Australian Student Visas and studying in Australia

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Studying in Australia and Student Visas

Australia offers a diverse range of study options for international students with more than 1,200 institutions and over 22,000 courses to choose from. One can study at all levels of education, from primary and secondary school to vocational training (VET), or from English language courses to higher education inclusive of universities.

Strict Australian laws promote and govern quality education for international students. Along with the Educational Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act (Cth) 2000 and the National Code of Practice for registration authorities and providers of education and training to overseas students, there are also government regulatory and quality assurance organisations for higher education and VET institutions. These government organisations are responsible for registration and accreditation of institutions.

Recent Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) statistics from the Student Visa Program Quarterly Report (June 2013) show that studying in Australia is the preferred option for students from predominantly Asian countries—namely from China, India, Vietnam, South Korea and Malaysia—who make up approximately 50% of student visa recipients. Students from other countries make up at most 4% of other student visas granted.

There are several categories of student visas for Australia, and the one a prospective student requires depends on the type of study (e.g., English language course, graduate degree, vocational training, higher education, etc.) they are planning to undertake. Further, for shorter periods of study, either three or four months, respectively, other visas such as a Visitor or Working Holiday Maker visa may be more appropriate. There is also a visa option specifically for student guardians (people chaperoning a student to Australia).

To begin studying in Australia, there are a range of educational and visa entry requirements that have to be met. These are as follows:

Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS)

The course of study must be registered with CRICOS. A prospective student can visit the website http://cricos.deewr.gov.au and “search” for either a course or an educational institution they wish to attend. The course they choose must be a full-time course. Prospective students may “package” their studies so that they combine a preliminary course such as a short English language course before their main course begins.

English language requirements

DIBP determines the minimum English language skills (IELTS) band level required based on the level of study (i.e., bachelor degree, diploma or trade qualifications) and the applicant’s assessment level. Assessment Levels, of which there are officially five at the moment (though changes have been flagged for next year), serve to align student visa requirements to the immigration risk posed by applicants from a particular country studying in a particular education sector. Each country is assigned an assessment level, and the higher the assessment level, the greater the evidence an applicant is required to demonstrate to support their visa application.

Education providers may also require minimum IELTS band levels. These may not be the same as those required by DIBP; therefore, a prospective student must be aware of both DIBP and the education providers’ requirements. Using a migration professional can help with matters such as this.

Academic requirements

The academic requirements (including evidence of English language skills) for studying in Australia will vary depending on the level of education the applicant wants to study. Institutions can have different entry requirements, so it is important that a prospective student reads the course information on the institution’s website carefully and contacts them to ask for advice.

Here is some general guidance on entry requirements for the different levels of study:

  • English language – Entry requirements vary between institutions, and according to the level of English language course the applicant wants to study.
  • Schools – Entry requirements vary between schools depending on the state or territory where the applicant will be studying in. Academic performance and ability is considered during the application process.
  • Vocational education and training – In most cases, there are no entrance exams for VET institutions. However, some courses may have specific pre-requisite subjects or work-experience requirements.
  • Higher Education Undergraduate – To gain entry into an Australian undergraduate course, the applicant will need to have an Australian Senior Secondary Certificate of Education (Year 12), or the overseas equivalent. Some undergraduate courses may also have specific pre-requisite subjects.
  • Higher Education Postgraduate – As well as the satisfactory completion of at least one degree at undergraduate level, an institution may take research ability or relevant work experience into consideration.

To meet the academic requirements of an Australian high school qualification, a prospective student could consider taking a Foundation course. Also called bridging study, they are intensive courses that will help a person meet the entry requirements. They are usually one-year long and are offered by most higher education institutions.

Visa requirements

The student visa you need depends on your chosen course of study. As a guide, the typical key requirements you will need to meet are:

  • Being accepted into a full-time course of study.
  • Be a Genuine Student. That is: a student who intends to obtain a successful educational outcome and has the language, educational and material background to achieve an educational outcome.
  • Meet the Genuine Temporary Entrant requirement. That is: the prospective student has a genuine intention to stay in Australia temporarily having regard to matters such as previous immigration history.
  • Sufficient funds for airfares, course fees and living costs, including any accompanying dependents.
  • English language proficiency.
  • Meet health and character requirements.
  • Acceptable Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). The Health Cover will help pay for medical or hospital care whilst a student is studying in Australia. It will also contribute towards the cost of most prescription medicines and an ambulance in an emergency.

If you want to study in Australia and have been officially accepted into your course of study, you can take National Visas’ free online Student Visa Assessment to see which Student Visa is most appropriate for your circumstances.

Vera Mom
Migration Advisor
MARN: 1383344

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John Bell

Migration Advisor at National Visas
John Bell has been involved in the immigration industry since 2000 and has practiced in Australia as an Australian Registered Migration Agent since 2003. John also worked in the UK as a UK immigration adviser between 2000 and 2002.

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