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How To Obtain An International Student Visa In Australia

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Australia has long been one of the most population destinations in the world for international students, ranking in popularity only after the US and the UK, despite having a population of only around 23 million people.

Why is this the case? Australia boasts a reputable education system, eight universities ranked in the world’s top 100, millions of international students already here studying to meet and mingle with, and is, last but not least, a very beautiful place to live.

As with any other country, you will need to have a visa to study in Australia. These are some of the visa options which might be applicable for you, and ways you might go about obtaining an Australian visa for your studies.

Types of visas to consider

Student visas

There are currently seven types of student visas, along with the Student Guardian (Subclass 580) visa, which allows a guardian to enter Australia and live with students who are under the age of 18.

The student visas are the Independent ELICOS (Subclass 570), Schools (Subclass 571),    Vocational Education and Training (Subclass 572), Higher Education (Subclass 573),     Postgraduate Research (Subclass 574), Non-award (Subclass 575), and Foreign Affairs or Defence (Subclass 576). You would apply for the visa that’s appropriate for your type or level of study.

However major changes are currently in process to streamline and simplify Australia’s student visa program, and these are due to take effect from the 1st July 2016. Subclasses 570 to 576 will be consolidated into a single subclass, the Subclass 500 visa. The Subclass 580 Student Guardian visa will also be withdrawn, and the new Subclass 590 will replace it.

This means from July 2016 all international students will apply for the same visa regardless of what level or type of study they are undertaking. Current visa holders will not be affected, except that their student guardians need to apply for a Subclass 590 visa, rather than the Subclass 580.

The changes also include a simplified immigration risk framework for assessing student visa applicants, rather than by the pre-existing system of evaluating applicants by country and subclass assessment levels. Assessment levels are used to assess the applicant’s English skills and their financial capacity.

Student visas allows you to study in Australia, bring eligible dependent members to live with you, and work a certain number of hours each week. It might also allow you to apply for further visas.

Understanding assessment levels

Under the pre-July 2016 framework there are three different assessment levels for students. Which one applies to your application depends on your course education sector and country of passport. The higher the assessment level, the more evidence you will be asked to provide in support of your application.

From the 1st July 2016 there will only be one immigration risk framework, and this will be based on the student’s country of citizenship and their education provider. The DIBP will use the risk framework to assess how much evidence relating to English skill and financial capacity needs to be provided by the applicant.

If you are deemed to be a low immigration risk, you will have streamlined requirements for evidence and you can satisfy both the English skill and financial capacity criteria with a Confirmation of Enrolment letter and declaration.

Other visas

If you’re looking to study in Australia for a short period of time you could apply for a Visitor Visa (including the Subclasses 600, 601, and 651). You can study for up to three months on these visas.

Alternatively, if you are eligible to do so, you could apply for a working holiday visa instead ( Work and Holiday Visa (Subclass 462) and Working Holiday Visa (Subclass 417)). Which one of the two you apply for will depend on what passport you hold, as only passport holders from certain countries are eligible to apply. These visas allow you to study up to four months in Australia and give you conditional work rights.

Other types of visas – such as Partner Visas or visas under the Skilled Migration program – can also allow you to undertake study.

Applying for a visa

Visa applications are submitted to and processed by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). Currently some applicants are eligible to apply online, while others submit paper applications. From the 1st July 2016 all student visa applications will be submitted online through ImmiAccount.

Eligibility criteria for student visas

There are a few key criteria applicants need to meet to be eligible for a student visa. These will still apply after the 1st July 2016 – however the way the assessment of certain criteria is made will be simplified.

  • English language proficiency – All applicants need to have the required level of English proficiency, though only some applicants will need to provide evidence of their English language skills, such as with an IELTS or TOEFL test result.
  • Financial requirements – You will usually need to show you have enough funds to cover your stay, your course, and any partners or dependents. You will most likely need to meet the annual income requirement.
  • Genuine temporary entrantThe DIBP will consider your personal situation – such as your immigration history and personal circumstances in your home country – to assess whether you intend to stay in Australia on a temporary basis.
  • Health and character – You need to meet certain health and character requirements. You may need to take a health exam for your application and obtain health cover before a grant is given.
  • Age and welfare – From July 2016 school students need to satisfy certain age requirements for their course and have certain welfare arrangements in place for their stay in Australia.