International Students in Australia switching from SVP to non-SVP receive letters… Can the warnings lead to actual visa cancellations and my recommendations to plug the loop-holes!!!

After denying for a year that students switching from SVP to non-SVP as a major issue, finally Aussie immigration realises and issues warning letters siting all-embracing condition 8516. My recommendations…

Almost nine months ago, I raised this as a possibility and a rising concern. The institutions had begun seeing numbers of students from India and Nepal (primarily) seeking releases and where denied, were still going ahead with the switch. When I wrote on the issue of various concerns related to compliance with SVP and when The Australian quoted me on this, the rebuttal from the Immigration at that time was…

However a DIAC spokesman indicated that the department was satisfied with the SVP to date, and was taking a “business as usual” approach to compliance issues.

Around the same time, The Australian carried another article quoting another agent and indicated precisely that the students had been entering Australia using the SVP but then switching. I don’t blame the Immigration for not finding it as a major concern then as often they refer to data, which tends to have a slight lag… However it will always help to keep an ear to the ground and some of us tend to sniff things earlier than when the datas emerge.

Over the last month, over a thousand students (newspapers say 1416) who switched from SVP to non-SVP institutions have received a letter from the Department of Immigration “warning” them that they are in breach of the condition 8516. Students who switched over a year ago and were allowed to change at that time also received these letters. Some are closer to completion of the programs too.

The natural reaction from such letters was as intended. The students panicked and rushed to local migration agents who were foxed too. Some of these “onshore” agents were actually involved in the switch for these students and had pocketed a fee too. They had read the migration act to find that…

  • That the migration act did not prohibit a student from switching institutions especially if it was in the same category. Say subclass 573 to subclass 573.
  • It was an ESOS condition that the student should stick to the same “principle” provider for at-least six “calendar” months. Not a condition for the student visa as such.
  • The migration agents quickly point out that a student was concerned with the student visa and not whether it was SVP or not. Further, there is no way for the student to choose whether his visa should be SVP or non-SVP and even the institutions cannot choose whether they can apply the SVP for some students and not for others.
  • The migration agents point out that the student visa application for SVP or non-SVP did not differentiate. And the visa grant letter for student visas too was identical without any indication that the visa had been processed under SVP and so the student can claim “not to know that his visa is different”. The visa fee is also the same.
  • And the letter received by the students too was not NOICC that is the formal notice for visa cancellation. Hence was merely a kind of warning letters in absence of any real ground for cancellation of the visa. A cancellation, if at all, under this condition for the act of switching institutions, the migration agents believe can be successfully challenged.

But then the Immigration’s official migration blog on this topic has several comments (see link) where students are seeking solutions. Some students appear genuinely to have erred in the switch and were not aware that they were violating any condition of the visa. The advise to such students by the Immigration, as can be seen in the comments is that the students must now depart Australia and apply for a fresh student visa. Is this an appropriate advice? Does the student have no other option but to depart Australia and reapply for a student visa? Migration experts believe that Immigration has not given a comprehensive advise to the student here and the student will possibly make a mistake by departing Australia and applying for a new student visa offshore. In reality, there is a good chance that once they depart and apply for a fresh visa, that visa may be denied and the student is left with no option to appeal. They state the reasons as…

  • Why should the student depart Australia? The warning letter is not an NOICC and further the student can give his/her reasons that can be anything ranging from a more suitable program at the non-SVP institution to being ignorant on how his/her visa differed from other student visas and be still acceptable. Honestly, looking at the visas, one cannot say that one visa is different from the other.
  • Even if the visa is to be cancelled, why can’t the student apply for a fresh student visa “onshore” for the non-SVP institution? Possibly he can.

In reality however, the students who apply to SVP institutions and get visas do have it a little easier and it is not fair for them to arrive onshore based on the status of the first institution and then make a switch.

  • Immigration should edit visa application form and indicate in that the application is with lower fiscal checks as the institution is under SVP.
  • Immigration should edit the visa grant letter too to indicate that the visa has been granted under SVP and so if the student switches from SVP to non-SVP at any time during the visa tenure, the student may be required to apply for a fresh student visa and the current visa will automatically terminate.

