31 May 2011

Integrity of Australian student visa program questioned

A new release from the Australian National Audit Office has revealed that the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) does not have administrative structures and process that are "sufficiently robust" to ensure the "integrity" of the Australian student visa program.

Australian student visa

An audit has accused DIAC of being unable to ensure the "integrity" of the Australian student visa program.

The Audit Office, lead by Auditor-General Ian McPhree, found that DIAC is "struggling to cope" with the Australia visa program for students, due to the scale and complexity of the system.

It was also revealed that there was a backlog of 350,000 non-compliance notices issued by schools and universities that had not been checked by March last year. A non-compliance notice is issued when a student fails to attend classes, start a course or pass subjects. However, by March of this year, 145,000 of the notices had been 'finalised' by department staff.

Speaking on the results of the Australian student visa program audit, Mr McPhee commented: "The rapid growth of the program, with over 400,000 overseas students living in Australia in 2009-10, places significant pressure on DIAC's compliance functions.

"DIAC's integrity and compliance units were hampered in managing this pressure by the department's failure to update its national compliance activities and by the backlog of non-compliance notices.

"While the large number of the NCNs (non-compliance notices) in the backlog are trivial and carry no compliance implications, there are potentially serious cases of student non-compliance 'hidden' within the backlog, particularly in the category of 'non-commencement of course'.

"The backlog has prevented these cases from being identified and dealt with."

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people lodge their Australian visa application with the Australian High Commission

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