Are you an international student who has completed, or are nearing completion, of your studies in Australia? If you are considering what to do next as you plan your visa pathway, you may consider applying for a graduate visa – or the technical name Temporary Graduate Subclass 485 visa – as a potential option to temporarily extend your stay in Australia. This visa can be a good choice for applicants whose long-term plans are to eventually settle in Australia permanently, by acting as a stepping stone to apply for a permanent residence visa. It can provide you with a valuable opportunity to work on improving your prospects for permanent residence whilst still residing in Australia. For example, you can use this time to improve your English test score, gain skilled employment experience, or settle in a regional area of Australia, all of which may help you to qualify for a future application for a skilled visa.
If you are planning to lodge an application for a graduate visa, it is important to ensure that you are fully informed about all valid visa application and lodgement requirements that apply. This means having a good understanding of the eligibility criteria and confirming that you comply with them. Equally important is the need to lodge a complete and correct application that includes all required supporting documents at time of lodgement. If you fail to comply with any one of these requirements, your application may face additional processing delays, or can potentially be refused. Not only will this result in a loss of time and money that you have invested in the process, but it can have more serious consequences, by impacting on your ability to re-apply for a graduate visa, or other type of visa, at a future date.
To help you to avoid making a mistake on your application, and thereby preventing the chance of processing delays or a refusal, we discuss the top 5 refusal for graduate visas being refused and explain how this can impact on your ability to apply again for a visa in the future.
What are the top reasons why Immigration refuse graduate visas?
Lodging the visa application past the deadline
You must lodge your subclass 485 application within 6 months of:
- Holding an eligible student visa (a valid visa lodgement requirement); and
- Completion of your course (a visa grant requirement).
It is very important to have a clear understanding of the meaning of ‘completion date’ for this purpose. The relevant date is when you receive your final course or exam results. A common mistake is to use the date of graduation, which is incorrect. You may be presented with your Award several months after course completion and incorrectly selecting 6 months from this date as your application lodgement deadline will result in a visa refusal.
Failing to meet the Australian Study Requirement
To qualify for visa grant, you must meet the Australian Study Requirement. This means successfully completing a Degree, Diploma or Trade Qualification (can be more than one) in Australia. The course/s must be:
- Registered under the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Course for Overseas Students (CRICOS)
- Completed over at least 16 calendar months whilst you were physically present in Australia;
- Completed over at least 2 academic years study;
- Conducted in English; and
- Completed whilst you held a visa which permitted study (e.g. a Student Visa).
You will see from the above definition that it contains several aspects that you need to comply with. Failing to meet any one of these will lead to a visa refusal.
One aspect is the need to ensure that you were physically located in Australia for at least 16 months between your course commencement and completion dates. Getting the dates right here is very important, as making a mistake could result in a refusal. The date of commencement is when your study commences (e.g. lectures, etc.) and not your university orientation, for example. The completion date is the same as discussed above, that is, when you are notified of your results.
Check your travel records to confirm that you meet this requirement before proceeding with lodgement. This is especially important if you had had frequent absences from Australia whilst holding your student visa.
Another aspect of the Australian Study Requirement is the 2-year academic study criterion. To meet this, the standard duration of your course must be for a minimum period of 92 weeks (as registered with CRICOS).
You can check the CRICOS website at the following link to confirm that the course/s which you completed are registered for at least 92 weeks of academic study:
If you completed more than one relevant qualification, the registered duration of each course can be aggregated for the purposes of satisfying the Australian Study Requirement
Working out whether you have met the Australian Study Requirement can sometimes be quite a complicated process, especially if you have received credits for previous study (for example, you must be careful not to double count course credits). We have prepared an article that provides more detail about course credits as well as an overview of the Australian Study Requirement in general, which you can access below:
Required documents not provided
You must supply all supporting documents as required by the Department, and you must do so at time of lodgement of your graduate visa application. If there are missing documents, or they are in the incorrect form, the Department will be under no obligation to follow up with you to provide them. It can instead proceed to automatically refuse your application. If the Department does request further information or documents in relation to your application, you must respond to the request by the deadline specified in the letter. If you are unable to comply with the request within this period, you must formally request more time in writing. If you do not comply with all applicable due dates for submission of documents, your application will be refused.
The types of required documents to pay particular attention to are as follows:
You will need to provide a completion letter from your education provider which includes the following details:
- course commencement and completion dates;
- campus location where you studied;
- date when course requirements were met;
- whether any part of your course was completed via distance education
- mode of study (i.e. full or part-time)
- language of course instruction
This letter should be requested from your education provider as it is not normally automatically issued to students.
Also provide your final official academic transcript (details of any unit credits should also be clearly shown).
Australian Federal Police (AFP) check
You must provide evidence at time of application lodgement that you, as the primary applicant, and all of your dependants aged 16 years and over, have applied for an AFP check within 12 months of lodging your application.
To meet this requirement, you should provide the following:
- AFP receipt number in your application form; and
- A copy of your request for an AFP check and the payment receipt.
Reasons for a refusal include:
- Failing to provide evidence that you gave applied for the AFP check during the 12-month period prior to application lodgement, for you and all your dependents aged 16 years or older; You cannot apply for a graduate visa on the same day as applying for the police check.
- Providing an AFP check that is older than 12 months at time of lodgement; and
- Applying for the wrong type of AFP check – you must select code 33 when completing the AFP request form as the ‘Purpose of the Check.’
You must provide evidence that you and all your dependents have made adequate arrangements for health insurance in Australia in accordance with visa grant requirements. The required period of cover commences from the date of lodgement of your visa application, to time of decision.
