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Zero approval for Indian applicants: VET student visas

In December, there was a noticeable decrease in the issuance of student visas compared to November, hinting at a potential decline in arrivals for the upcoming academic year.

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The Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA) has voiced deep concern over the recent revelation of a 0.0% approval rate for offshore vocational education and training VET student visas from India in December 2023. This unprecedented rejection rate has prompted ITECA to question the fairness and integrity of the visa assessment process, suggesting decisions may not be based solely on individual merit.

The Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA) is the peak body representing independent providers in the skills training, higher education, and international education sectors.

ITECA Chief Executive Troy R Williamsy says such an unprecedented rejection rate raises serious questions about the fairness and integrity of the visa assessment process, strongly suggesting that decisions are being made on a basis other than the merit of individual applications.

In a note to the Minister of Imiigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Andrew Giles, Mr. Williamsy wrote, “This situation not only undermines the aspirations of Indian nationals with the genuine intention to pursue educational opportunities in Australia, but also casts a shadow over the nation’s reputation as a welcoming and inclusive study destination.”

In December, there was a noticeable decrease in the issuance of VET student visas compared to November, hinting at a potential decline in arrivals for the upcoming academic year. This decline, which stands at 20% lower than last year’s numbers, aligns with the Department’s aim of reducing international student visa grants from 370,000 to 290,000 this year. Authorities anticipate a further slight decrease in this number moving forward.

The government’s migration strategy, implemented last year, has introduced stricter English-language proficiency tests for students. This requirement necessitates students to demonstrate genuine intent and poses challenges for those unable to secure employment addressing skill shortages, a prerequisite for visa retention. The government remains receptive to considering additional measures, such as potential caps on student numbers or increased visa application fees, to manage the situation.

However, ITECA says the feedback from Indian education stakeholders highlights a growing perception that Australia’s visa processing approach is damaging the nation’s reputation, potentially irreversibly.

“This misalignment with broader governmental efforts to strengthen economic and security relationships with India is of grave concern,” said Mr Williamsy.

Although approval rates for the visas in the VET sector from the subcontinent have never been very high, yet experts say the sector has seen a new low.

“It’s very disappointing for the prospective applicants as well as the VET sector colleges who are struggling due to the new changes announced and the current stance,” Chaman Preet of Migration And Education Experts, Melbourne told Indian Link.

ITECA has requested a comprehensive review to pinpoint the shortcomings in the current visa processing system that has led to the blanket refusal of all offshore visa applications from Indian students seeking to enrol in skills training courses.

“Moreover, we seek immediate clarification on the steps being taken to rectify this issue and ensure that such an oversight does not recur,” ITECA said adding, “ITECA expresses readiness to collaborate with the Australian Government to implement measures enabling independent Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) to welcome more international students, including those from India, while maintaining high educational standards. The organisation invites dialogue with the government to discuss solutions and requests a meeting to address these critical issues.”

Read More: Student visa policies tightening as Int‘l student numbers “too high”

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