The world thought that Australia was making the visas easier with the forthcoming visa changes. However, now they should be a little unsure… The celebrations were indeed premature. DIAC is the real winner as it cleverly envelopes the real power hidden amongst the visa changes. The DIAC update from the office of the Assistant Secretary details the Implementation of stage one of the changes is proposed for 5 November 2011, including:
- introduction of a new “genuine temporary entrant” criterion for all student visa applicants;
- a reduction in the financial requirements for certain visa applicants;
- removal of the English language test requirements for stand alone Assessment Level 4 and above English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) visa applicants;
- increasing the visa period of all new Postgraduate Research (subclass 574) visa grants by six months to allow for interactive marking of a thesis;
- amendments to student visa policy regarding prepaid homestay fees arranged through education providers; and
- cessation of the student visa pre-visa assessment (PVA) arrangements.
More information on the changes is available from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s website at: www.immi.gov.au/students/knight/
I have been waiting for the details on GTE (Genuine Temporary Entrant) criteria which I have thought of and have commented as the “hidden ammunition”. The details are now more detailed on the link. This is exactly where the DIAC has played its cards adeptly.
Some say it was a much needed ammunition in their hand as it removes the objectivity around the visas and injects some extreme subjectivity. Some may also feel that it is offering some flexibilities to the visa officers as they can now be a little lenient with the so-called “genuine” students.
While I have argued for some subjectivity and flexibility myself, I feel that that the GTE criterion is one such encompassing criterion that once we have that, we just do not need any other requirements for the visa. It has detailed every kind of situation under this and I really wonder why we need the AL system of any fund requirement at all from now on itself.
With GTE, the visa officers are now even more powerful (were they not already!). Let me not say anymore on this… Just read the attachment on the link after reading this blog and the various case studies and situations mentioned will indicate that one bad interview can “make or break” an application. Also the visa decision of the other countries will now have a bearing on the visa application to OZ.
I do wonder why many felt that Knight recommendations were going to make the visas very simple. The only and only way that it has, is by reducing the funds to be shown by six months for AL3 applicants from India but that has been balanced off by the increase in the forex conversion for Indian students to Rs 46 from Rs 41 per dollar.
Further, the abolishing of PVA will make the process “appear” to be time-efficient between the time visa is lodged and is decided. However, this is just a “superficial efficiency”. I say so since the time of visa processing will now begin a few weeks before the actual lodgment, even though it will now show up as lessening of DIAC processing times. It should be calculated from when the student pays to the institution and applies for the eCOE, if the PVA stands abolished. Further, the abolishing of the PVA will mean that there are now other “disadvantages” caused to the Universities, Agents and also the Students. Let me elaborate my fears. If the visa is granted, it is all great. However going by the visa refusal rate in India of 50% (or more) (for established education agents it will be much less but overall the visa refusal rate is indeed 50% or about), the workload will now be huge at the end of institutions who will now have to create more number of eCOEs and there will be additional workload and inconveniences when the visas are refused for an applicant as refunds will now have to be organized. The student also loses out financially when the visa is refused since the refunds that are received will be converted back into local currency by the banks at the lower buying rates while the student converted the local currency to dollars at the higher selling rates of the banks. The agent will also have the “unpaid bother” in such cases. I really wonder why the so called experts amongst the institutions are not reading this superficial change that actually disadvantages all.
I maintain that the biggest gain of the Knight Review is the introduction of POST STUDY WORK for graduating degree students who will be able to work and gain experience for a period of time irrespective of the specialization of the degrees and irrespective of whether the degrees are in areas on SOL.
The GTE details however still gives me some fright… If applied a little irresponsibly, it can really ruin a good student’s prospects. I say so since it will be foolish to expect that there will be just no errors on part of visa officers especially because we know that across the world visa officers have committed errors and generalizations.
In the “real world”, a student who tells the interviewer that they intend to work for a few years in Australia post their studies may actually fail the GTE. Even though, PSW can be marketed by Universities now… I am sure that a student will feel drawn into saying that they will return to their home country after their degrees even when they have been attracted by the PSW and even when the Universities will market the PSW options. Will DIAC grant a visa to a student who says that he will do the Masters and then take up “guaranteed” PSW and then explores the state sponsorship that several states are promoting or other PR options even though they have the option of returning to India and work in India? (Yes, ACT Chief Minister’s office recently told me that they will happily sponsor a student who has worked in ACT for six months after having studied in ACT)
I also feel that the “genuine-ness” is too much a subject of “interpretation”. My real hope will be that the DIAC will release a guideline on what it deems as a “positive profile applicant”. Immigration NZ has such a document that it shares with education agents. Students who belong to positive profile are fast-tracked or streamlined and those who are not are still processed but a little closely. Once again NZ may give out some tips… to Aussies. After all, they won the Rugby World Cup.