By Matthew Knott, News Editor of StudyTravel Magazine

I wonder which country agents would nominate as their preferred destination to deal with?

We regularly monitor where agents are sending their clients in our monthly agency surveys, but this is not the same thing. Similarly, international students are often quizzed about their preferred country choice – often pointlessly by the destination they are already in!

But I’m interested to hear which destination countries agents prefer dealing with, in terms of ease of visa regulations, government-level and provider attitudes towards agents and commissions, client satisfaction and so on. Do please let me know!  

It was an announcement from New Zealand this week that set me thinking on this; Immigration New Zealand has just launched a new ‘Apply on Behalf’ online student visa application service for agents. Sample comments from Immigration New Zealand were: “INZ values the work of education agents in bringing talented students to study in New Zealand. We want this relationship to continue;” and “INZ regards education agents as partners in our business.” I’m not sure such complimentary words come from all immigration departments around the world.

Also on immigration matters we have big news from Australia this week, where the government has announced the abandonment of the streamlined visa processing (SVP) priority arrangements for higher education.

SVP is to be replaced with all-encompassing simplified framework for all providers, regardless of sector or ownership. Student visa applications and the level of documentary evidence required will be determined by the risk assessment level of the student’s country and of their chosen provider.

Again agents were factored into considerations of regulatory changes, with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection stating that any new arrangements must be clear to understand for international students and agents. Private colleges, particularly in the English language and vocational sector, have long been calling for reform of the two-tier SVP system, but even the universities have welcomed the measures.

It is something that the UK’s further education colleges will be eyeing enviously. I attended the Association of Colleges (Aoc) International Conference last week, and in a panel session on Tier 4 visas AOC International Director, John Mountford, raised the issue of a level playing field for Tier 4 sponsors. Currently, there are different rights and privileges applied dependent on sector and state/private ownership, such as work rights and English language test requirements.




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