Australia issues course hopping guidance

06, August, 2014

Australia’s Department for Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has issued guidance on changing courses for international students, clarifying that in some circumstances students can switch under streamlined visa processing (SVP) arrangements.

The Department for Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) website for international students

The DIBP guidance follows instances of students processed under SVP ‘course hopping’ onto cheaper programmes once in Australia and a media campaign warning students that they may be in breach of their visa conditions if they switch.

SVP was introduced for the university sector following the Knight Review in 2011 and allowed universities to treat every student as the lowest immigration risk, regardless of nationality. The privilege has subsequently been extended to a select group of private higher education institutions and recently some advanced diploma-level private institutions have been invited to apply for SVP.

Under the clarified rules, students that have been issued a visa under SVP will be able to request a course transfer as long as: the new course is within the same sector for which a visa was initially granted; the country of their passport is Assessment Level 1 for their current visa; and they had held the current visa for at least 12 months.

“If you transfer to a course of study that is not eligible for streamlined visa processing and you have not been granted a new visa appropriate to your new course, then your visa might be considered for cancellation,” the DIBP website warns.

The guidance further clarifies that non-SVP visa holders do not need to apply for a new visa if they change to a new course of study at the same level of qualification, but do need to apply for a new student visa if they change to a different level of study.

The DIBP statement also highlights that as well as compliance with visa conditions, international students will need to satisfy requirements under the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) National Code. This usually means that unless six months of the principle course have been completed, students will need to obtain the permission of their existing provider in order to transfer to another institution.

A number of fictional case-study scenarios involving international students are listed within the DIBP guidelines to further clarify visa rules in relation to switching courses.

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