Overview of Student Visa Changes to Assist International Education Sector

On 16 December 2010, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, and the Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans, announced a strategic review of the student visa program and package of measures to ease the pressure on the international education sector.

Certificate Level Vocational Education and Training courses

The department has updated its policy to reflect amendments implemented within the vocational education and training (VET) sector regarding the certificate level courses.

From today, VET (subclass 572) visa applicants who are assessment level 4 may undertake a package of certificate level courses to meet requirements for the grant of a visa.

Applicants can package up to four certificate level courses, which total at least one year’s duration, where one element is a certificate IV level course. Previously for these applicants, it was a requirement that the certificate IV alone was of at least one year’s duration.

Prepaid formal boarding fees
Implemented immediately, the department will refine policy on the assessment of tuition and boarding fees by student visa processing officers. This will encourage providers to separate the boarding component of fees prepaid by students from the tuition fees so that prepaid boarding fees can be counted towards the students’ cost of living requirements.

New statistical publication

The Ministers have committed to improve information exchange between the government and the sector.

The first initiative, an in-depth statistical publication on the student visa program will be available on the department’s website from January 2011. This publication will be updated on a quarterly basis.

Changes to assessment levels

Assessment levels are a risk management approach applied to all student visas, determining the amount of evidence visa applicants need to supply and the level of scrutiny with which their claims are assessed.

From April 2011, assessment level will be reduced, so that 38 countries will have their assessment level lowered across one or more subclasses. A full list of the proposed changes is included below.

Frequently asked questions


I am an international student studying in Australia, do these changes affect me? When do these changes take place?
No. These changes will only affect new student visa applications made after the implementation dates as outlined below.

Measures Date of implementation
Flexible assessment of certificate level vocational education and training courses 16 December 2010
Separate assessment of prepaid boarding fees 16 December 2010
New quarterly student statistical publication January 2011
Changes to student visa assessment levels April 2011
Review of the student visa program Reporting to government mid-2011

Are there any other changes to migration legislation or policy regarding student visas that will occur shortly?

Legislation and policy is subject to change from time to time and may not be announced in advance. Students and their agents should regularly check the department’s website for updated information.

Strategic review of the student visa program

The Minister announced that a strategic review of the student visa program will be conducted. I would like to contribute to this review. How do I contact the review body?

The Hon Michael Knight AO has been appointed to undertake a strategic review of the student visa program, reporting to government in 2011.

More information on the review and how to contribute your views will be made available on department’s website shortly.

Certificate level vocational education and training courses

I was granted a student visa with a package of courses that included a certificate level III course and a diploma, do I still have to study the diploma course?

You should continue to study the package that you presented for your student visa application as a certificate level III course by itself does not meet the requirements for the grant of a student visa.

I lodged my student visa application for a vocational education and training visa before 1 January 2011. My application is still being processed. Can I change my courses now that I can study all certificate level courses?

Yes. You should contact your case officer if you would like to consider changing your packaged courses.

I’m an education provider, what can I do to assist assessment level 4 students who want to study certificate level courses?

When providing confirmation of enrolments for two or more certificate level courses, you will need to ensure that the total period of tuition is at least 52 weeks and it includes a course at the certificate IV level.

Prepaid formal boarding fees

I am attending high school and have prepaid part of my formal boarding fees. How will this affect the amount of money I must show the department?

The amount you have prepaid will be deducted from the total amount of living costs you must demonstrate to the department. The living costs amount is currently AUD18 000 a year. The evidence you must provide to meet the financial requirement is determined by your assessment level.

I will be in a homestay arrangement. I have paid three months in advance. Can this be counted towards my living costs calculation?

No. This change only applies to visa applicants who are in formal boarding arrangements.

I have already paid a bond and three months’ rent on an apartment. Can this amount be counted towards my living costs calculation?

No. This change only applies to visa applicants who are in formal boarding arrangements.

I’m an education provider, what can I do to assist students who have prepaid boarding fees?
Where students prepay formal boarding fees, you need to provide them a formal receipt and/or a copy of the contract. This is to assist the department with assessing the living costs calculation.

You should also ensure that boarding fees are not included as part of the tuition fees you enter on the confirmation of enrolment (CoE) or letter of offer. This will ensure that the correct amount of tuition is calculated.

