New Australia Visa Application Rules Announced by DIPB

Changes to Australia Visa Application Process Announced by Department of Immigration and Border Protection to take effect 1 July 2016.

A summary of the key changes include:

  1. New international student visa subclasses;
  2. New assessment regime by immigration; and
  3. Updated application procedures

1. New international student visa subclasses;

There will be now only two visa subclass, namely, 500 and 590.

Visa subclass 500 will replace the following:

  • 570 - Independent ELICOS Sector For international students undertaking ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students) as a stand-alone course;
  • 571 - Schools Sector For international students;
  • 572 - Vocational Education and Training (VET) Sector For international students;
  • 573 - Higher Education Sector For international students undertaking a course of study at University resulting in the award of a Bachelor Degree, Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma or Master by coursework;
  • 574 - Masters and Doctorate Sector For international students undertaking a course of study at University resulting in the award of either a Masters Degree by Research, or a Doctoral degree;
  • 575 - Non-award Foundation Studies/Other Sector For international students undertaking a foundation, bridging or other course which does not result in the award of a Degree, Diploma or other formal qualification;
  • 576 – Australia Award or Defence Sponsored Sector For Australia Awards or Defence-sponsored students

Visa subclass 590 will replace the following:

  • 580 - Student Guardian Visa. The Student Guardian visa is for foreign nationals applying to stay in Australia as the guardian of a student who is studying in Australia.

Students who have been issued a subclass as listed above will remain on that visa grant until such time they apply for a new visa.

The conditions that apply to each specific visa subclass in the former regime will remain as part of the visa grant to the individual under 500 and 590 respectively. For example, former subclass 574 students have no work restrictions whereas subclass 573 is restricted to 40 hours work per fortnight while class is in session. This and other conditions will remain and noted as a visa condition on the grant of a subclass 500 relevant to the individual student.


 2. New assessment regime by immigration

Assessment by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) will be based on two substantial factors:

  1. the immigration profile of the student’s country of citizenship, that is the Assessment Level (AL) level of the applicant’s home and
  2. the immigration profile of their education provider, referred to as the Risk Rating of the institution – each university has their own risk rating.

The system is a risk matrix approach where the evidentiary requirements requested by DIBP for a student visa grant will depend on where the applicant is placed with regard to these two elements.  

S = Streamlined

R = Regular evidentiary requirements as requested by DIBP e.g. evidence of financial capacity showing sufficient funds to study and live in Australia for the previous 12 months prior to application.

 For those institutions with a Risk Rating of 1, DIBP will accept declarations from a student applicant with regard to their English language proficiency and financial capacity to undertake study in Australia.

 For those institutions with a Risk Rating of 2 and 3, DIBP will require their English language proficiency and financial capacity to undertake study in Australia.


3. Updated application procedures

As from July 1 all applications must be made online via the Online Client Service Tool (Online Application). This applies to both the student submitting an application or an Agent submitting an application on behalf of the applicant.

  • With the new system, DIBP recommends Agents to lodge applications at least a month before due commencement while the new system is “bedded” down;
  • For students applying for a visa offshore, after 1 July they must have a CoE. A Letter of Offer is not sufficient;
  • For students applying onshore, a Letter of Offer can be used. DIBP cited the reason for this as many visas expire around March 15, it is recognised Providers might struggle to issue CoE in time;
  • Onshore applications cannot be made applicant if the applicant has remained in the country for more than 28 days without a valid visa, they must go offshore;
  • On line application is made for PhD Thesis Marking, but no CoE is required;
  • Under 18 processing remains essentially the same;
  • No maximum ELICOS limits; and
  • A student can now return to study further English, if required, so long as their enrolment in their higher course is maintained.

Other matters

With respect to transfer between courses and or providers, Visa condition 8202 remains, but is nuanced to reflect the Australian Quality Framework (AQF) level of study rather than the sector / visa subclass in the previous visa regime. A student must apply for a new visa if they do not maintain a level of study at or higher than the AQF level for which the Visa was granted (the exception is PhD to Master degree). For example, if a student is granted a visa subclass 500 for study towards a master degree (AQF Level 9) and transferred to a VET Certificate IV degree (AQF Level 4), the student is required to apply for a new visa. A new visa is not required where a student moves to a higher AQF Level e.g. master (AQF Level 9) to a PhD degree (AQF Level 10).

As of 1 July, we do not need to nominate business partners in order to take advantage of these new arrangements.

All students, regardless of the financial capacity and English language proficiency documentation that may be required, will continue to have to meet all other core visa criteria, such as:

  • Genuine Temporary Entrant requirement;
  • Genuine Student requirement;
  • Health & character criteria; and
  • OSHC

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