New simplified student visa framework
On 16 June 2015 the Australian Government released the Future directions for streamlined visa processing report and announced the introduction of a simplified student visa framework (SSVF) to support Australia’s education services sector.
Key changes under the SSVF are:
- a reduction in the number of student visa subclasses from eight to two; and
- the introduction of a simplified single immigration risk framework for all international students.
Subject to the regulatory change process, it is expected that the SSVF will be implemented by mid-2016.
A copy of the Future directions for streamlined visa processing report can be viewed on our website.
Implications of the SSVF for education providers
Under the SSVF, it is intended that all Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) registered education providers will be allocated an immigration risk rating, based on the immigration risk outcomes of their international students over the previous 12 month period. The same approach will also be used to allocate an immigration risk rating to each country.
The combined immigration risk outcomes of the student’s education provider and country of citizenship would be used to guide the level of financial capacity and English language proficiency related documentation that the student would need to provide with their student visa application.
Through this model, all education providers across all education sectors will have access to the benefits associated with ‘streamlined evidentiary requirements’ for at least some countries.
Meaning of ‘streamlined evidentiary requirements’
Where streamlined evidentiary requirements apply, the student visa applicant will generally be able to satisfy the Department of their financial capacity and English language proficiency by declaration.
This is similar to existing streamlined visa processing and Assessment Level (AL) 1 arrangements. The Department would however retain the discretion to seek additional information about the student’s financial capacity and English language proficiency where appropriate.
All students, regardless of the financial capacity and English language proficiency documentation that may be required, will continue to have to meet all other core visa criteria, such as the Genuine Temporary Entrant requirement and health and character criteria.
Eligible students for streamlined evidentiary requirements under SSVF
The following students would have streamlined evidentiary requirements under the SSVF:
- All students enrolled at education providers with the lowest immigration risk ratings (similar to the current AL1)
- All students from countries with the lowest immigration risk ratings (similar to the current AL1)
- Students enrolled at education providers with medium immigration risk ratings (similar to the current AL2), provided that the student’s country of citizenship has a low or medium immigration risk rating (equivalent to the current AL1 or AL2).
Calculating immigration risk ratings for the SSVF
The methodology used to determine immigration risk under the SSVF will be similar to the methodology used in the existing streamlined visa processing arrangements and the AL framework. The methodology currently takes into account statistical data on visa refusal rates (fraud and non-fraud related), rates of students overstaying their visa and visa cancellation rates.
In line with recommendation 5 of the Future directions for streamlined visa processing report, further consultation is occurring with a working group of members from the Education Visa Consultative Committee regarding aspects of the immigration risk methodology.
Non-publication of immigration risk ratings of education providers and countries
Due to commercial sensitivities, it is intended the immigration risk ratings of education providers and countries will not be published but will instead feed into an online tool that will guide students about their likely English language proficiency and financial capacity evidentiary requirements.
Updates to immigration risk ratings
Immigration risk ratings are intended to be updated every six months based on immigration risk outcomes from the previous 12-month period.
Accessing education provider immigration risk data
To assist in implementation of the SSVF, the Department proposes to send all education providers details about their current immigration risk rating in approximately October 2015.
Following implementation, the Department intends that education providers will be able to access their immigration risk rating on a regular basis through an online reporting tool.
‘Opting-in’ to the SSVF
Education providers will not be required to formally ‘opt-in’ as the SSVF will apply to all education providers.
Obligations for education providers under the SSVF
There will be no additional obligations placed on education providers as a direct result of the SSVF. While an education provider may choose to put in place strategies in order to obtain or maintain a lower immigration risk rating, there will no obligation or requirement for education providers to do this.
Nominating educational business partners under the SSVF
Education providers will not be required to formally nominate educational business partners under the SSVF and will be able to package with other education providers with whom they have a commercial arrangement.
Immigration risk ratings applied to smaller education providers
It is intended that education providers that enrol small numbers of international students will be allocated a default risk rating of ‘two’, with some possible exceptions. Further details will be provided closer to implementation.
Commencement date for the new SSVF
Subject to the regulatory change process, it is expected that the SSVF will be implemented in mid-2016.
Current streamlined visa processing arrangements
The current streamlined visa processing policy guidelines are due to expire at the end of June 2016. It is intended that the streamlined visa processing arrangements will continue to operate as usual until this time.
Further consultations with the international education sector about the SSVF
To progress the recommendations from the Future directions for streamlined visa processing report, the Department has established a working group comprising a number of Education Visa Consultative Committee members. The working group will play an important role in contributing to the implementation of the SSVF.
Information will be updated on the Department’s website as it becomes available at www.border.gov.au