Lifting of the Covid travel restrictions has only added to the attraction to Australia.
Though Canada is still the number one dream destination for students from India, particularly from Punjab, to pursue their higher studies, Australia is not lagging far behind, thanks to new student-friendly norms related to fee and living expenses Down Under.
Lifting of the Covid travel restrictions has only added to the attraction to Australia. Although Australia has been keeping pace with the competition, it has not been able to capitalise on the boom because of detection of a number of fraud cases in travel documents in the recent past. The fraud cases have been getting in the way of students, causing refusals and inordinate delay in getting study visas, especially for students from Punjab and Haryana.
Various consultants dealing in “study in Australia” revealed that the trend to go to Australia is gathering speed because students now need to pay only six months’ fee in advance Down Under and there is no need to pay for living expenses upfront. Also, in Australia, all six bands are required in International English Language Testing System (IELTS) with at least 5.5 each in four modules, including reading, listening, speaking and writing.
It is learnt that some unscrupulous travel agents are attaching fake documents related to funds and educational qualifications which have put things under the microscope of Australian authorities. Officials Down Under are examining documents closely before giving their stamp of approval, thus causing delays in issuance of visas, especially cases related to Punjab and Haryana.
Chitresh Dhawan, owner of Dhawan Educational Consultancy in Amritsar, told The Indian Express, “Now, a lot of students are showing interest in studyingin Australia following the lifting of Covid curbs, but still the refusal rate is quite high, especially for the students from Punjab and Haryana.”
Citing the reasons for delays and refusals, he said that around 600 fraud cases, majority from Haryana and some from Punjab, were detected by the Australian Home Department recently in which fake documents related to students’ educational qualifications and funds were found attached with other documents. As a result, the file of every student from Punjab and Haryana is being subjected to intense scrutiny. In the process, several genuine students too had to pay a price for no fault of theirs. Students who were supposed to join their respective courses in February, will join only in July now, he added.
“We had taken up the issue of delays and refusals with the Australian High Commission during a meeting in Kolkata. Australian authorities say that due to detection of fraud cases from Punjab and Haryana, they have been erring on the side of caution, thus causing delays in issuing visas,” he said, adding that they will take up the matter again in the next meeting with them.
Also, delays in issuing study visas are causing both financial losses as well as mental agony to the students and parents, and we are trying to streamline things, Dhawan said.
Ludhiana-based Can-Able Immigration Consultants’ director Khilandeep Singh said, “Over a decade ago, there was a trend to go to Australia for higher studies. Scores of students were going annually from Punjab, but then the Canadian government gave attractive offers and Canada became the number one destination for the students here. Now again, the trend to go Australia is gathering speed and nearly 50,000 students from India are being targeted by the Australian government annually. Unlike other countries, where a one-year advance fee and one-year living expenses are required to be paid, in Australia students need to pay only 6 months’ fee upfront and for living expenses, they need to show the funds in their respective accounts instead of paying in advance.”
With this, students can go to Australia by shelling out just Rs 5 lakh to Rs 7 lakh instead of spending nearly Rs 20 lakh in other countries. In Australia, one needs 5.5 bands in each module of IELTS and overall 6 bands, the director of Ludhiana consultancy added.
In 2020, around 15,000 students from India got study visa for Australia.