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Australia eases visa process for universities

Australia is to streamline the process of obtaining a student visa for university as part of new measures to boost international education. The system, to be introduced March 24, transfers the risk of proving student validity from the government to universities, “making the application process simpler and faster”.

Overseas students – regardless of their country of origin – will be treated by DIAC as though they are lower risk

Minister for immigration and citizenship, Chris Bowen, said the arrangements which affect around half of all countries from which Australia recruits, would “help boost international enrolments for semester two 2012 and beyond.”

Under the system overseas students – regardless of their country of origin – will be treated by the Department of Immigration and Citzenship (DIAC) as though they are low risk, and will need to submit less evidence in support of their application, similar to the current assessment level 1.

Instead they will have to give evidence of their finances, English language skills and academic qualifications direct to universities, which will in turn vouch for their credibility. DIAC said that students would generally be required to produce less evidence in future.

Julio Garcia, a counsellor at Latino Australia Education in Cali in Colombia (currently considered level 2) welcomed the news. “The quantity of money students from level 2 and 3 countries have to demonstrate is currently high. We think at level 1 this should be a little less,” he said.

The benchmark will be based on performance of agents, level of fraud and breaches of student visa conditions

Seema Biswas at IDP in Kolkata, India said: “Previously level 3 students had to keep evidence of their funding for three to six months, now they won’t have to this. It will be easier for Indian students.”

All of Australia’s 42 universities are expected to participate in the scheme with the final list announced March 24. However, observers have warned institutions could face added administrative burden as well as reputation risk through the arrangements.

Among criteria for involvement, universities must show how they will ensure agents they work with are legitimate and that students have appropriate levels of English and funding at the start of their courses.

Universities will also be assessed every March and must receive an assessment level 1 or 2 at each review. The benchmark will be based on the performance of agents, level of fraud in the applications and breaches of student visa conditions – factors some university heads warn can be beyond institutions’ control.

The Government has also proposed the cessation of automatic cancellation of student visas as part of a number of proposals to make the monitoring of international students within Australia fairer and more efficient.

Executive director of English Australia, Sue Blundell, said: “We hope that the declared intention, which is to target resources on areas of serious breach rather than wasting resources on minor matters will eventuate, and students and colleges which work consciously to rort the system will be targeted and dealt with.”

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