Monday, January 20, 2020

The End-to-end Process for Prospective International Students


For non-Australians to come to Australia to study in any of its education providers, one must be enrolled as a student in an education provider (EP) and should hold a valid student visa (SV). In brief, therefore, there are two fundamental requirements for international students: a current enrollment and a valid visa. Below is your quick three-step process guide.

Photo by Anastasiya Gepp from Pexels

Step 1 - Enroll in a School

Enrollment is proven by a certificate of enrollment (COE). An EP issues the COE if one has paid the minimum fee payable. You can pay the minimum fee payable if you have been admitted to a course of study in the EP.

To be admitted to a course of study, you must apply for admission to the EP and when the EP deems your application to be of merit, it makes an offer of placement usually through an offer letter which contains details of the course of study, particularly the fees to be paid and the period of study (otherwise you will receive a notice of rejection in which case your application will not progress anymore).

If an offer is made, you either decline the offer or accept it. To decline an offer, you can simply ignore it or you can send a formal rejection of the offer. The latter, in my opinion, is the better option. On the other hand, to accept an offer, you do not just formally inform the EP of your acceptance—you also pay the minimum amount payable and take out an overseas health cover (OSHC).

The OSHC is basically a medical insurance which international students are required to have and it should cover the period of study indicated in the letter of offer. The OSHC is proven by a certificate of cover, which together with your proof of payment, you send to the EP as part of your acceptance of the offer.

The EP will then issue the COE.

If you need help in the application, offer and enrollment process, or if you need advise in choosing the right course for you, click here to get in touch with your independent international education counselor.

Step 2 - Apply for a Visa

Once you already have the COE, you apply for a student visa. This is best done online by creating an account at https://online.immi.gov.au/lusc/login and thereafter apply for a student visa (subclass 500). All information about the SV can be found at the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) website.

Click here for information on eligibility, i.e. get to know what will qualify you for a student visa or what the requirements are for a student visa.

Click here for the documents checklist, a handy tool provided by the DHA to help you identify what documents you need to have in preparation for your application for SV.

And if you need a step-by-step guide to the student visa application process, click here for the DHA Step-by-Step Guide. If you have engaged the services of an agent, usually your agent will apply for the visa on your behalf, so you do not need to worry about the process. You need, however, to understand what documents you need to prepare.

All too much for you to absorb? Click here to get help from your independent international education counselor fill out forms and attach your documents.

Step 3 - Act on Visa Outcome

The DHA recommends that you apply for your student visa at least six (6) weeks before classes start (see Step 1 in the Step-by-step Guide). According to the Global Visa Processing Times section of the DHA website, 75% of applications from the VET (vocational education and training) sector are processed in 46 days, or 90% in 67 days. Higher education is a bit better with 75% of applications processed in 32 days, or 90% in 53 days. If you are in the unlucky 10%, it may take more than two months to process your visa. So do not fret, wait for the decision.

The visa outcome is either a grant or a refusal. If your visa is refused, do not think of appealing. On one hand, the decision will indicate that the decision cannot be appealed and on the other, the appeals process will be more expensive. Nothing prevents you from re-applying again in case your visa is refused.

If your visa gets approved, pack your bags and say goodbye to family and friends.

Do you need help with any of these? Still confused or are you not confident that you should do-it-yourself? Help is available from your independent international education counselor, just click here.

3:51 AMManny Diaz

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Quick Guide to the SOP and GTE Requirement

Those planning to come to Australia to study will inevitably come across SOP and GTE. SOP stands for Statement of Purpose, which technically is an essay submitted to an education provider much like a job application letter trying to establish a business case on the merits of the application. The SOP in the context of the Australian education market, however, is a bit off the mark. According to the University of Canberra, the "purpose of the SOP is to demonstrate that the student meets the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s (DIBP) Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirements." Incidentally, the DIBP is now known as the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). [Click here to download the University of Canberra's How to Write a Statement of Purpose guide]. Some education providers may ask for your SOP as part of the admission process, some will not. Whichever the case may be, you will need to write your SOP/GTE at some point.



According to the DHA, all applicants for a student visa must show they are coming to Australia temporarily to gain a quality education. The GTE requirement (which you now know to mean the Genuine Temporary Entrant requirement) is used to make sure the student visa program is accessed as intended. It helps identify applicants who are using the student visa program for motives other than gaining a quality education. Remember, the student visa program is not a way for international students to maintain ongoing residency in Australia. The DHA, however, clarifies that the GTE requirement is also not intended to exclude students who, after studying in Australia, develop skills Australia needs and who then go on to apply for permanent residence.

Pointers in Writing the SOP/GTE

Before writing your SOP/GTE, read the Ministerial Direction 69 (52KB PDF) first. It is not a checklist, but it sets out a number of factors the DHA takes into account when determining if you meet the GTE requirement.

The DHA looks at your SOP/GTE statement in four broad areas. These are:

1. Situation in your home country - the DHA considers your reason for not studying in your home country or region if a similar course is available there, your ties to your home country that support an intention to return after study is finished, your economic situation, your military service commitments, if at all, and the political and civil unrest in your home country.

