Half of visa applications from international students seeking to study in Australia are processed within 12 calendar days while the rest are completed in just 18 days, according to new figures.

The figures, from the first comprehensive Student Visa Programme report, unveiled by Chris Bowen, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship and Chris Evans, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, also shows that while student visa applications have declined from record high levels in 2008/09, applications in 2009/10 remained at a level similar to 2007/08.

The report outlines comparative student visa applications and trends for the past seven years. It also shows details of grants and application rates for the first six months of 2010/11. Bowen describes it as being an invaluable insight into emerging student visa trends.

'This report provides the information the international student sector has been seeking to better track emerging student visa trends,' Bowen said.

It also shows that grant numbers for the postgraduate research sector and English language intensive courses for overseas students (ELICOS) remained relatively steady during 2008/09 and 2009/10.

Of the 56,834 former student visa holders who transferred to other visas in the first half of 2010/11, almost 30% continued their studies in Australia and were granted another student visa.

'This report will be a valuable resource for anyone who has a stake in the international student sector and will provide much needed data on which the sector can base its planning for the future,' added Bowen.

The publication will be updated on a quarterly basis, to keep abreast of trends and other major issues affecting the student visa program.

To be eligible for a student visa, applicants must be accepted for full time study in a course listed on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS). Applicants must also meet financial, health insurance, English language proficiency and health and character requirements.

There is no limit on the number of student visas issued each year. If applicants meet requirements, they will be granted a student visa. Student visas are issued for the entire period of study in Australia and there are eight types of student visa.

The English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) visa is for international students undertaking a stand alone English language course that leads to a certificate level award or non-formal award.

The Schools visa is designed for international students applying to study in Australia in a primary, junior secondary or senior secondary school course or an approved secondary school exchange programme.

The Vocational Education and Training visa is designed for international students applying to study in Australia and whose main course of study is a certificate, vocational education and training diploma, vocational education and training advanced diploma, vocational graduate certificate or vocational graduate diploma.

Then there is the Higher Education visa for international students applying to study in Australia and whose main course of study is a bachelor degree, associate degree, higher education diploma, higher education advanced diploma, graduate certificate, graduate diploma or Masters by coursework.

The Postgraduate Research visa is designed for international students who want to study a Masters degree by research or a Doctoral degree in Australia while the Non Award visa is for international students who want to study non award foundation studies or other full time courses not leading to an Australian award.

Finally, the AusAID or Defence visa is for international students who are sponsored by AusAID or Defence to study a full time course of any type in Australia and the Student Guardian visa for a parent or close relative to accompany an underage student to Australia.