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Students losing amid “confusing, unfair” visa policy

The Australian Association of Education Representatives of India has launched a petition citing concerns that students are being caught in a “political crossfire” leading to high rates of “unfair” visa rejections or delays.

Students have been receiving visa rejections for reasons that stakeholders say are "at odds with reasonable standards". Photo: iStock

Students whose applications are rejected should have the recourse to appeal

The petition, which is addressed to Home Affairs minister Clare O’Neil and education Minister Jason Clare, argues that new policies impacting international students of late “do not show the faces or families” of those affected. 

It comes after stakeholders have called for clarity and additional guidance on current visa criteria ahead of the launch of a new genuine student test. English Australia has said current visa rejections are “at odds with reasonable standards”.

AAERI says that those affected are “invested financially and emotionally in this journey at every stage”.

“When they are handed a visa rejection… or asked to withdraw their file, the bewilderment and the horror is so acute and profound that it is hard to explain [to them] that there has been a sudden policy change and that Australia wants to bring down net migration,” the petition, written by secretary Sonya Singh, reads.

“This entire process takes eight to 12 months of advice and preparation. Recruitment agencies, universities and students spend hundreds of hours together to help make the process seamless at a great cost.”

The university classification system – with providers put into tiers based on the likelihood that students are seeking to work in Australia rather than study – is “confusing and unfair”. 

Students should be given time to make other choices so as to not “waste time” waiting for a visa to be rejected, and that those whose applications are rejected should have the recourse to appeal, the petition said.

The document comes after multiple measures stemming from the Australian migration strategy in December have been put in place to attempt to reduce levels of net migration and crack down on “shonks” in the sector. 

The policy shift is already unpopular, with one PVC-international calling it a “drunken sailor” approach. 

“There are important parts in the petition that should be brought to the table,” noted Ravi Lochan Singh, former AAERI president and head of the Global Reach agency, speaking with The PIE. 

“This [student] intake is more or less over, but whatever commentary that I have seen in Australian media is around [monetary] losses to universities – and there is a need to highlight the loss to students and Australia as a destination,” he continued. 

While not expressly pointing out potential institutional financial losses, the petition does also address the financial value brought by Indian-born migrants to Australia. 

“The students and their families are invested financially and emotionally in this journey”

The petition cited ABS data saying Indian-born migrants paid AUS$18bn in taxes in 2016/17.

“This data relates to persons 15 years and over who have migrated to Australia under a permanent or provisional visa, with an arrival date between January 1 2000 and June 30 2019,” it clarified.

The document also notes there are top CEOs of Indian origin in Australia “driving change” in the country’s businesses.

“It is our request that the government reconsiders its policy of reducing migration through randomly rejecting or delaying student visas and creates a proper well thought out plan to reduce migration after discussion with all key stakeholders.”

AAERI also offered its support to the government and said it would be “happy to be part of the discussion”. 

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