On 5 November 2011 the first recommendation of the Knight Review (Strategic Review of the Student Visa Program 2011) came into being – this recommendation was entitled “The Foundation Stone”. In short an applicant for a student visa must now prove to Immigration (DIAC) that they are a ‘genuine temporary entrant’. This seemingly harmless change from the previous requirement to be a ‘genuine student’ also arrived with Ministerial Direction 53 – Assessing the Genuine Temporary Entrant Criterion for Student Visa Applications.
To be complete this change came with a number of other important changes
- Amended English requirements for AL 5 570 (ELICOS) visas for AL4
- Reduced funding requirements for AL4 from 36 to 24 months
- Public interest criterion 4020 applies to all Student visas (more of this in a subsequent post)
Back to the main game; the genuine temporary entrant requirement.
- The Federal government has been strongly focused on making changes to the sectors of the education industry that provide services to foreign students, especially the Vocational Sector (572 visas).
- The Federal government has been determined to sever the link between study in Australia and permanent residence.
- A series of policy decisions relating to General Skilled Migration (GSM) – priority processing, especially the Priority 5 classification of many valid GSM applications and more recently the announcement of the new SkillSelect / Expressions of Interest system from 1 July 2012 for prospective GSM has vastly reduced enrolments in the Foreign student market.
- Many Vocational Colleges have closed and many more have become extremely marginal financially.
- The University or Higher Education Sector has suffered a significant drop in enrolments and hence recurrent funding due to these policy settings.
- The University or Higher Education Sector has been lobbying the Federal government very strongly to fix the mess they have intentionally created by targeting the Vocational Sector.
- The Federal government sets up the Knight Review. Chaired by a good Labor man and, surprise, surprise, out pops the above mentioned Foundation Stone recommendation.
Basically what I’m saying if you haven’t caught on yet is that what we have seen delivered up is a) not an independent review of the student visa program and b) that this foundation recommendation fits hand in glove with all the other moves to sequester students from any aspiration to gain residence beyond their study in Australia.
Now I’m not being a conspiracy theorist here – this is straight out Labor government policy in action. All the bits and pieces of a somewhat convoluted puzzle have been progressively moved into place. Add to this the recent announcement that the ATO will be tracking all the people with temporary visas – student, working holiday and temporary worker / 457 etc… to check they are all paying tax (which is totally fair enough) and you can see a Labor and Trade Union push to squeeze out what they see as the cheap migrant worker. None of this has been announced as policy in this light but the combined outcome is unmistakable. Perhaps it’s just all a big coincidence?
I’m going to come back to the title of this post in more detail in a few days (Part 2) but what I’m seeing and hearing and I’m sure this was the intention (as opposed to the stated intention to make the student system better, fairer, bigger etc…) is that Student applicants are being refused in record numbers as “not genuine temporary entrants”. This is a massive subjective decision making process driven by the Minister’s new Direction 53. This document gives a DIAC decision maker the ability to form a view based on almost anything they can possibly imagine or infer that the applicant is not intending to come here, study, graduate and then depart.
Watch this space as I’ll expand on this in the next post. It’s my view that this, more than anything else in Labor policy so far will dramatically change the immigration landscape in Australia.