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Australia ushers in relaxed visa norms and support measures to woo international students

Australia ushers in relaxed visa norms and support measures to woo international students
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Standing proud with eight of the top 100 universities in the world, Australia goes beyond its beautiful landscape, white sandy beaches and its majestic kangaroos. It is also a hub of great education offerings. More Indian students than ever before are choosing to pursue education abroad opportunities in Australia for its top-notch courses, work opportunities and exceptional standards of living.

More than 90,000 Indian students enroll to study in Australia every year. According to the Australian Department of Home Affairs, more than 37,000 Indian students were granted student visas for Australia in 2018–19, registering a growth of 32% over 2017. However, the coronavirus (COVID-19) triggered an exodus by some international students who decided to return home to India to pursue their studies online. As the number of cases rose, students who were already enrolled in overseas programs and those with plans to go abroad in the near future were left wondering what would happen to their educational plans.

Realizing the challenges that overseas students are up against, the Australian Government (Government) was quick to announce a number of support measures to provide critical safety-net services to students during a time of grave difficulty. On July 20, the Government announced several changes to student visa arrangements to support international students with the recommencing of student visa issuance in all locations outside of Australia. This means that students will already have visas in hand and be able to plan their travel once the lockdown restrictions are lifted. Eligibility requirements for a post-study work visa (Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485)) have been relaxed for applicants enrolled with an Australian education provider. Post-study work visas in Australia have some of the most generous offerings globally for international students. This visa will enable students who have recently graduated with a degree from an Australian institution to live, study and work in Australia temporarily after they have finished their studies. Students who obtain a student visa before commencing new online Australian degrees can also count the period of online study toward a post-study work visas on graduation.

During the pandemic, additional time will continue to be given to applicants to allow them to provide English-language results where COVID-19 has disrupted their access to services — making assessments like the TOEFL® test key to study abroad opportunities. In fact, demonstrating English-language proficiency to the Australian Department of Home Affairs is a prerequisite for applying for an Australian visa, which TOEFL iBT® test scores help you to do successfully. TOEFL iBT test scores undertaken in a test centre are accepted by 100% of Australian universities and for all Australian temporary and permanent immigration visas including post-study, business, skilled migration and others. Many universities accept the TOEFL Home Edition test to meet English entry requirements. Renowned universities which receive the largest number of TOEFL test scores from India in particular are University of Melbourne, Deakin University, Monash University, University of Queensland, Australian National University, among others.

As a standardized assessment, the TOEFL iBT test is globally regarded as a gold standard in English- language assessment and is known for its accuracy and fairness in measuring academic English communication skills, the type of English you will encounter in classrooms across Australia and in universities around the world. This helps you to stand out with confidence, both during the application process and subsequently on campuses and workplaces in Australia.

Despite this pandemic which has severely impacted education across countries, Australia is remarkable among the positive outliers for taking tangible steps to ease COVID-19 related difficulties for students. Australia's education providers, including 43 universities and renowned colleges like the University of Melbourne or Swinburne University in Victoria among various others, are responding to student needs during these challenging times with a range of initiatives including emergency bursaries, hardship funds, food and accommodation support including food banks, fee waivers or deferrals, deferred studies, pastoral care, mental health and other medical supports for students. For the thousands of students stranded offshore, many universities in Australia are offering online courses for both new and continuing students who are unable to travel, and the government is working to facilitate their return to campus.

In addition, the Government is allowing students who have been in Australia for longer than 12 months and find themselves in financial hardship to access their Australian superannuation before time. The government has also taken steps to protect international students against eviction from rental accommodations with parity in protections that are offered to all Australians citizens.

The Australian authorities have also launched a social media campaign called #LookAfterYourMentalHealthAustralia. This campaign is designed to promote positive mental health and well-being during this time around the country. The initiative includes a free telephone service called "Time 2 Talk" to help people with a range of COVID-19 related challenges.

The pandemic is a black swan event but despite the life changing consequences it has triggered all around, there are some things that it will never change, like the value of a great education. Here, Australian universities rank highly, both in global rankings and with Indian students and their parents. Universities in Australia are some of the best in the world and are a great draw for students from India and around the world given the quality of education, educational infrastructure, the variety of courses to choose from as well as the post-study employment opportunities. The fine blend of high educational standards, student rights, linguistic diversity, friendly government provisions, work opportunities and the support offered to students in the light of COVID-19, make Australia a high-quality destination for students.

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