Streamlined Student Visa Processing Set to Change

Yesterday the Department of Immigration and Border Protection released a report on the future direction of the streamlined visa processing (SVP) of student visa applications, worth an estimate $16.3 billion in 2013-14. These changes are not expected to be implemented until mid-2016.

Key recommendations include the reduction of student visa subclasses from eight to two, the introduction of a simplified risk framework for all international students, and the possible incorporation of protection visa applications in determining risk.

This report and any proposals seek to realign risk denominations for student visa applications and to reduce the occurrences of:

  • Students becoming unlawful non-citizens;
  • The rate of student visa applications refused on non-fraudulent grounds;
  • The rate of student visa applications refused on fraudulent grounds; and
  • The rate of student visa cancellations due to breach of visa conditions.

Interestingly, it recognises the concerns stakeholders have with ‘course hopping’, the act of changing from a SVP student visa course to a non-SVP course shortly after the visa has been granted, a practice that has doubled over the last 2 years.

A number of proposals have been floated including a combined country and education provider risk model to determine what evidentiary requirements are needed for any particular student application. There may, however, be issues that could arise from such an arrangement. The first is stigmatising the education provider by categorising them according to risk. The report states that this would not happen if the risk rating was not made public. However, should this be the case, how is a student to know if or what evidentiary requirements are necessary before they lodge an application? Certainly, transparency in knowing what is required could be a critical factor in deciding if they are to study in Australia or not.

This conundrum may be something that any future plans will need to be adequately worked through before implementation.