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Australia: SVP not so streamlined, say agents

Education agents have spoken out against Australia’s Streamlined Visa Processing system, saying it is neither faster nor more dependable for visa issuance. They have cautiously welcomed the recent announcement that the system will be scrapped starting next year but say it’s too early to tell if it will be an improvement.

The old and new parliament houses in Canberra, Australia. Photo: Simon Yeo.

“We lost hundreds of students who came here legitimately and were recruited onshore by fairly dodgy agents”

SVP was introduced in 2012, aiming to streamline visa processing by requiring students applying to designated low-risk universities to provide less evidence of funding or previous study.

However, stakeholders have said that it has created a have and have not culture in Australian education and has failed to prevent illegal course-hopping.

“This has resulted in more layers of SVP system and each education provider has interpreted the SVP and GTE criteria as per their description”

“In principal, the SVP is a good system and has brought many positive changes in the last couple of years in the Indian market,” Rahul Gandhi, president of the Association of Australian Education Representatives in India, told The PIE News.

However, he explained that using Genuine Temporary Entrant criteria to assess students for visas requires education agents to vet applicants, while the Department of Immigration and Border Protection can also request additional evidence from applicants at its discretion.

“This has resulted in more layers of SVP system and each education provider has interpreted the SVP and GTE criteria as per their description,” he said.

“This has resulted in slower admission and visa processes.”

Rahmi Mesud Yilmaz, director for Atlas Private Educational Services, one of Turkey’s largest education agencies, agreed.

“In practice, number one, the turnover time is not shorter in Turkey; number two, the visa rejection rate is the same,” he told The PIE News. “SVP is just an extra hassle, it doesn’t add any value to us.”

There is also the question of course-hopping– when students enrol at an SVP education institution then transfer to a non-SVP (often cheaper) provider onshore, rather than returning home to re-apply, as they are legally required to.

Explaining course-hopping, Mark Lucas, director of global administration at business development at Korea-based agency, iae GLOBAL Network said: “Often with the countries they’re coming from, if they had applied for the visa offshore for that vocational college, they would not have been accepted.”

Gandhi said AAERI alerted the Department of Immigration and Border Protection of course hopping in November 2013, and early last year the government sent out more than 1,400 letters warning students they had breached their visa conditions by transferring to non-SVP providers.

“Number one, the turnover time is not shorter in Turkey; number two, the visa rejection rate is the same”

The government also launched a social media campaign to discourage course-hopping.

However, it has failed to ensure that legal procedures rein in abuse of the system, Lucas said.

“We even had [students] who were being accepted and given new visas by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection without getting a letter of release from the original institution, which technically is not possible.”

“Most students are not coming here with the idea they’re going to cheat SVP,” he added, but explained that they are often convinced by the prospect of moving to a cheaper institution with lax oversight that would enable them to work.

As a consequence, if a student transfers half way through the year, the agent will lose half their commission, which is usually paid in semesterly instalments.

“We lost hundreds of students who came here legitimately and were recruited onshore by fairly dodgy agents,” Lucas said. “It affected our reputation but we didn’t lose them; the institutions let them go.”

Until the government releases further details of the new system requirements it would be difficult to predict whether it will resolve these issues, Lucas and Yilmaz agreed.

Gandhi added that GTE criteria will determine the success of the new system.

He also noted that the new system attempts to level the playing field of providers, as institutions may be negatively affected by being known for not having rights to SVP.

However, he added: “I am of the view that the processes will continue to differ based on the Assessment level of the institutions and the problem that DIBP will face will be to somehow communicate the GTE requirements to the student and agents without disclosing as to what is the assessment level of the institutions.”

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