Questions in relation to issuing CoEs should be directed to the PRISMS Help Line at the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR).
Telephone: 02 6240 7647
Email: prisms@deewr.gov.au

Changes to assessment levels

Which visa subclasses and countries will be lowered?

There are 38 countries that will have their assessment level lowered across one or more subclasses. The full list of the countries and sectors that will have their Assessment Levels reduced is included below.

The assessment level for my nationality will change in April 2011. Should I wait to lodge my student visa application?

The proposed assessment level changes may benefit some students in terms of evidentiary requirements; however, it won’t change the outcome for genuine student visa applicants. The department encourages students to continue with their current study plans.

Where can I find information on existing student visa assessment levels?

The department publishes an information sheet, entitled Overseas Student Program – Assessment Levels. This information sheet was formerly known as Form 1219i.

List of reduced Assessment Levels

These changes will come into effect in April 2011. Applications received before that date will be processed on the basis of current Assessment Levels

Country of Citizenship Education Sector UPDATED Assessment Levels
Argentina Subclass 573 – HigherEd 1
Bangladesh Subclass 573 – HigherEd 3
Belize Subclass 573 – HigherEd 2
Bolivia Subclass 573 – HigherEd 2
Bosnia-Herzegovina Subclass 572 – VET 2
Bosnia-Herzegovina Subclass 573 – HigherEd 2
Subclass 573 – HigherEd Subclass 575 – Non-Award 2
Cambodia, the Kingdom of Subclass 571 – Schools 3
Cambodia, the Kingdom of Subclass 572 – VET 3
Cambodia, the Kingdom of Subclass 573 – HigherEd 3
Cambodia, the Kingdom of Subclass 575 – Non-Award 3
China Subclass 573 – HigherEd 3
Colombia Subclass 575 – Non-Award 2
Costa Rica Subclass 573 – HigherEd 1
Croatia Subclass 570 – ELICOS 2
Croatia Subclass 572 – VET 2
Croatia Subclass 573 – HigherEd 2
Croatia Subclass 575 – Non-Award 2
Subclass 575 – Non-Award Subclass 571 – Schools 2
Ecuador Subclass 575 – Non-Award 2
El Salvador Subclass 570 – ELICOS 2
El Salvador Subclass 572 – VET 2
El Salvador Subclass 573 – HigherEd 2
El Salvador Subclass 575 – Non-Award 2
Fiji Subclass 575 – Non-Award 2
Fmr Yugo Rep of Macedonia Subclass 575 – Non-Award 2
Guatemala Subclass 570 – ELICOS 2
Guatemala Subclass 571 – Schools 2
Guatemala Subclass 572 – VET 2
Guatemala Subclass 573 – HigherEd 2
Guatemala Subclass 575 – Non-Award 2
Honduras Subclass 570 – ELICOS 2
Honduras Subclass 571 – Schools 2
Honduras Subclass 572 – VET 2
Honduras Subclass 573 – HigherEd 2
Honduras Subclass 575 – Non-Award 2
India Subclass 573 – HigherEd 3
Iran Subclass 575 – Non-Award 2
Israel Subclass 575 – Non-Award 1
Jamaica Subclass 573 – HigherEd 2
Jordan Subclass 572 – VET 2
Kazakhstan Subclass 573 – HigherEd 2
Kiribati Subclass 573 – HigherEd 2
Lao Peoples Democratic Rep Subclass 575 – Non-Award 2
Lithuania Subclass 573 – HigherEd 1
Malawi Subclass 573 – HigherEd 2
Papua New Guinea Subclass 573 – HigherEd 1
Philippines Subclass 575 – Non-Award 1
Russian Federation Subclass 573 – HigherEd 2
Russian Federation Subclass 575 – Non-Award 2
Solomon Islands Subclass 571 – Schools 1
Solomon Islands Subclass 573 – HigherEd 1
Solomon Islands Subclass 575 – Non-Award 1
Syria Subclass 573 – HigherEd 2
Taiwan Subclass 572 – VET 1
Thailand Subclass 575 – Non-Award 1
Tonga Subclass 573 – HigherEd 2
Turkey Subclass 575 – Non-Award 1
Vanuatu Subclass 571 – Schools 1
Vanuatu Subclass 573 – HigherEd 1
Vanuatu Subclass 575 – Non-Award 1
Venezuela Subclass 573 – HigherEd 1
Venezuela Subclass 575 – Non-Award 1
Yemen Subclass 573 – HigherEd 2

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