Foreign students face more stringent tests
Foreign students will face greater screening as the Government cracks down on visa fraud and scrutinises their ability to finance life in Australia.
|Foreign students will face greater screening as the Government cracks down on visa fraud and scrutinises their ability to finance life in Australia.|
The changes, announced by Immigration Minister Chris Evans yesterday, apply to students from India, Mauritius, Nepal, Brazil, Zimbabwe and Pakistan and take effect immediately.
Students from target countries will be subject to more stringent interviews and have limited access to visa applications online.
Applications for student visas have soared in the past year. They grew by 20 per cent to more than 362,000 in the year to June 30. Of those, 28,000 applications were rejected.
''There are elements of concern in this large caseload,'' Senator Evans said. ''The message is clear: genuine international students remain welcome in Australia but we will not tolerate fraud in the student visa program.''
Applicants deemed at risk of cheating the system will also be hauled in for face-to-face interviews to determine legitimate intentions to study.
The one-off dumping of cash in a bank account or enrolment in lesser-known institutions are among triggers understood to invite extra scrutiny by immigration officials. By contrast, a PhD student enrolled at a sandstone university would be less likely to raise red flags.
Senator Evans said the measures would help to combat fraud. ''These measure are consistent with those used by other countries that receive large numbers of student visa applications, such as the United States,'' he said.
Online visa applications will be curbed. Migration agents shown to have abused the ''eVisa'' system with false documentation in the past may be blocked, as well as agents who have been inactive.
Market segments judged likely to defraud the system would also be barred from applying online.
The managing director of Australian Immigration Law Services, Karl Konrad, applauded the changes. ''It's a step in the right direction,'' he said. ''Better late than never.''
Australia has attracted worldwide publicity recently for its alleged mistreatment of foreign students. There have been claims of students in Sydney and Melbourne being subjected to violent attacks, living in poverty and being exploited by dodgy migration agents and shoddy institutions promising qualifications they cannot deliver.
Government ministers and officials have since moved to soothe concerns and restore confidence in the $15.5 billion industry. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Trade Minister Simon Crean will all visit India this year.
Prospective students to Australia must now prove they have $12,000 in the bank for living costs for every year of study, in addition to course fees.
The new rules match those that already apply to Australia's largest foreign student market, China. India provides the second largest number.
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