So, you’ve decided to study in Australia. You’ve tossed up between the best cities to live, compared Australia’s top universities, scrounged through student accommodation, and planned your funky exchange student wardrobe.
This is all well and good. But if you’re really wanting to study in Australia you’re going to need a student visa. Now student visas have a complicated set of requirements. And you’re going to have to tick them off if you want to get that coveted stamp of approval.
So how do you ace the visa test? Simple. You have to defend your visa. Protect it from rejection. Barricade it from denial. You need to follow the student visa process step-by-step.
And the only way you can do that is if you know what pitfalls to look out for. So, time to get familiar with the top 7 failures in visa applications, and how you can avoid them. Time to craft a visa that’s impervious to rejection.
1. FAILURE TO MEET THE GENUINE TEMPORARY ENTRANT REQUIREMENT
First things first. If you have no clear plan for your education in Australia, it’s time to get one. At least, if you want to show you are a genuine, one of a kind-ish, aspiring exchange student. We don’t want swindlers and wannabes.
In this case, one of your biggest visa requirements is to pass the GTE. Australia’s Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirement operates as an integrity measure. Its basic point is to ensure your student visa program is actually intended for study, as opposed to sneaking in a bit of ongoing residency in Australia.
The GTE test is a way for the government to siphon out applicants who are using the student visa program for motives ulterior to gaining a quality education in Australia. It’s a ‘Do you really care about learning’ kind of test.
As an applicant you need to show (provide documentary proof) that you are coming to Australia on a genuine pilgrimage for knowledge and wisdom. You will need to provide a personal statement (in English, Google translate will help you out) addressing the GTE requirements.
With your application you’ll need to attach a written statement along with supporting documents. If your statement is generic (don’t be boring) and doesn’t have documentary evidence, your application won’t fair too well on assessment.
Another factor that comes into play on the GTE is the personal circumstances of an applicant. This is assessed based on some of the following requirements:
- Circumstances in home country/country of residence; this includes reasons for not studying in home if a similar course is available there, economic circumstances, political and/or civil unrest in home country.
- Potential circumstances in Australia; level of knowledge of proposed course and education provider, previous study/qualifications, planned accommodation arrangements, and financial capacity.
- Value of the course to the applicant future; Consistency of the course with applicant’s education level, expected remuneration in home country which could be gained using the qualifications from study.
- Applicant’s immigration history; past visa applications for Australia or other countries (i.e. past visa rejections/cancellations). Why did your past applications fall short?
2. FAILURE TO MEET ACADEMIC QUALIFICATION
Now this requirement is to be expected. To qualify for a student visa, you’re going to have to qualify as a student. This translates to: you’ll need to have successfully completed the required academic level to study further.
Academic entry requirements (besides evidence of English language skills) will vary depending on the course, level of education, and university you want to study at.
They vary from one university institution to the next. So, make sure you carefully read the course information (always the fine print!) on their website to see if you qualify.
A few tips for if you don’t qualify. You should sift through the internet to find a course/uni that will. OR, if you need to meet the requirements, and you really really really want that university and/or course, you should consider taking a Foundation or Bridging course. This is basically an intensive course that will help you meet entry requirements, usually lasting one year. And let’s be honest. One year is so doable if it’s that golden ticket to your dream exchange program.
Generally speaking, entry requirements for different levels of study include:
- English language: Achieve the required English score.
- Undergraduate: Have an overseas equivalent to an Australian Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Some undergrad courses also have specific pre-requisite subjects.
- Postgraduate: Have (satisfactorily) completed an undergraduate degree. Your institution may take research ability or relevant work experience into consideration so that’s always worth a shot.
Assuming you’ve ticked all these boxes and have confirmed enrolment with your university, you’ll be issued an electronic Confirmation of Enrolment (eCoE) certificate. If not, then make sure you heckle them for it! When you craft your application, don’t forget to attach your (eCoE) certificate!
3. FAILURE TO MEET ENGLISH REQUIREMENTS
Rule of thumb: If you’re planning to study in an English-speaking country, you’re going to have to speak English. This means that you’re going to have to meet the English language requirements to get your student visa approved.
For many applicants, you’ll have to provide your English language test results alongside your visa application. This condition is intended for international students exchanging from non-English speaking countries.
Now, not all language proficiencies are created equal. The English language skill required of you will vary from one university to the next. This can also vary from the skill level required for your student visa application. Make sure you check both the English requirements on the Department of Home Affairs and your university website to find out which English language level is required of you.
Either way, you’ll want to ace the IELTS or an equivalent test. What happens once you’ve improved your proficiency and achieved the required score? You’ve ticked off another box and are on your way to passing the biggest test: getting your visa approved!
Make sure you provide documentary evidence when you apply for your visa; evidence of an acceptable English language test score, and evidence that you fall within an exempt category for your university of choice.
4. YOU HAVE INSUFFICIENT FUNDS
You know the saying money doesn’t matter? Well it does if you want to buy a yacht. And it definitely does when it comes to getting your student visa approved. So if you’re planning to get that yacht, or in the nearer future that visa approved (assumedly a yes?), then you’re going to have to meet certain financial requirements.
And the government’s not going to take no for an answer. So, show them the money. Because money is one of the main reasons the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) refuses applications.
The DIBP wants anyone applying for a student visa to prove their ability to finance their studies in Australia. So as an applicant you’ll have to make sure you can provide documents that prove your financial stability and ability to pay your way through your exchange.
So, what’ll it cost? What’s the damage? Currently, students must show credibility of an annual living expense of around $AUD20,000 but this is always subject to changes (typically in an upward direction).
