Australia’s new visa rules for foreign students

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Melbourne: Australian universities have witnessed dwindling international student enrolments lately. Therefore, to attract more international students, including from India, new visa rules were announced yesterday for the second semester of 2012.

The government announced that it will streamline visa processing for students enrolling in Australian universities.

The changes follow a review of the student visa programme led by former New South Wales government minister, Michael Knight.

Under the new rules, the financial requirements for student visas will be eased and applicants will need about 36,000 dollars less in their bank account than they do now.

And new post-study work visas will allow students to remain in Australia for two to four years after their course ends, depending on their level of qualification.

However, the student visa criteria will be tightened slightly so applicants will have to prove they are genuine students and genuine about returning home.

“It’s not enough to be genuine about your studies and have no intention of going home, nor is it enough to be genuine about going home but not serious about your studies,” Knight said.

The Knight report released made 41 recommendations, which have been accepted by the government.

Tertiary Education Minister, Chris Evans, said the changes would help Australian universities be more competitive in the international market.

“They have articulated for a long time that the visa processes are a barrier to attracting students in an increasingly competitive environment,” he said.

Evans said the sector’s previous growth rate was unsustainable and could not continue.

“I think we had some of those problems with student welfare because the system had just grown too quickly,” he said. “This will help put this sector on a very good footing to continue to grow.”

Australian institutions could now compete on the basis of their education offerings and not be hindered by any visa requirements.

Knight said it was important to strike a balance between the economic benefits brought by international students and protecting the integrity of migration controls.

Australian overseas students enrolments have been sliding down in the backdrop of high Australian Dollar value, tighter immigration rules and post Indian student attack issues.

Australian education providers have reported an 8.7 per cent drop in international enrolments during the first three months of this year as compared to the same period last year.