Melbourne, Nov 9 (IANS) The Australian government is introducing new measures to assist overseas students, including many Indians, affected by the closure of an international education provider, a minister said Monday.
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Senator Chris Evans said that from Jan 1, 2010, overseas students who require a new visa to complete their studies at another school or college will be exempt from paying the A$540 (approx. Rs.22,500) student visa application charge.
Just this year alone, 12 education providers have closed affecting about 4,700 students.
Evans said that although most students will be able to complete their studies on their existing student visa, some may need to enrol in a new course that finishes after their existing student visa expires and will require a new visa.
‘In situations where an education provider can no longer offer a course, the government’s primary concern is the welfare of the student.’
‘We understand that these situations are not the fault of the student and the introduction of a fee exemption will ensure they are not shouldered with an additional financial burden,’ Evans said.
Students will be able to apply to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) for a refund of their visa application fee if they have been affected by the closure of an education provider in 2009 and have had to apply for a new student visa.
The government is also increasing the minimum financial requirements for overseas students to ensure they can meet their living costs while in Australia.
From Jan 1, 2010, prospective overseas students will need to demonstrate that they have access to at least A$18,000 (approx Rs.748,000) a year to fund their living costs in Australia, instead of the current A$12,000 (approx Rs.498,000).
Evans said: ‘It is important that students understand these financial requirements are only the minimum amount required for a student visa.’
‘International students can supplement their income through part-time work in Australia but the primary purpose of a student visa is to study and students should not rely on part-time work to meet their expenses.’
The measures target parts of the student visa caseload in India, Mauritius, Nepal, Brazil, Zimbabwe and Pakistan.
There are over 500,000 international students in Australia pursuing university education and vocational studies of which about 94,000 are Indians – the second highest after the Chinese.
Thousands of Indians are enrolled in vocational courses in government and private Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutes.
In recent years, Australia’s education industry has boomed to become the country’s third-largest foreign currency earner after coal and iron ore, generating about $12 billion in revenue in 2008. Indian students in Australia alone contribute $3.5 billion a year to the economy.
An official said since these enhanced integrity measures were introduced, there has been an increase in the number of applications being withdrawn, from five percent in July to 17 percent in September.
‘To date, more than 150 agents have had their eVisa access suspended due to evidence of fraud or inactivity.’
Indo Asian News Service