New Student and Student Guardian Visa Processing Priorities

On 14 December 2023, Australia’s Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil signed a new Ministerial Direction that formalises processing priorities for student and student guardian visa applications.

This Ministerial Direction builds on ongoing work to strengthen the integrity of the international education sector.

Student and student guardian visa applications from three categories enjoy the highest priority

Following the Ministerial Direction, Australia will give the highest priority to student visa applications that fall under these categories:

  • Student visa applications lodged from overseas by:
    • Schools sector, Foreign Affairs or Defence sector, and Postgraduate Research sector applicants
    • Higher Education, English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS), Vocational Education and Training (VET), and Non-Award sector applicants studying at an education provider with an Evidence Level 1
  • Subsequent entrant applications lodged outside Australia that include an unmarried family member under 18 years. Subsequent entrants are secondary applicants who did not submit their applications with the primary applicant.
  • All Student Guardian visa applications, whether lodged from Australia or overseas.

Please also note the following

Secondary applicants, i.e. spouses, de facto partners, or dependent children, who are included in the primary visa application will enjoy the same priority level as the primary applicant.

Where a primary student visa applicant plans on undertaking two or more courses of study, their application will receive the order of priority that applies to the principal course of study, i.e., the course of study with the highest AQF (Australian Qualifications Framework) level.

New ‘evidence level’ system for educational institutions

Australia’s Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) registers educational institutions that accept international students.

The Ministerial Direction has introduced an evidence-level system to decide which applications from international students must be given priority under the simplified student visa framework (SSVF).

This evidence level is determined for each education provider based on a few factors related to international students. It considers factors such as:

  • Visa Cancellations (25% weighting): If students’ visas get cancelled.
  • Refusals Due to Fraud (40% weighting): If visa applications are rejected because of fraud reasons.
  • Refusals (Excluding Fraud) (10% weighting): The rate at which visa applications are rejected for reasons other than fraud.
  • Student Visa Holders Becoming Unlawful (15% weighting): If students with visas become illegal non-citizens.
  • Subsequent Protections Visa Application (10% weighting): The rate at which students apply for another kind of visa for protection.

Essentially, the evidence level is like a score that helps prioritise applications. Thus, education providers and countries are assigned evidence levels based on the considerations above to streamline the process of deciding which international student applications are prioritised.

The new Minister Direction regulations apply from 15 December 2023

The new Student Visa processing priorities apply to all visa applications lodged on or from 15 December 2023. The priorities also apply to applications lodged before 15 December that are still being processed.

The Department of Home Affairs will continue to process Student Visa applications lodged in Australia according to processing arrangements that were in place before the new Ministerial Direction was released.

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