Recent changes in Australia visa rules

Recent changes to Australian student visas

>Group of students sit at desk studyingThe Australian Government’s Department of Immigration and  Border Protection (DIBP) made a number of changes to student visas and skilled migration between  2012 and 2014. These changes were made in response to the Knight review, an investigation  commissioned by the government with the aim of finding ways to make study in Australia easier for  international students. The changes will affect all students applying for visas from 2012 onwards.

>Reduction of student visa assessment levels
DIBP introduced a number of changes to simplify the student visa application process. From  March        2014, the Assessment Level (AL) Framework has been simplified to three assessment levels  (AL1 to  AL3) through the removal of AL4 and AL5. Former AL4 countries have now been reduced to  AL3. AL3  applicants will also see reduced financial requirements and are now only required to show  evidence of  funds to support 12 months of study, as opposed to the former 18 months.

>Changes to English language test requirements
DIBP now allows student visa applicants who need to supply evidence of their English language  proficiency to submit results from the Test of English as a Foreign Language internet-based test (TOEFL  iBT), the Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic and the Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) test.  Previously, DIBP only accepted IELTS results.

>Streamlined visa processing
Student visa applicants who lodge their applications with a Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) from  participating institutions for a bachelor degree, masters degree, doctoral degree, student exchange  program or study abroad program will be assessed in a streamlined manner (similar to the Assessment  Level 1), regardless of their country of origin. As a result, they will not have to supply as much evidence  to support their visa application.

>Changes to student visa charges
The student visa application charge of AUD $565 has been reduced to $535. Fees do not apply to  students sponsored under Commonwealth-approved programs, secondary school exchange students or  students affected by the closure of their education provider.

>Changes to employment restrictions
Before March 2012, international students were able to work up to a maximum of 20 hours per week.  This has been changed to a more flexible 40 hours per fortnight, meaning students can work 15 hours  one week and 25 hours the following week, rather than strictly 20 hours per week. Students can begin  work once they have commenced a course of study, and employment restrictions only apply when their  course is in session (students may work unlimited hours during semester breaks). Work limits do not  apply to students completing a masters or doctoral degree.

>Changes to living costs requirements
The living cost requirement for student visa applicants has risen from AUD$18,000 per year to  AUD$18,610 per year to ensure that international students are financially prepared to move to Australia  and that they will have access to sufficient funds during their stay. Students are required to show that  they have access to sufficient funds before they are granted a student visa. Prepaid homestay fees may  now be included in the financial requirements assessment for a student visa.

Introduction of a post-study work visa
The Australian Government introduced a post-study work visa in 2013, which allows international students completing an Australian bachelor, masters or doctoral degree to remain in Australia to gain work experience after they graduate. Graduates of bachelor and masters by coursework degrees can apply for a two-year work visa at the completion of their degree, which increases to three years for masters by research graduates and four years for PhD graduates.

>Changes to skilled migration
Three new points-tested skilled migration visa subclasses have been introduced: subclass 189 (skilled  independent), subclass 190 (skilled nominated) and subclass 489 (skilled regional). The Australian  Government also introduced a new skilled migration visa process — an online service called SkillSelect.  SkillSelect enables skilled workers and graduates who want to migrate to Australia to lodge an  Expression of Interest (EOI), replacing the previous system where intending migrants applied for a  skilled migration visa. The EOI will contain information about skills and attributes, which will be  assessed using a points test. Once an EOI is lodged, intending migrants may be nominated for a skilled  visa by Australian employers or government departments, or may be invited to lodge a visa application.  One of the main differences with SkillSelect is that the location requirements have been broadened,  meaning that applicants may complete this process inside or outside Australia. The requirement of  recent Australian study or work experience has also been removed, but still remains a part of the points  test. For more information, refer to the SkillSelect section of the DIBP website.

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