If you hold a Student Visa at time of lodgement of your application, you may provide evidence that you have Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). But, this will only be sufficient whilst you still hold your Student Visa. As soon as your Student Visa ceases, you must make arrangements for another acceptable health insurance policy to be eligible for visa grant. This is because the OSHC will only remain valid for the duration of your Student Visa. You will need to check with your health insurance provider regarding the policies that are acceptable for graduate visa purposes.
If your visa application is successful, you will be subject to visa condition 8501. This requires that you maintain an adequate level of health insurance for the duration of your subclass 485 visa (this also applies to your visa dependents). If an appropriate health insurance cover is not maintained, you risk having your visa cancelled.
Note that if you apply for a permanent residence visa whilst you hold the Graduate visa, you may be eligible to enrol in Medicare. If so, this will also be sufficient for meeting condition 8501. But make sure that you first receive conformation that you are covered by Medicare before cancelling your health insurance policy.
Failing to meet the English language requirement
You must meet an English language criterion to qualify for visa grant. This can be satisfied in one of two ways:
If you are a citizen of, and hold a passport from, one of the following countries, you will satisfy the English language requirement (your passport will be sufficient to demonstrate that this has been satisfied):
- United Kingdom;
- New Zealand;
If you do not hold an eligible passport for this purpose, you must complete a specified English language test, and achieve the minimum score required, as set out in the following table to satisfy this requirement:
|Total overall score
|Minimum scores for English test components
|Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) (taken on or after 1 January 2015)
The test must have been completed within 3 years of the date of lodgement of your visa application. If you need to sit the test before lodging your application, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to do so. You should factor in exam preparation time, available testing dates, expected date of results being released and the possibility that you may need to re-sit the test (in the event that you are unable to achieve the required minimum score on your first attempt).
You must supply the test results at the time of lodging your visa application. Failure to do so may result in refusal.
Selecting the incorrect graduate visa stream
When lodging your visa application, you must select from one of the following streams:
- Graduate Work stream; or
- Post-Study Work stream.
It is very important that you check the eligibility requirements that apply to each of the above streams and select the one that applies to you. Note that the requirements that apply to each of these stream are different.
We provide a summary of the key requirements that apply to each stream below.
Graduate Work stream
This stream is for international students who have completed a specified qualification and who have the skills and qualifications that relate to an occupation on the relevant Skills Occupation List. If successful, you will be granted a graduate visa for a duration of 18 months.
Visa grant requirements include:
- You must nominate an occupation on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL);
- You must include evidence that you had applied for a skills assessment for your nominated occupation by a specified skills assessing authority;
- Your skills must be assessed as being suitable for your nominated occupation;
- You must meet the Australian Study Requirement in the six-month period before application lodgement; and
- Each qualification used to meet the Australian Study Requirement must be closely related to your nominated skilled occupation.
Post-Study Work stream
This stream is for students who graduate with a higher education degree from an Australian education institution, in any area of study. It is only available to students who applied for, and were granted, their first student visa on or after a specified date. A successful application will result in grant of a visa of between 2 and 4 years, depending on the qualification/s held.
Visa grant requirements include:
- You must have applied for, and been granted, your first student visa to Australia on or after 5 November 2011;
- You must hold an eligible qualification;
- Your qualification must have been awarded by an Australian university or non-university education provider that is registered with CRICOS (note a non-university provider must offer courses at degree level or higher); and
- You must meet the Australian Study Requirement in the six-month period before application lodgement.
You must ensure that you meet each requirement as prescribed in the migration regulations to qualify for visa grant. Note that specific criteria apply to each of the above, and we therefore recommend that you seek professional advice to make sure that you apply under the correct stream and that you address all requirements by providing specified documents. If you make a mistake or you do not comply with all relevant grant criteria, you risk having your application refused. To demonstrate the importance of having the right information, the skills assessment that you provide if applying under the Graduate Work Stream will be valid for a limited period only; being the earlier of the expiry date specified in the assessment letter, or three years from date of issue. Details like this are important to get right, to prevent problems arising (see comments below).
Why is it so important to get it right the first time? What can happen if you make a mistake on your application?
If your application for a graduate visa is refused, in certain instances, you will not be able to re-apply for this visa, or to apply for another type of visa whilst you remain onshore. You may need to depart Australia and apply for another visa offshore, before you are able to re-enter (subject to having a successful application).
If your Student Visa has expired by the time a decision is made on your graduate visa, and you hold a bridging visa at that time, you will not be able to re-apply for a graduate visa. The reason being that a section 48 bar will come into effect, which will prevent you from applying for most visa subclasses (including the graduate visa) onshore. In this case, you would need to depart Australia and apply for another visa (if you qualify) to re-enter. The opportunity to apply for the graduate visa is likely to be lost in this scenario as:
- It can only be applied for and granted whilst you are in Australia; and
- The application must be lodged within 6 months of holding a Student Visa.
Losing this valuable opportunity can have ramifications for your permanent residence visa prospects, and therefore every attempt should be made to submit a correct and complete graduate visa application in the first instance.
The above discussion provides an overview of the top 5 refusal for graduate visas being refused and explain how this can impact on your future ability to apply for this, or another type of visa, at a future time. Australia’s migration laws are complex, and each case is different. We recommend that you seek professional advice before you proceed with applying for a graduate visa, as being fully informed about the process and requirements that apply will give you the best chance of achieving a successful outcome on your application. You will also see that several terms mentioned in the above article are defined in the migration provisions. It is vital to have a good understanding of these terms and how they apply in practice. Detailed advice about these is beyond the scope of this article and we would therefore recommend that you seek further information in this regard.
For up to date advice on the graduate visa process and requirements, and how to avoid a refusal, book your confidential consultation with a migration agent in Adelaide. PAX Migration Australia is a leading immigration advice service based in Adelaide.