What are some common reasons for student visa rejection

A student visa enables eligible applicants to undertake a course of study and complete a qualification from a wide selection of education sectors and course providers in Australia. As a student visa holder, you can reside temporarily in Australia for up to 5 years (depending on the length of your course). You can also work on a limited basis, and travel to and from Australia as many times as you like over the visa term. Studying in Australia offers several potential benefits, making it an attractive place to study for international students from all around the world.

To be eligible for grant of a student visa, you must satisfy a set of requirements as prescribed under the migration provisions, and you must provide specified supporting documentation to the Department to demonstrate that you meet all applicable requirements. Equally as important, you must also submit all required documentation at time of lodgement of your application. Ensuring that you are fully informed regarding all relevant matters pertaining to your student visa application is crucial to improving your chances of a successful result. Otherwise, you risk lodging an incomplete and/or incorrect student visa application, which may lead to a rejection, or refusal as it is more commonly referred to, and the negative impacts that may arise as a result.

The Department may contact you after your application has been lodged, requesting you to provide further information and/or documents by a specified date. This would normally be the case if there is inconsistent and/or missing information or documents provided, and the Department seeks to clarify these matters with you before making its decision. You should ensure that you respond to all such requests in a timely manner, addressing all matters as specified by the Department. If you are unable to respond within the required timeframe, ensure that you contact the Department as early as possible after receipt of the request, to ask for additional time and provide reason/s for the delay. Also be aware that this follow-up will not always happen, and the Department may simply refuse to grant your student visa based on the information and documents before it (as the Department is not obligated to take further action). One of the best ways to avoid having your student visa application refused, therefore, is to ensure that you lodge a complete and correct application with all required supporting documents at time of lodgement. And if you are contacted by the Department, respond to all requests for information and/or documents within stated timeframes.

To have a visa refused is a scenario you want to avoid as it can result in quite serious consequences that may have more far-reaching impacts on your ability to be granted a further visa to Australia. A visa refusal will also result in inevitable delays in the process, added costs and potentially having to re-assess and update your prior planned visa pathway to Australia.

In this article, we explore some of the more common reasons why a student visa to Australia may be refused. Being aware of what to look out for and being prepared before any potential issues arise with your own application will help you to lodge a complete and correct application and thus maximise your chances of being granted a student visa.

Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirement

One of the most important aspects of a student visa application is the GTE requirement. To meet this requirement, you must demonstrate that you intend to reside in Australia temporarily and to comply with the conditions on your student visa. As part of your application, you will need to provide a personal statement and supporting documentation to demonstrate that you meet the GTE criteria.

If you fail to include a personal GTE statement, or you do not adequately address specific aspects of this requirement with appropriate supporting documentation, your student visa application will be refused.

In assessing whether you have satisfied the GTE requirement, the Department will consider the following factors:

The circumstances in your home country

The Department will examine the reasons for you not to undertake studies in your home country or region and whether your economic situation, personal ties, military service commitments, in your home country would support a temporary stay in Australia. It will also consider whether there is any civil or military unrest in your home country that would not support a temporary stay in Australia.

Questions to be considered under this aspect include whether there are similar courses available in your region, the income earned in your home country in comparison with the cost of living in Australia, unemployment levels in your home country, military service commitments that may have an adverse impact on your right or willingness to return to your home country, and your employment, community and family ties in your home country.

Your potential circumstances in Australia

Here the Department will examine the incentives that you may have to remain in Australia, and your knowledge of living in Australia.

Factors to be considered include your community or family links in Australia and if you have family members in Australia with adverse immigration histories. Your knowledge of living in Australia and your proposed study will also be considered. This may also involve consideration of the level of research that you have undertaken into your proposed course of study, as well as living arrangements.

The value of the course to your future

Under this aspect, the Department will examine whether the course that you are seeking to study is relevant and appropriate to your current employment and education background. It will also look at your future employment or career prospects.

Here the Department will look at whether your proposed study is relevant to past education or employment, whether the course will improve your employment prospects in your home country and the remuneration you can expect to receive in your home country as a result of acquiring the qualification in Australia.

Your immigration history

The Department will look at whether there is anything in your immigration history that would not support that claim that you intend to temporarily reside in Australia. Such factors may include previous visa refusal/s, if you have undertaken a series of short, inexpensive courses designed to prolong your stay in Australia, your compliance with previous visa conditions, if you have maintained ongoing residence in Australia on a range of short term temporary visas, or if you have a history of visa refusal or non-compliance with immigration requirements in Australia or in another country.

Other relevant matters

Under this aspect, the Department can essentially consider any matter/information which comes before it (which may be favourable or unfavourable to you as the applicant) in determining whether you meet the GTE requirement.

Be aware that the Department will assess all the above factors and weigh all the circumstances of your case in making a determination as to whether you are a genuine temporary entrant.

