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Wednesday, 23 March 1994
Page: 2130

(Question No. 1039)

Senator Bell asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 8 February 1994:

  (1) How many applications for student visas were lodged at the Beijing Embassy during each financial year since 1986-87.

  (2) How many applications for education visas lodged with the Beijing Embassy were approved during each financial year since 1986-87, and for how long were those visas valid.

  (3) Of the approved applicants each financial year, how many had been accepted to undertake courses with approved institutions.

  (4) What criteria were used for approving or rejecting student visas.

Senator Bolkus —I am advised that the answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:



Duration (months)—estimate—

Beijing Post Applications Visas issued percentage of visas issued.

—————-less than————

Financial Year 3 6 12 36 37

1986/87 1717 1740 Through to 1991 visas for

secondary/tertiary study were

1987/88 8086 7980 valid to March following the

first year's study, and for

1988/89 10244 10144 the duration of preliminary

English courses plus 3 months

1989/90 25395 22383 or duration of single English

course plus one month.

1990/91 5279 1579 4% 6% 67% 18% 5%

1991/92 2582 1846 5% 10% 24% 44% 17%

1992/93 2174 985 6% 9% 21% 47% 17%

  Source: Overseas Operations Branch, Global Statistics & Trips Database, DIEA.

  (3) Applicants are approved only if they provide evidence of acceptance by an approved institution, hence those who were granted student visas had been accepted by approved institutions.

  (4) The criteria used for approving or rejecting student visas are set out below.

  In 1986 following selection by an institute in Australia full fee students would lodge a visa application form and supporting documents at the overseas post. Criteria to be met included:

  students were to be genuinely seeking temporary entry for study purposes only;

  intend a full time program of study;

  satisfy English requirements of the institution where applicable; and

  have financial capacity to meet all the costs of their stay in Australia.

  Students were required to undergo a medical and radiological examination, complete a character declaration and there was limited testing of bona fides.

  In June 1987, in consultation with the English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) industry, measures to tighten conditions of acceptance of Peoples Republic of China (PRC) students undertaking non-formal courses were introduced. These measures required students to:

  enrol for courses of a minimum of six months duration;

  pay fees in advance; and

  to forward $100 per week in living allowance to the institution;

  On 4 June 1989 visa processing was suspended in China for students wishing to undertake ELICOS and non-formal courses. When processing was resumed in September 1989, questionnaires were mailed to all applicants in the PRC backlog wishing to undertake ELICOS or other non-formal courses. Returned questionnaires and new applications were assessed against the following criteria:

  a minimum education level to year 10;

  a maximum age of 35 years; and

  certification of course relevance to current employment,or demonstrated relevance to future employment, or evidence of provisional enrolment in appropriate further education.

  For applications lodged after 1 January 1990 all students globally were subject to bona fides checking. For countries perceived likely to have high overstay rates, including the PRC, students were not required to pre-pay Australian institutions until they had received in-principle visa approval from Immigration. This procedure, known as pre-visa assessment (PVA), was applied to students from countries perceived likely to have high overstay rates seeking enrolment in non-formal courses of less than 12 months duration and included using the following specific education and employment criteria:

  proposed course length to be generally of not less than six months duration;

  minimum education level equivalent to 12 years schooling, except where an applicant is undertaking the course prior to secondary studies;

  between 18 and 35 years of age (except where the applicant is undertaking a course prior to postgraduate or second degree studies, or where applicant is sponsored by a government or other appropriate organisation, such as WHO);

  certification of course relevance to current employment;

  or demonstrated relevance to future employment, or evidence of provisional enrolment in further education; and

  a signed acknowledgment that dependants will not be permitted to join the applicant in Australia (PRC only).

  On 1 February 1991, PVA was extended to all students enrolling in courses with an entry level of less than Year 12 (excluding primary and secondary education) from countries perceived likely to have a high overstay rate.

  From 3 November 1992, private students (other than postgraduate students) who are PRC citizens have been required to:

  lodge their visa application, and have it assessed, before confirming their enrolment and paying tuition fees (if any); and

  meet the following additional bona fide criteria:

  a high level of comprehension of the English language, demonstrated by a minimum proficiency of 600 in the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or 7.0 in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or equivalent; and

  qualifications from a known institution in the PRC as listed in Chinese Universities and Colleges—A Guide to Institutions of Higher Education in China.