Australian Immigration proposes more changes to student visas

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Australia's Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) announced on 19 March further changes to student visas including streamlined visa processing and other changes that are intended to go into effect on 24 and 26 March 2012.

The proposed changes are part of stage two of the Australian Government's response to the Knight Review of the student visa program. Stage one was implemented last November.

Under the changes, student visa applicants can streamline their visa application if they submit them with a Confirmation of Enrolment from a participating university in Australia at Bachelor, Masters, or Doctoral degree level on or after 24 March 2012. Their applications will be assessed as though they were a lower migration risk, regardless of their country of origin. DIAC expects to have a list of approved participating universities published by 24 March.

Also, the maximum period of English language study for Schools Sector (Subclass 571) visa holders subject to Assessment Level 3 and above will be increased to 50 weeks. Applicants from an Assessment Level 4 country who wish to study at an Australian school will no longer be required to provide evidence of an English language proficiency test when applying for a Subclass 571 visa. Each country is assigned an Assessment Level which is based on the calculated immigration risk posed by students from that country studying in Australia. Higher assessment levels indicate a higher immigration risk. Countries in Assessment Level 3 include: Turkey, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Croatia. Countries in Assessment Level 4 include: China and Bangladesh.

Student visa-holders will also be able to have their visa granted for four months before the start of their course so they can get settled in before their classes begin.

There will also be more flexible work conditions. From 26 March 2012, the current work condition of 20 hours per week while the course is in session will be changed to 40 hours per fortnight during any fortnight while the course is in session. Higher Degree by Research Student visa holders will not be limited in the number of hours that they can work once their course has commenced.

These proposed changes would apply to both new student visa holders and existing student visa holders.

The proposed changes will go into effect once approved by the Governor-General.

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