Australian Immigration Report 2011: Student, tourist and working holiday visas

Offshore student visa applications
to Australia are down in 2010-11

In 2010-11 the Department of Immigration and Citizenship issued 3,543,883 temporary visitor visas, including a 3% increase in total offshore visitor Australia visa grants.

Visa compliance by holders of Working Holiday and ETA visas is up to 99 per cent, up from 95.3 per cent in 2009-10. The report said this increase is largely due to its own actions. The report states the following:

"In 2010-11 the department used a range of tools to minimise the potential for non-genuine visitors to enter or remain in Australia or to contravene their visa conditions."

"These tools include the no further stay condition, security bonds, sponsor sanctions and Safeguards profiles".

In fairness, as well as these positive outcomes that are in line with the Government's underlying temporary immigration goals, there were also a number of setbacks in 2010-11, particularly with regard to its lucrative international student market.

Demand for a student Australia visa has fallen sharply, with the department awarding 126,186 student visa grants over the year, down from 158,240 in 2009-10, representing a 20.3 per cent decrease. Similarly, student visa finalisations fell 26.6 per cent to 143,127.

The department attributes the decline to a number of factors beyond its control, such as "the strength of the Australian dollar over this period, increased marketing activity by competitor countries, college closures creating uncertainty about the stability of Australian education providers, and the decoupling of education and general skilled migration".

The demand can also be attributed to a substantial decline in the number of Indian students, with enrolments down 36.5 per cent. The official response to the diminishing Indian demand contained in the annual report is that it is "the result of a high concentration of students with the vocational education and training (VET) sector which was most affected by measures to de-couple study in Australia from permanent residence".

But while factors may have played a part, the drop in Indian demand is also undeniably related to a negative perception of Australia that has persisted in Indian politics and its media over the past year following a spate of violent and possibly racially-motivated attacks against Indian students in 2010.

Tourism Australia has launched a campaign in conjunction with the Australian immigration department to try and repair the Australian national image in India. This is likely to remain a key challenge and area of priority for DIAC in the coming year.

- Aleks Vickovich is Online Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau.