Call for group of trusted universities to fast track overseas student visas

by Ray Clancy on June 17, 2011

in Education in Australia

Need for trusted universities for student visa system

The world’s largest international student placement provider has suggested that having a group of trusted universities in Australia would speed up the visa approvals system.

According to IDP Education, it would also help immigration authorities run the system more efficiently and police visa breaches.

It would do this by reducing visa processing delays, make Australia less likely to lose genuine students to rival countries and give education providers a strong incentive to look out for, and act on, visa abuse.

‘The key role of the trusted provider would be to assess the bona fides of the student, their qualifications for the course and their financial capacity,’ IDP says in a submission to the government’s student visa review.

‘For students whose assessment is positive there should be a faster and more certain visa outcome, which would avoid the more onerous requirements currently applied to assess financial capacity in high risk countries,’ it adds.

It would mean grading education providers so that those with the best track records would be given a trusted status. All their students would be vetted under the Immigration Department’s least rigorous assessment level with the aim of visa approval within two weeks, compared with a typical 49 days for students from China, which is classified as high risk.

IDP also says that more use of face-to-face interviews also would speed up visa assessments.

The government is currently taking views on how to streamline the student visa system for those considered to be a low risk. There are growing concerns that fewer students are applying to study in Australia because the programme is too complicated and lengthy.

New measures include reducing visa assessment levels for Chinese and Indian applicants and refining the rules for pre-paid boarding fees so they are counted in cost of living requirements in applications.

The Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) has pointed out that there are growing disparities between Australian, US, UK and Canadian visa practices and a continued loss of overseas students could lead to the industry contracting further, jobs being lost and institutes closing.

However, not everyone agrees that fast tracking certain groups of students is a good idea. John Findley, a veteran education counsellor and migration agent, warned that IDP’s proposal could lead to a repeat of abuses associated with a 2001 immigration programme that allowed fast tracking of visas for certain institutions.

He said it was abandoned after a year due to perceived abuse such as agencies in China charging a premium of between 12,000 and 15,000 yuan per student for a fast tracked place.

He believes that any king of fast track system would encourage such breaches because assessment at the lowest level has advantages including merely requiring declarations rather than documentary proof of matters relevant to the visa assessment.

‘If there are advantages, these could be seen to have a marketable value. You can be pretty sure it will not take agencies too long to start charging to put students into the queue,’ he explained.

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