Guest article by Elly Beolchi
How to Become an International Student in Australia
The first step to become an international student in Australia is to be granted a student visa.
The education industry is a leading sector in the Australian economy and has many stakeholders who interact on a daily basis with international students to organise, process and finalise the different stages of a student’s visa application.
The major actors in this process are Education Agents, the Marketing/Admissions Department in Australian accredited schools, and Migration Agents. Due to the close relationships among these actors, it can at times be confusing for students to understand the boundaries of each of these actors’ responsibilities and duties. It is therefore vital for students to understand the nature of the relationships among these three service providers and to know what each of them actually does. This knowledge will help students avoid incurring mistakes that may jeopardise the success of a visa application.
Following is a brief outline of the roles of each of these three main actors:
Education agents are often the first contact for international students inside or outside of Australia. The main job of these agents is to understand and meet their clients’ education needs through the wide network of reliable Australian schools that they partner with. Education Agents must have an official training and be approved by the Australian government to be able to work lawfully in this field. Once the study path of the prospective student is clear, Education Agents contact the selected appropriate school and provide them with all the relevant information to enrol the foreign student.
Understandably, students tend to rely on Education Agents for any sort of decision concerning their course of studies, if not also about many other aspects of their life in Australia. Students should remember that as much as the relationship between Education Agents and students is very close by nature, the student should always keep in mind that this is also a business relationship, with economic interests involved.
Accredited Schools in Australia
We are now at the stage where a school comes onboard. To be able to enrol international students, Australian schools must be registered by the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS). This is a long and meticulous registration process, but it is necessary to guarantee to all students who choose to study in this country that Australian schools deliver up-to-standard and compliant courses.
It is extremely important that the selected school receives all the current and valid student information from the Education Agent so it can issue a Confirmation of Enrolment (COE), which a student needs to apply for a student visa.
Students should always have a copy of their COE, a copy of the Offer Letter they have signed, and last but not least, a copy of their Australian visa.
All the papers issued by a school are recorded on a platform that is accessible by the Australian Department of Immigration, which approves and grants the actual student visa. Being a very transparent system, the school’s work must be accurate and true because the Australian Government regularly audits schools’ compliance with the many relevant laws and regulations.
Students should keep in mind that Education Agents are most often not Migration Agents.
The vast majority of Education Agents are not registered by MARA, the Migration Agents Registration Authority. More commonly, Education Agents partner with an independent registered migration agency. But in some unfortunate cases, unprofessional Education Agents can persuade students to believe that they are accredited Migration Agents, leading them to gamble on the chances of their visa being granted.
All students should carefully check the registration and reviews of any vendors they are considering using.
The role of the Migration Agent (or lawyer) is to fill in the appropriate Department of Immigration forms and to submit these while keeping the student and Education Agent informed about the progress of the application. It is the responsibility of the Education Agent and the student to give the Migration Agent, in a timely way, all the exact information that they need to make a truthful submission.
Important Recommendations For Students
The Immigration Department has recently been monitoring Education Agencies more tightly. In the near future, there is a chance that Education Agents may be more accountable for the advice and service that they give, especially if they have put their clients’ visas at risk because of their own negligence.
The best and simplest piece of advice for international students is to always understand what you are agreeing to, signing, and paying for. It is wise to keep a paper or digital record of all discussions, receipts, and documents, and to be on guard for any information that is unclear or inaccurate. There are many good schools, Education Agents and Migration Agents in Australia but students have to research them thoughtfully to find the best ones.
Once all the important paperwork is done, students can then enjoy the reason they are coming to this great country. To learn!
Elly Beolchi is Director of Studies at SMEAG English, an English Language school in the heart of Melbourne that specialises in training and developing the English skills of international students. For more information, visit www.smeag.com.au. SMEAG is an Industry Alliance of Migration Ways.