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Background to the Student Visa Program - Part II

Further to our first section on Student Visa requirements, we will be continuing with the second part of the article in an attempt to simplify this area of Migration of Law so to enable a smooth process for Student Visa Applicants.

Family membersStudents can apply to have partners and dependent children under the age of eighteen accompany them to Australia. These family members are known as secondary visa holders and are counted in student visa numbers. A parent or guardian seeking to accompany an international student to Australia may be eligible for a Student Guardian (subclass 580) visa.

Course PackagingMany international students choose to package their principal course with a foundation or ELICOS course. These students are granted a subclass of visa that relates to their principal course. Consequently, the visa grant data does not necessarily reflect the numbers of international students enrolled in these courses

Ability to workStudent visas include a visa condition that, once the course has commenced, allows most students to work for up to 40 hours per fortnight while their course is in session and for unlimited hours during course breaks. The limitation imposed by this visa condition reflects the purpose of a student visa; that it is to allow entry to Australia in order to study, not to work. Secondary visa holders are subject to a visa condition that limits them to 40 hours work per fortnight at any time. Higher degree by research students on a subclass 574 (Postgraduate Research Sector) student visa may work unlimited hours once their Masters* or PhD course has commenced. Dependents of students studying a Masters or PhD research course have no limitation on their work hours.

Assessment LevelsThere are three Assessment Levels in the student visa program. They serve to align student visa evidentiary requirements to the immigration risk posed by applicants from a particular country applying for a particular student visa. Assessment Level 1 represents the lowest immigration risk and Assessment Level 3 the highest. The higher the Assessment Level, the greater the evidence an applicant is required to demonstrate to support their claims for the grant of a student visa.

Streamlined visa processingThe department assesses student visa applicants who lodge their applications on or after 24 March 2012, with a Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) from a participating higher education provider in Australia at Bachelor, Masters or Doctoral degree level as though they were a lower migration risk (similar to the current Assessment Level 1), regardless of their country of origin.

Financial requirementsStudents and their families need to be aware of the costs involved in studying and living in Australia. In order to meet the financial requirements for the grant of a student visa, applicants must be able to demonstrate that they have access to sufficient funds to cover tuition fees, travel costs, educational costs for any accompanying school age children and living costs for the full study period. 

Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirementThe GTE requirement was introduced on 5 November 2011 to enhance the integrity of the student visa program. The GTE requirement explicitly addresses whether the individual circumstances of an applicant indicate that their intention is for a temporary stay in Australia. Factors that the department may consider as part of the GTE requirement are set out in a Ministerial Direction available at and include: ·

  • circumstances in the applicant’s home country;
  • the applicant’s potential circumstances in Australia;
  • the applicant’s immigration history;
  • the value of the course to the applicant’s future; and/or
  • any other matter relevant to the applicant’s intention to stay temporarily.

Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)Overseas students must have health insurance for the duration of their stay in Australia. Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) is insurance to assist international students meet the costs of medical and hospital care that they may need while in Australia.

Visa refusalsA decision to refuse a student visa application is made when the delegate of the Minister is not satisfied that the applicant meets the legal criteria for grant of a visa. When refusing a visa application, the department provides an applicant, or their agent, with a written decision record that sets out the reason for the decision.

Reasons for refusal of student visa applications may include: ·

  • failure to meet financial requirements;
  • failure to meet English language requirements;
  • fraudulent documentation present in the application;
  • failure to satisfy the department that the applicant is a genuine student; and/or
  • failure to meet GTE requirements.

Processing StandardsThe department gives priority to offshore applications to ensure that prospective students receive their visas in time to travel to Australia to commence their courses. Onshore students are granted bridging visas pending finalisation of their new student visa applications and can still commence their courses.

Depending on the relevant assessment level the service standards are that 75% of offshore applications are finalized within 14 to 90 days and 75% of onshore applications are finalised within 14 to 30 days. It should be noted that approximately 80% of onshore applications are incomplete when lodged and this adds to processing times as officer’s request and then wait for applicants to provide required information.


Elizabeth WisserLL.B, GDLP, Registered Migration AgentMARN: 0959122

Elizabeth Wisser
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