Australia tightens application rules for Nepali studentsStricter document verification is likely to bring departures down even as Australian authorities announce schemes to retain international students.
Despite Australian authorities announcing various schemes to retain international students for a longer period, the number of Nepali students migrating to the country is likely to decrease in the coming days because of strict document verification procedures adopted in the past few weeks.
“In the three months from March to May this year, Nepal became one of the top countries applying for visas for one particular country,” said Prakash Pandey, president of the Educational Consultancy Association of Nepal. “This raised suspicions among the authorities if people were crossing into Australia with fake documents.”
According to government data, 43,537 Nepali students received No Objection Certificates (NOC) from the Nepal government to pursue higher education in Australia from mid-February to mid-June this year.
The certificate is granted by the government for Nepali students to study abroad.
Brendan O’Connor, skills and training minister of Australia, recently said that as part of the Australian government’s retainment policy, the government favoured lifting the income threshold for some temporary migrants, according to international media reports.
“The government last Friday announced it would lift its intake of permanent migrants to 195,000 this financial year, from July 1 this year to June-end next year, up by 35,000, to help businesses with staff shortfalls and ease reliance on short-term workers,” reported Reuters.
Minister O’Connor has also said the government would examine raising the income threshold for temporary skilled migration, which has been around Rs4.62 million [Australian $53,900] since 2013.
Australia’s jobless rate now stands at a near 50-year low of 3.4 percent.
The new development stands to benefit Nepali students already in Australia with opportunities to work longer hours but the correspondingly stricter verification process will hamper Nepali students aspiring to go to Australia for education, according to Pandey.
Over the years, the country has become the most favoured destination for Nepali students. Of the 116,595 NOCs Nepali students got in the last fiscal year, 66,636—more than 57 percent—were issued for Australia, according to government statistics.
“The number of students applying for visas for Australia skyrocketed in the past five-six months,” said Pandey, president of the Educational Consultancy Association of Nepal. “Between December last year and June, around 15,500 individuals received student visas for Australia.”
Generally, around 40 percent of students who receive the NOC from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology go abroad, Pandey had told the Post earlier.
Then the Australian Department of Home Affairs, which grants visas, started asking for supporting documents to verify the standard documents, Pandey added.
“Though there have been instances of Australian authorities intensifying the document verification process in the past, this is the most strict they have ever been,” said Pandey. “The verification of income and tax records of applicants is being carefully analysed.”
Australia has witnessed a massive surge in the arrival of international students after opening its borders earlier this year after nearly two years of strict lockdown to curb Covid infections.
The early indicators reveal that the country would welcome a record number of students in 2023, according to media reports.
An expert in international education market trends told the Australian Financial Review, a daily newspaper, that the rebound in visa applications in the first six months of this year was surprising.
“Visa applications from Nepal were double for higher education and triple for the vocational education sector compared to 2019 when working hours were capped at 40 in a fortnight,” Jon Chew, global head of insights and analytics at Navitas, told the paper.
However, Chew added that the Morrison government’s move to uncap the number of hours international students could work was possibly driving interest from some countries, including India and Nepal, using student visas as a backdoor to access the right to work.
According to Pandey from the Educational Consultancy Association of Nepal, students who have not been able to provide supporting documents have been withdrawing their visa requests.
“Stringent student visa policies being adopted by Australia at the moment will help filter students who want to genuinely pursue higher education and those who want to go to Australia for purposes other than education,” said Pandey. “This policy encourages interested and qualified students to apply for student visas to seek quality education.”
Former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in May last year had lifted the 40-hour-a-fortnight working limit for international students taking up jobs in the tourism and hospitality sector. In January this year, the government extended the full-time working hour provision to every student visa holding worker, according to reports.
“There is a possibility that the temporary arrangement made during Morrison’s tenure will continue until June-end next year,” said Pandey.
The strict monitoring and inspection of documents and demand for supporting documents have dampened the spirit of aspiring students without the financial means to go abroad.
“Students have been facing difficulties because of the strict verification process of the Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirement in recent weeks,” said Abhinav Shama who works at Global Approach, an educational consultancy at Putalisadak, Kathmandu. “To avoid hassles for aspiring students, the colleges should proactively vet the documents submitted by the students before sending them to the high commission. This will ensure that students wouldn’t have to wait until the final moment to know their acceptance and visa status.”
The GTE requirement is an evaluation to consider if an application for a student visa is valid and accurate. “The financial documents are an integral part of this assessment,” said Sharma. “The Nepali and Australian authorities should proactively discuss the matter to make it less difficult.”
Nepalis have been spending billions to go to foreign countries on student visas. The amount students spent on foreign education increased by 171.2 percent to Rs67.7 billion in the last fiscal year compared to the fiscal year 2020-2021, according to the Nepal Rastra Bank data.
According to the Department of Home Affairs of Australia, 131,830 Nepalis were living in the country as of June 2020, almost five times the figure in June 2010.
“The authorities have also announced to increase the duration of the post-study work visa in some sectors from two to four years to three to six years,” said Pandey. “However, the announcement is yet to come into implementation.”