You currently hold a student visa; or
- You are at the lowest risk level (Assessment Level 1)
Unless you are in one of the above situations, you need to demonstrate "exceptional circumstances" to lodge onshore.
From 1 July 2016, it will be possible to apply onshore for a student visa providing you hold a substantive visa. This will make it much more straightforward to transition onto a student visa from a working holiday, Graduate Temporary Subclass 485 visa, Partner Visa or even a visitor visa without needing to depart Australia.
Simplification of English and Financial Requirements
The Assessment Level framework and current Streamlined Visa Processing arrangements (SVP) will be abandoned. Instead the risk level depends on the risk level of the country of passport and the education provider.
If your provider and/or passport level are considered low risk, then it will be possible to lodge your student visa application without evidence of English and financial resources.
Unless you are considered "low risk" you would need to show evidence of your English language ability.
The following applicants will be exempt from English Language testing:
- Hold a passport from the UK, USA, Canada, NZ or Ireland
- Enrolled in an ELICOS course, school or post-graduate research course
- Foreign affairs, defence or secondary exchange students
- Completed Senior Secondary Certificate of Education in Australia
- Substantially completed a Cert IV or higher in Australia
- Completed 5 years of study in English medium in Australia, Canada, NZ, South Africa, Ireland, UK or USA
If English testing is required, the level required will depend on whether the course is packaged with an ELICOS course as follows:
|Test ||Score ||10 Weeks ELICOS ||20 Weeks ELICOS |
|IELTS ||5.5 Average ||5 Average ||4.5 Average |
|TOEFL (Paper)* ||527 ||500 ||450 |
|TOEFL iBT ||46 ||35 ||32 |
|CAE ||162 ||154 ||147 |
|PTE ||42 ||36 ||30 |
|OET ||B Pass ||B Pass ||B Pass |
* The paper-based TOEFL is only accepted if taken in certain countries.
If you are not considered "low risk" you would need to show evidence of your financial capacity as follows:
- Travel Expenses
- Living costs for the first 12 months of your stay in Australia
- Course fees for the first 12 months of study
- Income level of our parents or spouse
would be as follows for a 12 month period:
- $19,830: main applicant
- $6,940: partner or spouse
- $2,970: for each dependent child
- $8,000: schooling costs for dependent children
You can show funds by showing evidence of one of the following:
Deposits with a bank or financial institution
Loan from a financial institution or government
There is no restriction in terms of who can provide financial support, and this is quite different to the current student visa framework.
The income requirement is quite different to the current student visa framework. Your spouse or your parents will need to show official Government documentation of their income which has been issued in the 12 months prior to application. The minimum income required is as follows:
- $60,000: single applicant
- $70,000: applicant with dependents
This could be difficult to establish if you are from a country with low per capita income levels.
Genuine Temporary Entrant
The Department of Immigration will retain the "Genuine Temporary Entrant" requirement in its current form - this gives Immigration the discretion to request documentation if they have concerns. This may require applicants to explain how the course is relevant to their background and why they have chosen to study in Australia. Immigration has the discretion to refuse the application if they are not convinced that only a temporary stay is intended.
Changes to 8202 "Maintain Enrollment" Condition
Students currently can only study courses in the sector allowed by the type of student visa they hold. For instance, a student on a 572 visa can study any course in the vocational sector. This would allow a student who obtained a visa to study an advanced diploma to swap to a Certificate IV for instance.
From 1 July, condition 8202 will be changed to prohibit students swapping to a lower course. Students can only study at the same AQF level
or higher. For instance, an advanced diploma is at AQF level 6. Students can only study at AQF 6 or higher. In particular, a student who swapped to a Certificate IV (AQF level 4) would be in breach of their visa.
The Simplified Student Visa Framework should make the application process for low risk students a lot more straightforward. In particular the following will be very beneficial:
- Simplified visa arrangements making the process easier to understand
- Lower documentary requirements for low risk students
- Onshore lodgement for most applicants
For education providers, there is a huge advantage in maintaining a low risk rating under the new system. This would mean that students are exempt from providing evidence of financial status and English language ability and making it far easier for students to obtain visas to study in Australia.
Where required, the new income requirement could pose issues for applicants from countries with low income levels.
In addition, the Department of Immigration retains the discretion to ask for evidence of finances and English language ability if they have some concerns, and in all cases, the genuine temporary entrant requirement still applies.