Failing to adequately address the above (as they apply to your personal situation) in your GTE statement and/or not providing supporting documentation in support of your claims that you meet this requirement may result in your student visa being refused. To prevent this outcome, we highly recommend that you refer to Ministerial Direction 69 (which contains the full text of what the Department will examine in this regard) in drafting your statement. This is very useful information as it allows you to pre-empt any potential issues arising with your application by being aware of what the Department looks for in assessing the GTE requirement. Being informed about these issues will allow you to explain them in your statement, thus tackling them head-on rather than risking a refusal, or the extra delays which will occur if the Department has concerns about your application and contacts you to follow-up these matters (which, as mentioned earlier in this article, it is not obligated to do and can proceed to automatically refuse your application).

Financial capacity requirements

Another important requirement which forms part of the grant criteria for a student visa is the financial capacity criteria. This aims to ensure that you have access to sufficient funds for the duration of your stay in Australia as well as travel costs to depart at the conclusion of your studies.

To meet this requirement, you must demonstrate that you have genuine access to sufficient funds to cover your living costs for the first 12 months of your stay in Australia, your first annual course fee and your travel costs. If family members are included in your application, higher minimum thresholds apply.

The current minimum financial thresholds for living costs are outlined below:

  • Student (primary visa applicant): $20,290
  • Partner/Spouse: $7,100
  • Child: $3,040

If you are applying from outside Australia, the minimum amount required to cover your travel expenses is $2,000. If the application is lodged onshore, you will need to demonstrate that you have genuine access to at least $1,000 for travel. Additional amounts apply to certain countries.

You must also demonstrate that you have genuine access to funds to cover school fees for the first 12 months of your stay in Australia if you have visa dependants who will be attending school. The minimum amount required is $8,000 for each child.

The available funds may belong to a third party (such as your parent or de facto partner). This includes an annual income option, whereby you may provide evidence that your parents or your de facto partner have a personal annual income of at least $60,000 in the 12 months immediately before you apply. If you bring family members with you to Australia as visa dependents, this minimum threshold is raised to $70,000.

You must declare in your student visa application that you have sufficient funds available for the duration of your entire stay in Australia. You must also submit evidence to demonstrate that you comply with the above. If you do not have access to the minimum amounts required, or you fail to adequately demonstrate that you meet this requirement by providing supporting documentation, your application will be refused.

English language requirement

You must also meet an English language requirement to qualify for grant of a student visa. This may require you to complete a specified English language test and achieve a prescribed minimum test score (unless you are exempt). The following English language tests are accepted for this purpose:

There are exemptions available, including to citizens/passport holders from the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland. If you have completed at least five years’ study in one of these countries, or in Australia or South Africa, you will also be exempt from completing an English language test (other exemptions are also prescribed).

Failing to meet the English language requirement and/or not submitting evidence to demonstrate that you meet this criterion will result in a refusal of your student visa application.

Course enrolment

You must provide evidence of your enrolment in a full-time registered course by submitting a Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) with your student visa application (there are other forms of evidence that may be provided in certain circumstances, such as for secondary exchange and Foreign Affairs and Defence students).

To successfully enrol in a course, you must meet the entry requirements as set by education provider. This may include one or a combination of employment experience, English language test results and/or completing a pre-requisite qualification.

You must provide evidence of your enrolment with your student visa application. Otherwise, your application may be refused.

Health insurance

You must arrange for adequate health insurance to cover you and all your visa dependents for the duration of your stay in Australia. Overseas Student Health Insurance (OSHC) is accepted for this purpose, unless an exemption applies. You can arrange your health insurance policy either directly with a health insurer, or have it arranged on your behalf by your education provide. Ensure that you provide evidence of adequate health insurance with your application to avoid delays in the processing of your student visa application or potentially having your application being refused.

Health and Character

You must meet Public Interest Criteria (PIC) for your student visa application to be approved for grant. These include health and character requirements (which apply to you as the primary applicant and to any accompanying family members).

As part of these requirements, health examinations for you and all your visa dependants may be required. Police clearances must also be supplied for all applicants aged 16 years and over.

PIC 4020 is an important requirement that you and your dependent visa applicants will also need to satisfy for grant of a student visa. This is an integrity measure which aims to prevent the submission of a bogus document or false or misleading information as part of your visa application. It also requires you and your dependent family members to satisfy the Department of your identities.

Failing to meet PIC 4020 can have very serious consequences for all affected applicants, which may not only result in your student visa application being refused, but also have more far-reaching impacts that affect your ability to be granted a further visa to Australia (exclusion periods of 3 or 10 years may apply as a result of not meeting PIC 4020).

Australia’s migrations laws are complex, and each case is different. There are also several terms which are defined in the migration provisions (and whose meanings may differ from their ordinary usage). We recommend that you seek professional advice if you are seeking to apply for a student visa, or you are affected by a student visa cancellation or refusal, as being fully informed will give you the best chance of achieving a successful resolution to your case. A migration professional can help you to do this.

We also recommend that you refer to our article ‘Student visa cancellation Australia’ for further information about student visa cancellations, including the factors that can lead to a student visa being refused, and any potential options you might have to resolve the matter.

For up to date advice on the student visa application process and eligibility requirements, how best to prevent a student visa being refused and how to address a refusal if it does occur, book your confidential consultation with a migration agent in Adelaide. PAX Migration Australia is a leading immigration advice service based in Adelaide.