Streamlined Visa Processing (SVP) was initially introduced for Australian universities in March 2012 to support the sustainable growth of the international education sector. Under SVP, students benefit from lower evidentiary requirements, regardless of their country of citizenship, and generally receive simpler and quicker visa processing.
The student visa program reached its peak in 2008-09 when there were approximately 320,000 visas granted to international students, of which approximately 227,000 were offshore. In the years following 2008-09, international student numbers declined before a number of reforms, including the introduction of SVP and the expanded PSW arrangements supported a return to growth.
According to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP)'s 'Student Visa Program Quarterly Report' ending 31 December 2014 which is for the 6 months starting 1 July 2014 & ending 31 December 2014, there were 3,576 student visa applications lodged from Nepal. During the period 3,085 applications were successful in getting visa. The VISA grant rate during the last 3 months period was 88.9% as per the report. There were 15,712 students from Nepal in student visa at the end of the December 2014 while 910 offshore applications were undecided at DIBP. Nepal maintains the 6th position among the top country to send more students to Australia during this period.
Since the implementation of SVP and the proposed reforms, the higher education sector in Australia has experienced the highest rate of growth with offshore higher education (subclass 573) visa grants increasing by 28.9 and 38.3 percent respectively during 2012-13 and 2013-14. Sectors other than higher education also experienced growth in offshore markets in 2012-13 and 2013-14, however this has generally been at a lower rate than the higher education sector.
While SVP has brought benefits to Australian education industry, stakeholder feedback, together with an evaluation of the arrangements, indicates that SVP is not sustainable in its current form in the long term. This is primarily due to concerns relating to the market impacts and regulatory cost of the arrangements, as well as the challenges faced by education providers in effectively managing their responsibilities under SVP.
On 16 June 2015 the Australian Government released the "Future Directions for Streamlined Visa Processing Report" and announced the introduction of a simplified international student visa framework (SSVF) to support Australia’s education services sector.
The release of the report follows a period of extensive stakeholder consultation which presented international education sector stakeholders with the opportunity to provide feedback to government about the streamlined visa processing arrangements and how they can best continue to support the sustainable growth of the international education sector.
Key changes under the SSVF are:
- A reduction in the number of student visa sub-classes from eight to two; and
- The introduction of a simplified single immigration risk framework for all international students.
- A working group comprising peak bodies and relevant commonwealth and state government agencies will be established to support implementation of the eight recommendations from the report.
- These changes will simplify the student visa framework, significantly reduce red tape, create a level playing field for all education providers and deliver a more targeted approach to immigration integrity.
- Subject to the legislative change process the Department intends to implement the review recommendations by mid 2016.
One of the reason for Australia becoming great destination for international students is, it keeps on changing the policies as required to ensure the best quality education and educational environment for all students including international students. With many students around the world heading to Australia in search of better place to study and live, it will continue to be a competitive and attractive place for Nepalese students under SSVF in the coming days too.