Australia New simplified student visa framework
Future directions for streamlined visa processing
On 16 June 2015 the Australian Government released the Future directions for streamlined visa processingreport and announced the introduction of a simplified student visa framework (SSVF) to support Australia’s education services sector. Subject to the regulatory change process, it is expected that the SSVF will be implemented by mid-2016.
Key changes under the SSVF are:
- a reduction in the number of student visa subclasses from eight to two; and
- the introduction of a simplified single immigration risk framework for all international students.
Reason for change
The changes are designed to make the student visa framework simpler to navigate for genuine students, deliver a more targeted approach to immigration integrity and create a level playing field for all education providers.
Commencement date for the SSVF
Subject to the regulatory change process, it is expected that the SSVF will be implemented from mid-2016.
Current structure of the student visa programme
The student visa framework is currently quite complex, encompassing eight visa subclasses, the Assessment Level framework and streamlined visa processing arrangements.
Currently, prospective students must apply for the student visa subclass applicable to their intended level of study, for example, subclass 573 for Higher Education.
Prospective student visa applicants are then either assessed under the Assessment Level (AL) framework or streamlined visa processing (SVP) arrangements. These frameworks primarily determine the level of evidence of financial capacity, English language proficiency and academic background that the student needs to provide with their student visa application.
Under the AL framework, there are three assessment levels with AL1 representing the lowest immigration risk and AL3 the highest. The higher the AL, the greater the amount of evidence an applicant is required to demonstrate to support their claims for the grant of a student visa.
Under SVP, eligible student visa applicants - that is, students whose main course of study is an Advanced Diploma, Bachelor degree, Masters, Doctoral degree or eligible exchange programme at a participating SVP education provider - are not assigned an AL. If a student is eligible for SVP, they will generally have requirements for financial capacity, English language proficiency and academic background related requirements that are similar to those that apply under the current AL1, regardless of their country of origin.
Applying for a student visa under the SSVF
The SSVF is intended to replace existing streamlined visa processing and AL framework arrangements.
Under the SSVF, the combined immigration risk outcomes of the student’s education provider and country of citizenship will be used to guide the level of documentation relating to financial capacity and English language proficiency that the student would need to provide with their student visa application.
Additionally, students would no longer apply for a specific student visa subclass applicable to their level of study for example, subclass 573 for Higher Education. Rather, it is intended that there will be only one student visa subclass for which all prospective students will apply.
Financial and English language documentary requirements when applying for a student visa under the SSVF
It is intended that students will be able to identify what documents they will be required to provide with their visa application by entering their intended education provider and country of citizenship into an online tool.
The level of documentary evidence required in relation to financial and English language capacity will be guided by the combined immigration risk of the prospective student’s education provider and country of citizenship.
Generally, students enrolled at an education provider with the lowest immigration risk outcomes will have lower evidentiary requirements, regardless of their nationality. Students enrolled at an education provider with the highest immigration risk outcomes will have access to reduced evidentiary requirements if they are from a country with the lowest immigration risk.
Impact of the SSVF on eligibility for the Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) or other types of visa
The eligibility criteria for the Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa will not change.
Impact of the SSVF on existing student visa holders
The SSVF is intended to apply only to student visa applications lodged after the middle of 2016 and is not expected to affect existing student visa holders.
Applying for a student visa prior to the introduction of the SSVF
Current student visa processing arrangements will remain unchanged until the SSVF is implemented in mid-2016.
As it becomes available, further information will be updated on the Department's website at border.gov.au