28 September 2011

Student visa changes keep Australia competitive in the Chinese market

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The recent changes to the student visa program introduced by the Australian Government will thwart the decline in interest from Chinese international students, immigration officials say.

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Chinese education agents have welcomed the proposed changes to the Australian student visa program

Australian immigration and education officials have begun briefings in Beijing and other Chinese cities this week, aimed at selling the benefits of the Australian Government's proposed visa changes to Chinese agents and prospective students.

Chinese education agents - who secure the vast majority of Chinese international student places in Australian universities, colleges and language schools - have recently diverted their resources and attention to the North American market, where last year the Canadian and US Governments made it easier for Asian students to obtain a Canadian visa or American visa for study.

The reallocation of resources towards North America saw a considerable slump in AUD$18 billion international student market, a quarter of which comes from China.

On 22 September, the Australian Government introduced a raft of measures aimed at altering the Australian visa program to make it more competitive and attract a greater number of international students to Australian educational institutions.

The reforms include a streamlined visa processing mechanism, a reduction of application fees and the overhaul of the current visa risk management framework, among others. The Government would also allow greater provisions for post-graduation work in Australia.

Chinese agents and education industry figures have seemingly responded well to the news. 

"The orientation of the policy change is good. It goes to being more tolerant," education consultant Ma Yan told The Australian newspaper.

"It is a full package of favourable policy adjustments, we appreciate the Australian Government has made such changes," said Li Ping, President of the Aoji Education Group.

However, while the reduction in fees and ability to work post-graduation are being warmly received, the reduction of the list of desired occupations for permanent residency is still hurting Australia in the Chinese market.

"Immigration is the most attractive point to Chinese students, and more favourable policies would always be an advantage to attract Chinese students," Mr Ma said.

Wang Wei of the Crossworld International Education Centre said the possibility of long-term or permanent residence would allow Australia to woo students back from North America.

"40% of Chinese students are highly interested in the possibility of migrating to Australia after their study," he said.

Australian Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy that specialises in helping people move to Australia.

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