2. Potential situation in Australia - the DHA considers your ties to Australia that present a strong incentive to stay in Australia, your level of knowledge of the proposed course and education provider, your previous study and qualifications, your planned living arrangements and your financial stability.

3. Value of the course to your future - the DHA considers if the course is consistent with your current level of education, if the course is relevant to past or proposed future employment in your home country or a third country and the expected salary and other benefits in your home country or a third country obtained with your qualifications from the proposed course of study.

4. Your immigration history - the DHA considers your previous visa applications for Australia or other countries and if you have had previous visa refusals or cancellations.

[Click here for the Genuine Temporary Entrant requirement discussion at the Department of Home Affairs website].

Suggested Outline of your SOP/GTE

Following guidance from multiple sources (see the Links to Guides below), it would be prudent to consider the following outline for your SOP/GTE:

About Yourself

Briefly introduce yourself and family (or relationships). You can establish intention to come back home with family relations, e.g. you have a spouse and children who are staying behind.

Discuss previous studies. If you have not been to school for a long time or if you have a history of not completing studies, better explain why this time around you can be expected to complete your studies. Show how your previous studies relate to your proposed Australian study.

Discuss current and previous work. Show how your work history relates to your study plans. If you have gaps in employment or if you are currently unemployed, you need to have a satisfactory explanation. A clear career path and a reasonable expectation of further career advancement, such as an employer who is willing to take you back upon your return, will help establish intention to return.

Discuss other circumstances that will serve as motivation to return after completing your studies, such as business ownership or interests, real and personal property (house, parcel of land, car), reasonable expectation for inheritance, and the like.

If you have traveled abroad before, provide the details. Having been to other countries and returning home every time will establish a pattern that you are one who always returns home. 

About Your Planned Study

Briefly discuss what the course program you want to pursue and why you are pursuing that course program. Relate it to your previous studies and work history, and if it is a complete change in career direction, satisfactorily explain how it is a logical course of action.

Discuss why you chose to study in Australia and why you chose to study in the school you have enrolled at. It is important to show that you have done due diligence in understanding what you are proposing to study and this due diligence extends beyond an understanding of the course program, of the school, and life in the city and state where the school is situated-- you need to explain why you need to go to Australia for that course when it may be available elsewhere, such as locally in your own country and at much lower cost.

If you have made arrangements already for your stay, it is good to mention it here. It will show that you are well prepared. Meanwhile, a round trip ticket is good indicator of intention to return home. This assumes of course that those visits abroad did not include instances of breach of visa conditions and the like.

The Value of Your Planned Study

It is very important to show the value of your proposed study to you-- it is like a cost-benefit analysis: why spend so much to study in Australia? What value will an Australian qualification bring you and how does it justify the costs of obtaining that qualification?

If you claim career advancement, you need to provide evidence, such as letter of support from current employer. If you claim reasonable expectation of future employment, you need to cite official data showing career outlook and salary trends for instance.

Your SOP/GTE does not have to be very long, but keep in mind that if it is too long, you probably are just verbose and repeating yourself which makes your SOP/GTE a very uninteresting read. Despite claims of being objective and fair, case officers who read your SOP/GTE are also humans. Be considerate, they too can get a headache trying to understand cryptic and cyclic essays.

Evidence to Include

It is important that, where available, you should provide evidence of statements you make in your SOP/GTE. Below are some evidence you may want to include:

Evidence of Relationships such as birth certificate and marriage certificate. For de factor relationships, you may want to include a sworn statement or affidavit from family members of both sides corroborated by residence certificates or statements from local officials and disinterested parties.

Evidence of Previous Study which includes certificates or the diploma (in Australia this is called a testamur because a diploma is a qualification, not a document), transcript of records and the like.

Evidence of Previous or Current Work which could be certificates of employment and other statements from previous and current employer. If your study is supported by your current employer, it would also be good to include a statement of support.

Evidence of Property Ownership such as car registration, real estate tax declaration, business registration and tax returns, deed of donation, probate of will and the like or any document that proves ownership or future ownership.

Evidence of Financial Circumstances such as bank statements and other financial instruments, tax return or pay slip, affidavit of support and the like. At the moment there is no need for show money for applicants from the Philippines, but showing you have the means to support yourself in your studies as well as financial incentives to return home will work to your advantage.

Evidence of Other Arrangements such as lease contract or agreement with the person who owns the place where you will stay while in Australia and return airplane tickets will help.

URL of official data you have based your statements on, such as job market outlook, salary expectations, alternatives to your proposed studies, and the like.

Summary 

With the SOP/GTE, you are trying to establish that you are really a student coming to Australia to study because studying in Australia will benefit you in the long run, considering that it is very expensive to study in Australia. Upon completion of your study, it should also be clear that you will return home. Talk is cheap, so you must back up your statements with evidence or proof. 

Links to Guides

Department of Home Affairs
University of Canberra

8:15 PMManny Diaz