The Government and the Department of Education consider visa backlog issues to be a key priority and are focused on measures to address it.
The Department hears and understands sector concerns that delays in student visa processing could have substantial effects for the Australian international education market, for providers and for genuine students and their families.
While current processing times are slower than before the pandemic, Australia compares positively amongst key international education competitors, and the sector should be confident that substantial work is underway to address the visa backlog and to bring processing times back to more typical Australian levels.
Since the re-opening of the border in mid-December 2021 to 3 July 2022, more than 215,000 Student visa holders have arrived in Australia, and as at 22 July 2022, there are nearly 400,000 student visa holders onshore.
Between 20 November 2021 and 3 July 2022, the Department granted nearly 126,000 student visas to applicants offshore.
There has been strong growth in Student visa lodgements since the border re-opened in mid-December 2021. The Department of Home Affairs received the highest number of applications in the last ten years in June 2022, with almost 43,000 visas lodged in that month alone. This followed on from May 2022, which was the third highest number of visa lodgements in the last ten years.
The Departments of Education and Home Affairs are developing a joint series of country focussed roundtables to engage, inform and support the Australian international education sector.
The Department of Education recently delivered workshops in India and Nepal, hosted by AAERI (Association of Australian Education Representatives in India) focussed on education agencies, their consultants and Australian education provider staff. These workshops were designed to increase their understanding of the ESOS legislative framework, including providers’ obligations.
The workshops saw strong interest from participants and were well attended. Workshops were held in three Indian cities (Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and New Delhi) and Kathmandu in Nepal, with more planned. Department of Education officials are also supporting providers to hold their own workshops with their education agents across South Asia.
Department of Home Affairs has engaged with Peak Bodies and relevant member groups to encourage pre-screening of applications by education providers. Provider updates and website changes have also been updated to ensure that students and agents submit complete applications and that the sector is aware of the changing environment.
Department of Home Affairs officers in India have been engaging across the sector, including with individual providers and agents to address patterns of incomplete and/or fraudulent applications from Indian and Nepalese cohorts.
The Departments will look for further opportunities to work with the sector to increase understanding of the ESOS legislative framework and visa processing requirements.
Home Affairs is taking measures to reduce current backlogs, improve visa processing times and support streamlined visa processing for lower risk cohorts.
The Department of Home Affairs continues to prioritise offshore applications, as visa applicants who are already in Australia are able to commence or continue their studies whilst holding a bridging visa.
Home Affairs has recruited more than 140 new staff into visa processing areas since May 2022, with recruitment activity continuing at scale into July and August. Surge capacity is being bolstered through overtime from qualified staff across the Home Affairs portfolio and reallocation of staff from other work. This new recruitment activity is reflected in record-level processing volumes with over 76,000 applications (nearly 56,000 offshore) finalised in May and June 2022 alone.
The Department will continue to work closely with Home Affairs to coordinate a joint response. One of the measures the department is developing with Home Affairs is a series of roundtables with the sector.
These roundtables will provide direct engagement with providers and peak bodies to hear their concerns and propose solutions. Discussion will be focussed on how government and the sector can work together to deliver an effective response and inform the sector of current and emerging drivers.
More information about how providers can help to tackle the student visa processing backlog can be found on the Student visas page.