The pursuit of international education must be enriching, not fraught with peril.
The internet is buzzing with changes in the study visa laws brought forward by Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the UK. France has also joined the league today.
Although the changes vary from nation to nation, all of these nations have tightened the study visa regulations. The laws circling the study visa have become stringent, which has become a cause of worry for students, parents, and study visa consultants.
However, these laws were necessary in the wake of cost of living crises all around Europe. These laws address the rising study visa fraud, the rising cost of living in these nations, and the issue of study visa misuse. In this article, we will look at the proposed changes, their need, and why students should not worry about these changes.
Canadian Study Visa Changes:
Effective from 1st January 2024, the Canadian Government has increased the proof of funds for all the study visa applicants applying for overseas education in Canada. The minimum financial requirement has been increased from 10,000 CAD to 20,635 CAD. The new threshold challenges the decades-old requirement of 10,000 CAD which ignored inflation and the rising cost of living over the years.
The old threshold made the students vulnerable to exploitation, as they would only find out after entering Canada that the expenses they have in their bank account are not sufficient to lead a comfortable life in Canada.
Hence, the new variable threshold has been set by the low-income cut-off- an individual statistic that highlights the real cost of living comfortably in Canada.
In addition to this, the government of Canada also introduced an additional verification step during the study visa approval step. A new portal has been designed for DLIs (dedicated learning institutes), which will include universities and colleges offering overseas education to students.
On this portal, the DLIs will validate the letter of acceptance offered by international students during their visa application. The DLIs have to validate the letter within 10 days, after which the application of the candidate will be rejected and the application fees will be refunded to the candidate.
This is a major change that addresses the bottleneck in the Canadian visa approval process. Earlier there was no official check on the authenticity of the offer letters, which contributed to fraud against 700 international students last year. Although the case has been filed against the mastermind behind the scam- Brijesh Mishra, this has also alarmed authorities to make amends in existing processes.
As per the official data of the government of Canada, out of 103 study visa applications analyzed in October 2023, 40 were found to be fraudulent, highlighting the heights of the study visa scam in Canada.
The changes address and eliminate the chances of fraud and exploitation against international students in Canada. Additionally, the Canadian government will also monitor the attendance of international students. This will eliminate the cases of mix-up against the visas, i.e. students on study visas should be studying and not working full time- whereas the international workforce should enter Canada on a work visa only, not on a study visa.
Changes in the Immigration Laws for International Students in France:
The French parliament has also introduced stringent rules and regulations to curb illegal immigration in the nation. Under the revised law, international students entering France have to deposit a security fund. The exact amount of the fund is unclear, but will be used in case of ‘unexpected situations’. In short, this will serve as an emergency fund for the student, which will be returned once the study visa is expired/ renewed or the student has applied for permanent residency.
The rule does not apply to meritorious students with weak economic backgrounds in case the university justifies their admission. For all other international students, the rules remain the same- deposit a security fund at the time of admission to France.
Australia Tightens the Security for International Students:
The Australian government has introduced new policies to protect international students, while also maintaining the standard of education at the international avenues. Australia has increased the minimum band for language proficiency tests in English. For temporary graduate visa holders, the minimum language proficiency score is increased from 6.0 to 6.5 (for IELTS or equivalent). For student visa holders, the minimum requirement is increased from 5.5 band to 6.0.
On top of this, the proof of funds has also been increased by 17% to 24,505 AUD. The amount was unchanged since 2019 and did not reflect inflation and the rising prices of commodities.
In the past, even the UK has banned the intake of dependents with student visa holders to limit foreign immigration in the UK.
The Dire Need for Stringent Study Visa Policies:
In the past year, the frauds against international students have skyrocketed. A 2023 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated the global illicit migration market, which includes student visa fraud, to be worth a staggering $614 billion.
In Canada, nearly 700 Indian students faced deportation in 2023 after their supposed acceptance letters for non-existent programs were exposed. Closer to home, in India, authorities nabbed a racket in 2022 that produced fake medical degrees, potentially endangering public health.
In these scams, students have lost money and even faced deportation, shattering their academic dreams altogether. Combatting this complex problem requires a multi-prolonged approach.
But the quick response of the international government is commendable. In Canada, new regulations introduced in 2024, aim to tighten the student visa process and crack down on the bogus institutions. India has also stepped up efforts, with authorities collaborating with educational institutions to verify credentials and crack down on fraudulent operations. Apart from devising policies, the government must ensure swift implementation of these policies as well.
On the surface, it appears that studying at international avenues is becoming tougher and costlier; it is actually becoming safer. Amid the surge in fraud and exploitation against vulnerable international students, the introduction of stringent and tougher policies is necessary. In doing so, the swiftness of international governments is also commendable.