Since the borders have re-opened, the Department of Home Affairs has been reporting an increased number of applications for Student Visas.
From student visa statistics released by the Department of Home Affairs up to 31st May 2022, we can see the following:
In the 2020-2021 financial year there was a total of 262,633 Student Visa applications lodged (primary and secondary). In the same period, a total of 232,750 were granted. The grant rate for this financial year was 94.40%.
In the current financial year to the 31st May 2022, the total number of Visas lodged has been 314,388 with the total number of Student Visas granted at 228, 150. The grant rate so far is 91.90%.
The Department has through webinars for Agents, conducted at overseas posts, indicated the increased number of applications not only for student visas, but for many other categories of visas.
The Department has given as an example of this increased number of Student Visa applications:
In June 2022, there was a record number of applications from offshore: 43,000, the largest in 10 years.
In May 2022, there were 35,499 offshore applications, the third largest in 10 years.
However, it is important to note that the last reported financial year prior to the pandemic (COVID 19) and border closures, 2018-2019, the total number of visa applications for that year was: 473,415 visas lodged and 405, 742 visas granted, with a grant rate of 89.90%. Which shows that numbers are trending upwards but are still below pre-pandemic application numbers.
The Department has indicated that they have had to take some measures to deal with the recent increase in applications. Added to this is the backlog which has been in the system due to border closures. These delays have significantly increased the processing time in some visa streams, including student visas.
As a consequence, new staff has been allocated to deal with the backlog and in many cases a global processing system is in place, which means that the visa might be processed at other DHA posts. Anecdotally, we have been informed that this has caused a higher number of refusals, however if one looks at the data, it would seem that the higher number of refusals is in line with the increase in the number of visas lodged. Additionally, the grant rate continues to be similar to that of other years, however we will continue to monitor this, to see if there is any increase in the actual rate of refusal.
Given the current context, the Department has indicated that some important points be taken into account when lodging applications:
Always attach the documents requested on the Document Checklist tool for the passport Country and the Institution this is being applied to.
The GTE (genuine temporary entrant) statement must be COMPLETE and not include vague information. And everything that is put in the GTE letter, should be supported by documents.
Given the delays in processing, some documents will have to be updated, it is important that these are updated as soon as possible (e.g.: COE, OSHC or any other relevant documents), the Department may make a decision without requesting updates or further information.
If a family is included in the application, make sure that all relevant documents are attached. For partners, De Facto certificates or marriage certificates will no longer be enough. Make sure to provide additional information to prove relationship is genuine. (Joined financial evidence, household, the social context, level of commitment).
The documents must be translated because applications may be processed in centres in other countries.
It is important that students lodge complete applications to make sure that their application can be ready for case officers to make a decision as soon as they open the file. Lodging incomplete applications could lead to refusal of visas or lengthy delays, as the DHA has indicated.
While there is an increase in numbers compared to the 2020-2021 Financial Year (during pandemic and border closures), these are not yet at the levels of 2018-2019, the last full financial year without pandemic related impacts. The Government (albeit the previous one) has managed the reopening of borders and we believe that measures should have been taken to prepare for the renewed interest in applying for student visas to Australia as Australia remains a strong study destination. It is therefore important that visas are processed in a timely and consistent manner to give confidence to all those involved in the International Education sector, but more importantly to the students Australia seeks to attract. A separate discussion on the relevance today of GTE, is very important, given the current easing of working conditions, discussion surrounding current and future skill shortages and the lack of consistency in its application, is also a matter of further and ongoing discussion.
This article was written by Miguel Mudbidri - ISEAA's Co-Chair (MARN 0745862)