However it is also not right that the students who got visa under SVP had no hope to be granted a visa under non-SVP. The student has no choice to apply under SVP or non-SVP and it depends solely on the status of the institution. See today’s article from The Australian titled STUDENTS WHO JUMP UNIS HIT BY VISA RULES.

There is one other thing to fix too for the Government. The important fix required is the ownership to the condition related to “change of provider”.  Prior to 1st July 2007, there existed a condition 8206 on the student visas. This prohibited students from changing providers for one year. However on this date, the condition was removed. Lets look at the rationale for the removal of the condition as indicated on the immigration site…

Condition 8206 limits the ability of student visa holders to change education providers during their course of study. As a result of this change, it will no longer be necessary for students to apply for a new student visa in order to change Education providers.

The removal of condition 8206 and related provisions from the Regulations has been done to reflect changes to the National Code of Practice for Registration Authorities and Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2007 (the National Code 2007). In particular, the obligations set out in condition 8206 have been transferred from the Regulations to become a standard of the National Code 2007. The rationale for this is that the change of education provider is essentially an educational, not an immigration matter.

But since this, “change of education provider” is not an immigration matter, the ESOS provision has been toothless. In-fact, the ESOS condition has shortcomings…

  • From one year under the Immigration’s condition 8206, it became six months under ESOS. This was to protect the student’s interest but failed to do so as the “calendar” six months means that the student has to lose out on some money paid for the second semester of studies at institutions if he or she has to move institutions.
  • The ESOS requirement mentions that if a student desired to move institutions before six months of a “principle” program, then they needed a release letter from the “principle” provider. This has become quite chaotic since students in packaged programs of a pathway leading to a University often has to get a release letter from the University even if the University is to start after two years of his or her being in Australia. Hence the change to protect student’s customer rights works in contradiction.
  • In fact it talks of principal course and not principal provider. Hence if the student is undertaking one year of Graduate Diploma leading to second year of Masters, then the student can only change institution after one and half years (after he has studied six months of the principle program which is Masters) even if he is at the same institution. This too works against the basic arguments for the reduction of the time for changing provider from one year to six months.
  • The ESOS also doesn’t differentiate between SVP and non-SVP providers and hence while Immigration has relinquished its condition 8206 giving rationale that the change of provider is essentially an educational matter and not immigration matter, the situation demands once again that change of provider becomes an immigration matter.

So what am I recommending?

Recommendation 1: Times have changed since 2007 and now that some institutions are under SVP and have easier visas, it is important to understand for the Immigration that earlier rationale for removal of 8206 doesn’t stand now. Change of provider is an “immigration matter” now and hence the earlier condition 8206 that stated that a student could not change providers for at-least one year should be reinstated. If a student has a reason to switch that is genuine, he or she may compulsorily require a release letter from the first institution. There is just no space to complicate this change of provider regulations giving any other rationale as was given in 2007.

Recommendation 2: Look at the recently introduced SVP by Immigration NZ and take its improvements. INZ calls it IPP (Industry Partner Programme) and one massive superiority over SVP is that it allows the institution to choose which applications can be processed under SVP and which may not. Hence two students for the same program may have differing visa requirements subject to the institution’s ability to take the onus on the fiscal background of the candidate. Secondly, it is not linked to only degree programs but more to the status of the institution. While in the Australian model of SVP, a degree student of one institution gets the advantage while another student at the same institution who may be applying with say Post Graduate Diploma doesnot get the advantage. Crazy.

Recommendation 3: Please give comprehensive advise on the migration blog and one that can be backed up with regulations. Otherwise it leads to panic. Remember that the students are already “onshore” and have more access to appeals and solutions than students “offshore” who can simply be denied visas. The immigration department’s migration blog is as official as its website. (Unlike my blog)

And lastly, when some of us with interests in the right places give out warning signals, do take note of them well in advance.

