The Simplified Student Visa Framework, effective 1 July 2016

Recently the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) announced that it would be making some pretty big changes to student visas. Where there were previously 8 subclasses there are now only 2 – the student visa (subclass 500) and student guardian visa (subclass 590). The DIBP is calling this the Simplified Student Visa Framework (SSVF) . These changes will not affect current student visa holders and is only effective for applications made from 1 July 2016.

Dropping the number of student visa subclasses to just one equates to there being only one set of eligibility criterion and regulations to contend with. The DIBP calls this the ‘single immigration risk framework’. Before, published assessment levels  (based on what the DIBP felt posed immigration risk) were assigned to the applicant’s passport and the type of visa being applied for. For example, if you held a Bulgarian passport, it would be harder to apply for a subclass 571 schools visa (assessment level 2) than a subclass 573 higher education visa (assessment level 1), and if you were from say Cambodia, it would just be hard across the board.

But no longer. The DIBP claims that the shift to the SSVF results in certain stricter criteria (for higher assessment levels) are dropped. Basically, no more assessment levels. Does this spell a positive future for those who would’ve been classified under higher assessment levels and the perhaps the Australian economy?

So what are the requirements, for a student subclass 500 visa, come 1 July 2016?


Genuine Temporary Entrant Requirement

No changes here. The Genuine Temporary Entrant Requirement (GTE) is Australia saying that it wants to make sure you aren’t taking on a student visa in attempt at a prolonged stay in Australia. You’re assessed on ‘genuine intent’ through consideration of your immigration history and any other circumstances that might stand out in suggesting that you have other reasons for wanting to be in Australia. In other words the GTE will continue to be used as a screening tool to refuse student visas if the DIBP think you are a little suspect.


Enrolment in a Registered Course of Study

You’ll need to produce a Confirmation of Enrolment (COE) in a registered course (CRICOS: Commonwealth Registered Courses for Overseas Students) for your application.


Course Transfers

There will be a new condition on the SSVF where, in the event of a change in course, visa holders are required to maintain enrolment at the same level or a higher Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) level for which they were granted a visa, unless moving from a doctoral to a master’s degree, or must otherwise apply for a new visa to complete the change. Not adhering to this rule might result in your visa being cancelled. This seems to go against the idea of reducing red tape and we aren’t sure of the rational here.


Financial Capacity

Needless to say you / your family needs to be well capable of funding not just your course fees but your stay in Australia. Despite the elimination of assessment levels, the DIBP will still decide (based on your citizenship and education provider) if they want to request for evidence that your study and stay will be properly financed. This can be in the form of bank statements or a minimum annual income of $60K in Australian dollars and must show that the funds are actually available for use by the visa applicant (e.g. relationship to funds holder, previous visa history).

Come 1 July 2016, there will be a functional online tool available that will ‘pre-assess’ you to determine if you will need to provide any additional evidence, so that you can make a decision ready application. This tool to be accessible both prior and during your online application process.


English Language Proficiency

Whilst there are no more assessment levels, the DIBP retains discretion to request for documents that evidence your meeting a minimum competency in English dependending on the passport you hold and on your education provider.

Come 1 July 2016, there will be a functional online tool available that will ‘pre-assess’ you to determine if you will need to provide any additional evidence, so that you can make a decision ready application. This tool to be accessible both prior and during your online application process.


Health and Character

All international students have to be of good character and must hold Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) for a successful visa grant.

This new single immigration risk framework  combines ‘country immigration risk’ with ‘education provider’ immigration risk to determine if a visa applicant needs to provide evidence of financial soundness and meeting a certain English language proficiency, which means that in certain cases, a proof of enrolment (certificate of enrolment (COE)) could suffice to ‘let you off’ with evidence submission.

Still, the single immigration risk framework does not seem to completely reflect that the  statement that “(The SSVF) generally has reduced evidentiary requirements, similar to those that apply under Assessment Level 1, regardless of your country of origin”. Quite fairly, having adequate and accessible funds for one’s education and stay and a functional proficiency in the English language (you’re not likely to be learning very much if you can’t understand English in Australia!) is something that Australia cannot close an eye about, but it does seem like the DIBP is simply dialling down the publicity of how they assess passports for immigration risk.

Nonetheless, the production of an online tool and reduction in subclasses should hopefully suffice to achieve the DIBP’s  intent to reduce handling; the SSVF aims for “75% of student visas to be processed within a month of lodgement” (but of course, this works better on decision ready applications).


The Subclass 590 Student Guardian Visa

The student guardian visa only require that the applicant to be able to support themselves, the nominated student and any secondary applicants. Unlike the student visa, there are no assessment levels or immigration risk framework what will apply. Financial capability has to be evidenced by an available income of $70K or more or evidence showing funds that will suffice to cover all necessary costs (travel plus 12 months living for all parties).

There are bits of this new system that sounds promising but also slightly convoluted. Come 1 July, we’ll definitely be checking out the online tool that is to become fully functional to see how it works. In the meantime we will be sure to provide you with any further updates that go live.