Thursday, April 19, 2012

Studying abroad: Top destinations change student visa rules

Studying abroad has become both easier and tougher, depending on the country you are looking at. Some of the world’s top study destinations for Indian students, like the UK, USA and Australia, have announced a slew of changes to their student visa regime. But these have not adversely impacted the number of students determined to get foreign degrees.

Keen on attracting serious students and the best talent, as opposed to those who come to the country looking for easy paying jobs, the UK government wants students to show evidence of a greater amount of funds to support themselves during the tenure of the course applied for. Under the Tier-IV application (general category), students will have to show that they have funds for the full course in the first academic year. To study in inner London, they must show funds of £800-£1,000 a month for a minimum period of nine months. For outer London, the limit has been raised from £600 to £800 a month. In addition, students will have to show a limit of £1,000 to be paid as deposit for accommodation and maintenance.

This is not all. From April, the ‘Post Study Work’ option will not be available to new applicants. This scheme allowed students to work in the UK for two years after they finished their studies. The British High Commission has informed that the UK government has replaced this scheme with a new programme, wherein only “talented” international students graduating from a UK university will get the opportunity to stay on and work. For this, they will have to obtain a skilled job offer from a accredited employer, with a salary of at least £20,000 per annum.

“No doubt, the hike in visa fees by UK is very high, but if you are an international student, then you factor all this in,” says Natasha Chopra of The Chopras, a New Delhi-based foreign education consultancy. “The rationale behind these changes is to stop the abuse of student visas. Students are not deterred by these changes because those who have the marks and the means will surely look abroad for higher studies,” she said. Chopra says every year the number of students who enroll to her institute for various programmes to study abroad grows 20 per cent. Students, she adds, consider various factors, such as the quality of education and infrastructure, before they select a particular destination.

“It is vital that we continue to attract the brightest and the best international students, but we have to be more selective about who can come here and for how long they can stay,” says UK immigration minister Damian Green. “In the past, too many students have come to the UK to work rather than study. This abuse must end.”

Starting April 13, the US government has also raised the visa fee for students from $140 to $160 under both the ‘Academic’ and ‘Vocational’ categories. “While there are year-on-year changes, upwards or downwards, depending on several local factors, the long-term trend of Indian students going to the US for higher education has been growing,” says Diya Dutt, deputy director, United States-India Educational Foundation. “In 2000, there were about 54,000 students from India in the US. In 2011, there were nearly 104,897. On the whole, I notice that students still do want to go on to US for higher studies,” Dutt adds. The number is only expected to increase in the coming years.

Australia, meanwhile, has eased its visa regime. From January this year, the visa fee has been decreased by five per cent. Now, the visa fee for student under the ‘Skilled (Recognised Graduate)’ and “Skilled Graduate” categories is $315, while for all other students it is $535.

Starting March 24, the Australian government has made several other changes to improve the quality, integrity and competitiveness of its international education sector and student visa programme. Australia, which had around 73,000 Indian students in 2011, also plans to introduce the Post Study Work visa from 2013, says an Australian high commission spokesperson. “Australian higher education institutions are increasingly engaging with India through joint research, joint degrees, twinning arrangements and credit recognition. Australian institutions are interested in developments concerning India’s Foreign Education Providers Bill,” the spokesperson says.

Another sought-after destination for Indian students is Canada for which the visa fee has remained the same. A study permit for Canada costs Rs. 6,125, or C$ 125. Canada has, in fact, emerged as one of the leading destinations for higher education among Indian students. Students here are allowed to apply for an off-campus work permit after six months of full-time study at a participating educational facility. Over 12,000 study permits were issued to Indian students in 2011, which is more than thrice the number in 2008.

“Around 200,000 international students choose Canada every year. More and more Indian students are seeing Canada as a destination for a world-class, globally-recognised education, at an affordable cost, in an open, tolerant, safe and multicultural environment,” says Simon Cridland, head, advocacy, High Commission of Canada.

Source: Business Standard, April 19, 2012

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