DISCLAIMER: THE ABOVE IS ONLY MY OPINION AND IT IS NOT A MIGRATION ADVICE OR AN INTENDED ADVICE TO A STUDENT WHO MAY HAVE RECEIVED ONE SUCH LETTER. THE STUDENT MAY APPROACH A LICENSED MIGRATION ADVISER. I AM NOT ONE. THE PURPOSE OF THIS BLOG IS TO PLUG THE LOOPHOLE THAT MIGHT EXIST. REFER TO MY RECOMMENDATIONS.

45 Comments

  1. Ravi,
    i second to whatever you have said and more importantly the immigration department should consider the last advice seriously ……on a lighter note ofcourse they are policy makers and they have their reason i am sure…..but then they should understand one thing and that is that these frequent changes in the immigration laws or its effects due to the ESOS act is hampering the BRAND AUSTRALIA as a lot of student who come for counseling have started asking or should i say telling that we would want to look at other options as Australian policies have frequent changes and we do not want our future to be decided by a STROKE OF A PEN. To a great extent i feel that they are right….just imagine the number of changes whether it is immigration policy, Residency rules, education providers rules, skilled occupation list……..all of these are kind of vulnerable……having said all this the NO CHANGE OF PROVIDER TILL 1 year is what they should be looking at…..it safeguards everyone and is a win win situation for everyone as well. What do u have to say ?

    Like

  2. Great Blog Ravi and I am sure all the stake holders of the Industry i.e. Agents and Education Providers would agree to your suggestions and Recommendations!!

    Like

  3. Think there are several isssues, mostly of the Australian authorities and onshore international education sector’s own making….

    – Lack of oversight or intrusive auditing by DIBP with institutions, knowing what is happening on the ground (Australian management, especially in international ed, have an alrming lack of curiosity about whar is actually happening onshore, vs the preferred offshore e.g. events, agent visits, agent training, agent management etc.).
    – Reliance upon MARA migration agents who (vs education only agents working commission only) make an upfront ‘sale’ of a visa and/or course of study in Australia, with ‘carrots’ or ‘promises’.
    – The same and/or education agents onshore waiting to ‘nobble’ students organised by education agents offshore to change (to cheaper) provider, gain a commission and sometimes splitting commission with students.
    – Universities limiting number of recruitment agreements/agents for supposed quality, compliance and workload reasons, yet then are sometimes complicit in encouraging the use of sub agents and non certified documents being used……
    – Institutions have to offer letters of release don’t they? If not, they are now aware of what is going on?
    – Raises the question why were universities (and especially a big ASX listed multi campus pathway provider previously issuing VET awards then became ‘higher education’) given visa advantages before SVP early 2011 (though the latter company seemed to be aware late 2010), and SVP proper, if their compliance systems are on paper only, if at all? (think post Knight visa review they were informed by previous misinformed and panicked govt. to make it up themselves!)

    Apart from the phenomenon discussed on this blog re. SVP, there are still several basic management tasks that all institutions and their agents, in cooperation with regulators and DIBP should be actively held to account on vs the popular Australian sport of blaming it all offshore, i.e. xenophobia (to mask management incompetence, see Donald Horne, “The Lucky Country”).

    One would think in an ideal world that institutions should be liaising more closely with offshore agents and students (but not spending marketing funds on visiting or events!) via Skype etc. regarding intentions, more scrutiny of release letter requests e.g. why? who? and after enrolment around census date, feedback from every new commencement on how did they find the institution, which marketing channels (and key words) to produce testimonials for marketing content, and inform digital marketing and SEO.

    However, don’t hold one’s breath as it appears many of the ‘middle people’ universities etc. know that they may well become redundant if anyone knew what was going on 🙂

    Like

  4. Very informative and valuable analysis under the circumstances .I appreciate your thorough understanding on pros & cons of SVP.I have a question : How the agent will be affected if any student recruited through his/her agency happen to breach the SVP and switch over to Non-SVP ?

