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Aus: institutions telling students to withdraw “a matter for education providers”

Visa rejection rates to Australia rose drastically in 2023, with only 78% of visas for higher education approved in August last year.

Photo: pexels

The statistics in the six months to December last year show that 98.2% of higher education sector visas from Indonesia were approved

It is a record low for the month, with approval rates only twice before falling below 90%. In August of 2015/16 and 2019/20, 89.9% and 89.4% of visas for primary applicants for higher education, respectively, were approved.

The latest statistics available for December 2023 show that visas for the VET sector fell to 60%, compared to the 95.3% approvals in the same month in 2022.

Overall student visa grant rates in the six months to December 2023 stood at 81.2%, compared with 93.5% the same six months in 2021.

It comes after stakeholders, particularly in South Asia, reported significant increases in refusals, despite limited changes in visa regulations.

Last week, there were reports that University of Wollongong, along with other institutions, had been telling students to withdraw their applications as they said the students were unlikely to meet new criteria for study visas.

The students were told that “new” criteria associated with the country’s migration strategy – announced in December – would likely mean that they would not receive visas. Recruiters insist that the new criteria is not yet in operation.

“Universities and agents have been following the guidelines as it was in 2023 and while we wondered on the reason, we were often blamed for the quality of students or there being fraud in the caseloads,” Ravi Lochan Singh from Global Reach wrote on LinkedIn.

“We (Universities and agents) often wondered where the missing link was and now we even have Universities asking agents to withdraw the visas before a decision is reached as they fear that it could lead to a refusal and then lead to a decline in their risk level.”

Lochan Singh said a comment online from Clare O’Neil, Australia’s minister for Home Affairs, suggests the government is seeking to reduce international student intake.

The tweet celebrated the fact that Australia’s plan “to get migration back down to sustainable levels is working”.

“This is led by changes that are reducing exploitation and rorting in higher education,” she wrote.

The government is expected to provide a clear definition of a ‘genuine student’ via a strengthened ministerial direction for applications to be assessed against as part of its new Genuine Student requirement outlined in December’s strategy.

The strategy action plan states that ministerial direction visa processing priorities and the bolstering of the student visa integrity unit would be implemented in “late 2023”.

A ministerial direction from December 15 stated that students seeking education at low-risk institutions would be prioritised in visa processing.

Other measures such as increasing English language requirements and “strengthening requirements for international education providers” are slated to be implemented in 2024.

Lochan Singh suggested that Australian authorities had been “refusing visas even when the visas met the requirements”.

“I find this fairly painful and thousands of students will lose out on visa fee, money in terms of forex charges when seeking refunds and also in terms of time,” he said.

“Australia is bound to lose its attraction even for the genuine students”

“Australia is bound to lose its attraction even for the genuine students… What a bad policy to follow…

“The solution if the government wants to reduce the student intake is to increase the visa requirements but still grant visas to those who meet the requirements… Who will bell the cat!”

A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said they were unable to comment on advice issued by education providers about visa processing to those enrolled to study with the provider and currently awaiting an outcome of their visa applications.

“This is a matter for the relevant education provider(s),” they said.

“The Australian government is committed to reforming visa products to reduce the risk of migrants becoming permanently temporary and support the integrity of our migration system.”

The government details a document checklist tool but will refuse or delay visa applications for a number of other reasons.

These include when applicants are unresponsive to requests for more information and the length of time it takes to perform the required checks and receive information from external agencies.

Genuine applicants need to meet regulatory requirements. When fraud is present, applications will be refused.

Applicants to higher risk providers can expect slower processing times as authorities need to consider the integrity of specific providers.

However, visa approvals are not likely to hit all countries or types of provider equally. One agent The PIE spoke with in Indonesia said the relatively “clean market” was not seeing many visa rejections.

The statistics in the six months to December last year show that 98.2% of higher education sector visas from Indonesia were approved, compared to the 67.7% VET and the 54.9% ELICOS grant rates from the same country.

In the same time period, grants rates for higher education from India was 64.1%, 68.4% for VET and 37.5% for ELICOS. The higher education visa grant rate for Pakistan for the sixth months was similar, at 66%.

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