Australia to relax visa norms to woo students

September 22nd, 2011 - 6:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Melbourne, Sep 22 (IANS) Worried by continuing slide in the international students’ numbers, the Australian government has decided to relax visa norms further.

The decision has coincided with former New South Wales minister Michael Knight’s report that calls for loosening the onerous immigration requirements for international students.

The government has accepted all 41 recommendations made by the ‘Knight Review’. These recommendations include similar assessment level for all international students regardless of their country of passport. The students would also need to show A$36,000 less to get Australian student visa.

The rising Australian dollar and global financial crisis have dealt a serious blow to the universities and vocational education colleges in the country as international students, especially from India and China, have started shunning Australia.

“The university and vocational education sectors have been concerned for some time that the visa system was making them uncompetitive in what is stiff competition among provider nations,” Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans said Thursday.

“They were wanting to make sure our visa system was allowing them to compete on an equal basis,” the minister added.

The changes proposed by the Labor government include a more streamlined visa process for international students coming down under for higher studies. This would mean easing financial criteria. International students are now required to prove they have sufficient funds to finance their studies and living expenses in Australia upfront.

The proposed changes would also see introduction of a new work visa for international students. There are speculations that this work visa could be something similar to the ones offered by Canada and New Zealand to international students once they have finished their studies.

The post-studies work visa is likely to be of two to four years’ validity depending upon the level of studies completed by the international student in Australia.

While the financial requirements would be relaxed considerably, the onus would be on the student to establish they are genuine students and have plans to return to home country after finishing the studies.

“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,” Michael Knight said while speaking in a press conference in Canberra Thursday.

The assessment levels which decide financial requirements for various countries have been the major impediment for students from countries like India and China as they are classified as “high risk” countries. The higher assessment levels also mean students have to show much more funds in the bank accounts before student visa could be issued.

“Our consultations found that the financial requirements for student visas were too onerous, so we are reducing the financial requirements for some applicants, with students now needing around $36,000 less in the bank when applying for a visa,” Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said in a statement accompanying the report’s release.

(Paritosh Parasher can be contacted at

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