The number of visa applications granted for overseas students to study in Australia has increased by approximately 4% marking the second year in a row of growth for the sector.
Numbers had previously been falling but the financial year 2012/2013 has seen figures rise with the previous year of 290,761 applications lodged compared with 280,003, according to data from the annual Student Visa Programme Trends report.
In the second quarter of 2013, approximately 93% of visa applications assessed during this period were granted a visa.
The report shows that student visa numbers have returned to a sustainable growth over the last two years and this is part of a broader trend throughout the past 10 years.
The report states that this growth has been driven by applications lodged outside of Australia which increased by 11.1% in the same period and there were 304,251 student visa holders in Australia as of 30 June 2013. Of these visa holders, 23.4% were from China, the largest cohort, followed by 10% from India.
During the June 2013 quarter, 75% of all student visas were processed within 30 days, while 50% were processed within 14 days. About 93% of applications assessed during this period were granted a visa.
International students must have a valid visa for the duration of their studies in Australia. Most international students will need a student visa. However, visitor visas permit up to three months study and working holiday maker visas permit up to four months study.
To be eligible for a student visa, applicants must be accepted for full time study in a course listed on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS.) Applicants must also meet financial, health insurance, English language proficiency and character requirements.
There is no limit on the number of student visas issued each year. If applicants meet requirements, they will be granted a student visa. Student visas are issued for the entire period of study in Australia. Visas are issued in alignment with the period for which the applicant has Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC.)
There are two other visas related to the student visa programme, the Student Guardian (subclass 580) visa and the Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa. The Student Guardian visa is for individuals who wish to accompany and care for minors studying in Australia. The Temporary Graduate visa allows international students to live and work in Australia temporarily after they have finished their studies.
Student visas include a condition that, once the course has commenced, allows most students to work for up to 40 hours per fortnight while their course is in session and for unlimited hours during course breaks.
There can be some confusion about working hours but students are urged to make sure that they know what they are permitted to do. ‘The limitation imposed by this visa condition reflects the purpose of a student visa; that it is to allow entry to Australia in order to study, not to work. Secondary visa holders are subject to a visa condition that limits them to 40 hours work per fortnight at any time,’ said an immigration spokesman.