31 January 2012

Australian visa reforms get off to a slow start

A continuing decline of Australian visa applications from China has suggested that drastic relaxations of visa application requirements, known as the Knight reforms, are yet to revive the struggling education industry.

Australian immigration

The number of Australian visa applications from Chinese students has fallen despite efforts to ease restrictions.

The Knight reforms, which allow universities and other education institutions to offer fast track Australian visa approvals and post-study work rights, are yet to have the desired effect as the number of visas granted to Chinese students fell by 20.6% in the second half of 2011 compared to the year before.

A report from the Australian immigration authorities confirmed that offshore grants fell 8.9% in 2011 compared to the same period in 2010. 

"Application lodgements from offshore Chinese nationals have been declining over the last two quarters and this has affected grant numbers" said the report.

The reforms were announced in September 2011 after a frank report by former politician Michael Knight which criticised the original policy of Chinese students having to prove they had access to AU$75,000 (£50,000) for fees and living expenses.

Some of the reforms were implemented in November 2011 and original expectations were of a slight rise in the first half of 2012.

"Clearly we would have hoped for an upturn on the back of the Knight recommendations" said executive director of the International Education Association of Australia Phil Honeywood.

Some may feel the reforms have come too late as other countries have also made it easier for Chinese students to apply for student visas.

"It's a combination of the Australian dollar and competitor nations such as the US and Canada becoming much more receptive to student visas" said Mr Honeywood.

A Beijing education agent was quoted in the China Daily as saying that they would make Australia a more attractive destination for prospective students but pointed out that Australia remained a third choice behind the US and the UK.

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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