    Like

    1. The Agent will be affected directly and indirectly. The University may hold the agent responsible for improper counselling. The agent may also not be fully remunerated once the student has moved. If the student has to be deported then it will affect the goodwill for the agent and for the destination country.

      Like

  5. Hello Ravi,
    I wanted to post it on one of your Foreign Degree Equivalence blogs but since those were closed for comments I am posting it here. I would soon be joining a 1.5 years Masters degree in Poland University. Please let me know would that be considered as a valid Masters degree in India, since as per your blogs I’m afraid it would not be. Your prompt response would be highly helpful for me as I am on the verge of getting admission to the university in Poland. Please help.

    Like

    1. Unfortunately as per the information that is of the equivalences that AIU has been issuing, there is an insistence that the degree be of 2 years at Masters level taught at one institution that is recognised in the parent country. You may contact them directly to reconfirm. I would strongly recommend studying for a two year degree if the equivalence is of importance. Equivalence is required primarily when applying to government or public sector jobs, when applying for further studies in India and when applying for jobs within the academia. In the private sector, mostly it is not asked though there I do not believe that that the polish degree will be well known.

      Like

  6. Latest update from DIBP is that those who have changed from SVP to non-SVP but remained in the same visa subclass will not be asked to “explain” or go back to SVP. Therefore, no visa cancellations etc. They will not be considered to have breached 8516.
    Applicable to students who switched prior to 14/01/2014.

    Like

    1. Jag, this is indeed good news for such students and as I indicated, in the absence of clear regulations, it was weak ground to seek explanations. So those who moved from 573 to 573 have nothing to worry…

      Like

    2. Hi mate, I had look on your post about those students who change from svp 573 to non svp 573, they won’t have any letter from immigration to change their subclass or something like that.
      I wanna change my course as well, my visa was granted in June 2014. Sry but how did u come to know about this new rule.
      Please suggest me , thanks

      Like

  7. hi ravi, i moved svp(master level) to non svp(diploma level) recently. immigration sent noicc to me. i have 5 days to response. if i go non svp college and study master course, will immigration stop to cancel my visa.i came here 09/13.

    Like

      1. Huy Ravi
        I am going to apply in Kaplan business school under masters of accounting is it ok because everyone is saying it’s not in svp list. Is it harmful to apply under non svp college

        Like

        1. Harmful in what sense… If it is not under SVP, the visa will need to be lodged as per the local visa office requirements and may not be fast tracked. If you are undertaking a degree of a certain duration, the PSW will still apply…

          Like

  8. hi i m currently studing in svp uni deakin can i change after a 1 year to non svp uni non affecting visa condition by taking coe of degree

    Like

      1. Hi
        I am doing master of professional accounting at curtin university under 573. Can I change my course in diploma to leading degree in cookery (ame visa class 573) after six month..?

        Like

        1. You would need to consult a migration expert. However I would advise against such a drastic change… You are possibly going to be within 573 but you are dropping from a Masters to Bachelors and in a totally different area…

          Like

  9. Hello Sir, My brother is applying for study visa in Australia.. Acumen college, Melbourne is offering the Non SVP offer letter… can u please help us whether we should go for it or apply in any other colleges under svp visa… please guide us.. how many chances are there for cancellation of visa in Non svp visa case… please.

    Like

  10. Hi ravig my visa granted august 2012(s.v.p.) ( 573 VISA but but i started here to syudy 2013 february.after 1 semester i change my study non svp in august 2014 ( with subject change).i study there diploma and advance……at that time i took COE OF BACHELOR 573 VISA ALSO……….BUT Where i am studing bachelor of business at that tine this college was non svp.but now this college is svp…i apply for renewing visa…..is there any problem for renewing for visa.plz let me know……………
    thnx
    kind regards
    Yub

    Like

    1. Wont be able to offer any migration or visa advise here… You have clearly violated the conditions of your visa when you switched from SVP to Non-SVP. However you may only know of any issues when you reapply… It may not be of much concern as it was several years ago and now your college is SVP… But still I am not an authority on such issues.

