Education is one of Australia’s biggest exports, generating billions of dollars for the Australian economy. The Department of Home Affairs views the education of international students as an export of knowledge and expertise rather than an import of students. This is why the ‘Genuine Temporary Entrant’ (GTE) criteria is so critical to the outcome of a student visa application. The GTE criteria does not mean that an international student coming to Australia to study can never settle here permanently. In fact, the Department’s policy explicitly recognises the fact that an international student’s intentions can change over the lifetime of their course.
So you need to intend to stay here temporarily while you study, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t stay in Australia permanently after completing your studies. It can seem like a bit of a contradiction, especially when the Department of Home Affairs recognises and rewards visa applicants who have previously studied in Australia (more on that below). But, if you walk around any university, TAFE or college in Australia it is obvious that the GTE requirement isn’t an obstacle if you genuinely want to study in Australia.
What exactly are the GTE criteria?
The GTE criteria are what Departmental officers use to assess whether you are indeed a ‘Genuine Temporary Entrant’. Essentially, it is a list of factors that the Departmental officers take into consideration when assessing your application for a student visa. The Australian government wants to avoid people applying for a student visa as a means of getting into Australia so that they can lodge a different type of visa or work here illegally.
The list of factors that the Departmental officers use is not an exhaustive list and they can consider ‘any other relevant matter’. What this means is that the Departmental officers are free to consider other factors that they feel are relevant to your application, including submissions that may accompany your application. The GTE criteria can be quite flexible and can allow you to explain your situation completely. How will the assessing officer know that it has always been your dream to become a Nurse, a Marine Biologist or a Viticulturist … unless you tell them?
Your explanation or submission needs to make sense and should be backed up with evidence. It can be very useful to get help with your GTE submission from someone who has experience dealing with GTE criteria. For example, it might be difficult to convince an assessing officer that you genuinely want to study a Certificate III in Bricklaying if you have a Masters Degree in Biotechnology.
The GTE criteria to be considered will usually include the following (see headers) and we have provided examples of situations that may ring alarm bells or that may help you to satisfy the GTE criteria:
- Your circumstances in your home country
- There is a civil war in your home country or you are required to complete mandatory military service
- There is no equivalent course in your home country and so you need to study in another country
- Your potential circumstances in Australia
- You have an Australian partner living in Australia and you intend to lodge a partner visa application onshore once you can meet the defacto requirements
- You have an uncle in Australia who will help you out while you adjust to the new culture and people
- The value of the course to your future
- You have completed a Bachelor degree in Biology in your home country and you are looking to study bricklaying in Australia
- You have completed a Bachelor degree in Biology and you want to study a Masters of Biotechnology at an Australian university
- Your immigration history
- You have been staying in Australia on multiple student visas and visitor visas
- You have been to Australia before on a holiday visa, complied with all the conditions and have not overstayed
- Any other relevant matter
- You do not have any personal, financial or cultural ties to your home country
- Your employer in your home country is willing to give you a promotion upon completion of your studies in Australia
It’s fairly easy to work out which scenarios may ring alarm bells.
So what does this mean for me?
If you are looking to study in Australia then you need to be aware of the GTE criteria and if you genuinely want to study in Australia then you should be able to satisfy the criteria. However, there is a difference between you knowing you are a genuine student and demonstrating to the Department of Home Affairs that you are a genuine student. You need to ask yourself why do you want to study in Australia?:
- What do you hope to achieve by studying this course?
- What are you career goals and will this qualification help take you there?
- What kind of job will this qualification lead to?
- Why have you chosen Australia?
It might be obvious to you that studying at one of the top 100 universities in the world and getting a globally recognised qualification is reason enough to want to study in Australia, but you should not assume that the Departmental officer who considers your student visa application will know that this is your motivation. He or she is unlikely to be a mind-reader!
When we prepare student visa applications for our clients, we place a heavy focus on the GTE criteria. We want to be satisfied that our clients are studying in Australia for all the right reasons in exactly the same way that the Department of Home Affairs case officers do. This helps us to prepare solid submissions for our clients.
Benefits of studying in Australia
As mentioned above, the visa rules recognise and reward visa applicants who have studied in Australia. The Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485) was specifically designed to allow international students who have successfully completed their studies in Australia (and met other visa requirements) to gain valuable post study work experience in Australia.
Applicants for General Skilled Migration visas (the points-tested skilled visas) can claim extra points if they have studied in Australia. Applicants who have studied in regional Australia or completed a postgraduate degree by research can claim even more points. Lots of international students transition from a student visa to a temporary graduate visa and then on to a skilled migration visa but it’s important to understand that studying in Australia does not guarantee a pathway to permanent residence.