Mumbai: Australia-bound Ph.D. candidates have finally heaved a sigh of relief as the student visa logjam has begun clearing up after a year-long wait. Many students received their visas on March 7, 2023, a day prior to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s arrival in India where he disclosed the plans of setting up Deakin University, India's first foreign varsity, in Gujarat’s GIFT City.
With additional personnel visa-processing workforce, the immigration department has reportedly cleared a record 217,000 overseas applications for student visas in the latter half of 2022. "500 new visa officers are working on expediting the visa process for Indians who wish to travel to Australia," said Monica Kennedy, Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, Austrade, while talking to The FPJ.
Nearly 30-40 research scholars, the main demographic facing visa delays, are headed for their universities in April 2023, informed a Ranchi-based fellowship scholar who is a member of an Australia-bound students group.
“We all felt helpless all through the past year as we waited for our visas to arrive. The waiting led to a lot of anxiety,” said a Ph.D. scholar who chose to remain anonymous to avoid risking his prospects at all after finally receiving his student visa after a sixteen-month wait.
While many blame the pandemic for the low clearance of visas, those who have applied after July 2022 have been victims of Australia’s ‘Critical technology visa screening’ process. This has been especially true for ‘Postgraduate Research course’ applicants who were scrutinized under this new rule.
The rule was launched to prevent the unwarranted exchange of digital and non-digital critical technologies in ‘Down Under.’ In an extension of it, the Australian Department of Home Affairs also introduced Visa condition 8208 under which students cannot change their research topic after going to Australia unless they get authorisation from an Australian Minister.
“I have secured admission to the University of Sydney and plan to get my advanced degree in Chemistry. The new 8202 condition is still applicable in my case but it doesn't affect me much as I am moving to Australia with a fixed aim. I am just grateful that I got my visa,” said a Mumbai-based student who waited seven months to get his student visa approved.
As of December 2022, over 65 percent of visa applications have been on-hand for less than a month reported the Australian Department of Home Affairs. Responding to the queries made by The FPJ, a spokesperson from the department said, “The Department of Home Affairs granted a record 165,700 offshore Student visas between June 2022 and 2 December 2022. This is 58 percent more than levels for the same period in 2019, before the pandemic. The number of offshore Student visa applications on-hand has more than halved since the end of July.”
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