      Like

      1. Hii ..I have done 10th in 2007 with 70% marks and +2 in 2009 with 64% marks
        and graduation in 2012 with 58.72% marks ( in mathematics I got 52% marks
        ,in economics I got 61% marks and in computer application subject I got 72%
        marks ) …after that i started to do master of math ..but i did not
        complete it and leave it i have completed 3 semester out of four
        semesters….then I have done PGDCA ( post graduation diploma in computer
        application ) in 2015 with 66.6% marks .. And also I have cleared two time
        Ielts with overall 6 band …first time I got in reading 6.5 band and w 5.5
        ,lis 5.5 , s 5.5 . overall 6 ….second time in reading 6.5 .lis 6 .. W 5.5
        .. S 5 ..overall 6 band ….can I apply for master degree in australia in
        any field which is related to computer application in any college ….plz
        reply must….i wants to do master of information technology in any
        university under svp rule…..

        Like

  11. hello sir, If i done my masters in IT. After my first semester if i change from one university to another i.e from cqu to csu . They both are public university. I will clear my all subjects in my first semster

    Like

    1. I believe that you are considering a movement from one SVP institution to another for the same level program. This should be okay if you have studied for a minimum of six months at the first provider and in the principal program. You can email me with more details for me to comment appropriately or to have one of the experts take a look at it.

      Like

  12. Hii ..I have done 10th in 2007 with 70% marks and +2 in 2009 with 64% marks
    and graduation in 2012 with 58.72% marks ( in mathematics I got 52% marks
    ,in economics I got 61% marks and in computer application subject I got 72%
    marks ) …after that i started to do master of math ..but i did not
    complete it and leave it i have completed 3 semester out of four
    semesters….then I have done PGDCA ( post graduation diploma in computer
    application ) in 2015 with 66.6% marks .. And also I have cleared two time
    Ielts with overall 6 band …first time I got in reading 6.5 band and w 5.5
    ,lis 5.5 , s 5.5 . overall 6 ….second time in reading 6.5 .lis 6 .. W 5.5
    .. S 5 ..overall 6 band ….can I apply for master degree in australia in
    any field which is related to computer application in any college ….plz
    reply must….i wants to do master of information technology with elicos in any
    university under svp rule…..
    \

    Like

    1. Hello sir, i am a student who is about to complete third year in bachelors of architecture 5 years course. And i want to transfer to Australian university UTS bachelors of design architecture. I have talked with uni representative they might give me admission and good credit exemptions by seeing my previous academic abilities in which i am good.
      My question is that is it possible in the visa process . Should i take the risk ? May it affect in my visa process of applying for future masters degree course ?

      Like

  13. hi.. m sukh. I want to change my course. I want to go automotive course. I didn’t get release letter from uni. so now.. svp collages want release letter from uni for admission. can I switch to non svp. without any problems? I have 1.5 yr old student visa under svp

    Like

  14. HELLO SIR MY BROTHER Went australia last june in APIC college for master in project manger.apic college is non university under SVP .NOW HE change master in accountiong in svp college.is it safe..

    Like

  15. Ravi,
    Good Afternoon! On your recent blog you have been talking about FISCAL CHECKS. Firstly my understanding of fiscal checks are the checks related to the students financial capacity……i am sure that is what you are referring….right? If that is right what i understand of your recommendation is that those students whose fiscals are not strong enough should be considered as a high risk or potential case for a change from SVP to NON SVP ….RIGHT? In my opinion even the wealthy ones switch from one to another. I think the visa form should say very clearly that change of SVP to NON SVP or change from 573 to 572 shall lead to a cancellation of visa and a fresh visa application will have to be made in a STIPULATED period of time and the visa application shall be considered on its own merits. And What is your take on it ?

    Like

  16. Is svp and non svp going to be same after this june, and students who have visa sub class 572 can change their course into non svp from svp institute after six months?

    Like

  17. Hi… Just have a quick question.. I have done 4 subjects in 1st sem from UTS n passed 1 more subject in second sem n failed in 3. So I went to change my university. Can u please suggest me what should I do

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s