« Student visas review: 2nd stage of changes implemented »

International students hoping to enrol in bachelor, masters or doctorate level courses will be able to take advantage of new streamlined visa processing arrangements from 24 March 2012.

These are the second set of changes the the student visa system being implemented following the Knight Review, which was published last year. The changes are designed to open up the student visa system to encourage more applicants.

As a result of this, with effect from 24 March 2012 the following changes apply:

  • Streamlined visa processing begins for applicants studying Bachelor, Masters and Doctoral courses at participating universities in Australia are assessed as though they are a lower risk (similar to the current Assessment Level 1), regardless of their country of origin. This means that these applicants will generally have reduced evidentiary requirements when applying for a Student visa.
  • The maximum period of English language study that a Schools sector (subclass 571) visa applicant subject to Assessment Level (AL) 3 and above can undertake, increases to 50 weeks. Prior to 24 March 2012, the maximum period of English language study for Schools sector applicants was 40 weeks for AL 3, 30 weeks for AL 4 and nil for AL 5. The arrangements for AL 1 and AL 2 applicants remain unchanged, with no English language study period restrictions.
  • New Student Guardian (subclass 580) visa holders can undertake English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) study on a part-time basis (less than 20 hours per week) for the duration of their visa.  However this change only applies to ELICOS study—other study restrictions remain unchanged. 

With effect from 26 March 2012 students will also be given more flexible conditions on work with their visa. Employers will also be given more flexibility to help students work during their stay. Those on postgraduate research visas (subclass 574) will be able to work an unlimited amount of hours a week once their course has commenced allowing them to work in a field related to their research.

Some of the other changes which will be introduced on 24 March are:

  • Schools sector visa applicants and for student guardian visa holders will get improved access to English language study.
  • Higher risk schools sector visa applicants will no longer have to provide evidence of an English language proficiency test.

In line with the Knight Review recommendations legislation was also introduced to Parliament to abolish the automatic visa cancellation process for international students.

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