For those of you aspiring students out there, you’re going to need documentary proof that prove you have this level of money to play with. Time to start saving folks. Because if you have insufficient funds in your bank account your student visa is going to be unceremoniously rejected.
As an international student, you will need to demonstrate proof of genuine access to the required funds for your exchange program in Australia. Some examples of how you can provide evidence of genuine access include:
- Evidence that another person or business is providing funds, including evidence of your relationship, identity documents of the person providing said funds, or proof that the business is still operating. Imaginary friends and dead businesses can’t supply you with funds.
- If you’re relying on a deposit, you will have to explain any recent and ongoing deposits (including wages).
- If you have a tertiary loan to cover your tuition and/or living expenses, you should provide evidence of the terms and total amount of the loan that will be disbursed.
- If you’re relying on some other type of loan you will need to show proof of collateral used, terms of agreement, and ability to cover ongoing costs. The best evidence of genuine access is full disbursement.
5. YOU DON’T HAVE ACCEPTABLE HEALTH, OVERSEAS STUDENT HEALTH COVER (OSHC) OR WELFARE ARRANGEMENTS
As a student visa applicant, you’ll have to go through some health checks to make sure you’re alive and well for your student exchange in Oz. This will depend on a few factors, for instance, the level of tuberculosis risk in your country. For some reason the Australian government doesn’t find tuberculosis so desirable.
Medical examinations are required for a temporary visa application, so you’ll want to check out the Department of Home Affairs’ required health examinations before you send off your student visa application.
Also, student visa applicants must have Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). This will provide medical and hospital insurance in Australia and must cover the duration of your stay. If you don’t have OSHC you’re not just at a health risk! You risk having your visa rejected. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
So, who’s responsible for your health cover? Well your OSHC can be arranged by either your education provider or yourself. It’s yours for the picking.
If it is supplied by your education provider, you’ll need to document the name of your insurance provider, the beginning and end date of your policy, and the terms and conditions of your policy. And, if you arrange coverage yourself, you’ll need to include the policy number in your student visa application. Don’t forget it!
For students under 18, there are a few added precautions. The Department of Home Affairs requires students to have adequate welfare arrangements approved by their education provider. So, if you’re underage, make sure you find a certified student accommodation provider for under 18’s. Your provider will be responsible for issuing you a Confirmation of Appropriate Accommodation and Welfare (CAAW) letter.
6. PAST MISDEEDS
This is kind of an obvious one, so we’ll keep it short and punchy. If you’ve ever tried to enter a country in the past without any real plans to attend a university, your misdeeds will be on record.
Australian authorities will be able to access this information and reject visa applications on the basis of past misconduct. So, if you’ve got any shady immigration history or failed applications owing to ingenuine entrance attempts, watch out. Your visa is likely to be rejected.
If you fall into this category, there’s not really much you can do except cross your fingers, pray, and make use of every possible avenue to prove you that this time you’re a genuine entrant. Here’s hoping you are!
Your character also falls into this section. This is all to do with you meeting the DIBP character requirements. Everyone, student or otherwise, who wants to enter Australia will be assessed against character requirements.
Criminal history just isn’t a visa selling point. You may be asked to provide police certificates for each country you have lived in for 12+ months over the past 10 years (since turning 16).
7. INCORRECT OR INCOMPLETE DOCUMENTS
Finally, when it comes to the ‘failed visa’ department, one of the biggest, and need we add pointless, failures is not getting your documents in order. Get your affairs in order people!
Organisation is key to making sure you complete all the visa application requirements, and provide all substantiating documents to support your claims. Something as simple as forgetting a health clearance document, or as little as forgetting to include a policy code, can make or break your visa application.
It’s worth trawling through the Department of Home Affair’s website to ensure you include every little document and detail necessary for a successful visa application. Take the time to go over your application with a fine-tooth comb and make sure you correct any mistakes or fill in any missing information on your application.
Being painstakingly Type A really can determine how your student visa application fairs with the Home Office. We’ve covered most of the stuff already, but to make life easier for yourself, cast an eye over the Department of Immigration and Border Protection Checklist:
- Birth Certificate.
- Passport identity page and each page that has a visa label and immigration stamps for any countries.
- National Identity Card.
- All pages of the Household Registration Book.
- A Curriculum Vitae certified by local authorities.
- Valid electronic Certificate of Enrolment (CoE) for courses being undertaken
- A statement to satisfy the decision maker that you have a genuine intention to stay in Australia i.e. Your circumstances in your home country, potential circumstances in Australia, value of the course to your future, & details of any previous travels to Australia.
- Evidence (scanned and uploaded original documents in colour) of qualifications and associated transcripts of any courses completed and/or attempted and/or currently studying.
- Evidence of any scholarship(s) awarded for your studies in Australia.
- Valid Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) for the proposed duration of the student visa.
- If under 18: Parent consent letters, signed and witnessed.
- Confirmation of Appropriate Accommodation and Welfare Arrangements (CAAW), linked with your CoE.
- A signed financial undertaking from the individual(s) providing the funds, outlining the relationship between you and the financial sponsor(s), including either: Evidence of funds & genuine access to funds OR evidence of annual income.
- English language test certificate that was taken less than 2 years before date of lodgement of application.
All in all, studying abroad is a big deal. So, you need to treat your visa application like it’s a big deal. Make sure you tick off every requirement, attach every document & certification, and get every clearance needed to get your application approved. And respond to every DIBP request that follows the submission of your student visa application. Communication is key, as is organisation and vigilance! Time to get visa snappy. Good luck and see you in the land of Oz!