Education is one of Australia’s biggest exports, generating billions of dollars for the Australian economy. This is how the Department of Immigration and Border Protection sees it: as an export of knowledge and expertise rather than an import of students. That is why there is a special criteria for student visas, the dreaded ‘Genuine Temporary Entrant’ criteria. However, don’t be fooled by the name, it does not mean that anyone coming to Australia to study can never settle here permanently. In fact, the Department’s policy explicitly recognises the fact that a student’s intentions can change over the lifetime of their course.
So you have 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 Immigration 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 is the GTE criteria?
The GTE criteria is what the Department use to assess whether you are indeed a ‘Genuine Temporary Entrant’. Essentially, it is a list of factors that they use to consider whether you are coming to Australia to study. The Department does not want 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 illegally.
The list of factors that the Department use is not an exhaustive list and they can consider ‘any other relevant matter’. What this means is that the Department is free to consider anything else that they think is relevant and anything that you include in your application. In this way the GTE criteria can be very flexible and it can allow you to explain your situation completely. How else will the case officer know that it has always been your dream to become a Nurse or a Marine Biologist or a Viticulturist if you don’t tell them?
Of course your explanation needs to make narrative sense and be backed up with evidence, that is why it is a good idea to ask someone who has experience dealing with GTE criteria. For example, it would be difficult to convince the case officer that you genuinely want to study a Certificate III in Bricklaying if you have a Masters Degree in Biotechnology.
Here is how the Department breaks it down. I have included a positive and negative example for each point:
- Your circumstances in your home country
- There is a civil war in your home country or your are required to complete mandatory military service
- There is no equivalent course in your home country and 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
- 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 is willing to give you a promotion upon completion of your studies in Australia
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, but 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 that you are a genuine student. So, what you need to do is ask yourself why you have chosen 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 get me?
- 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 Department knows that this is your motivation. They are not mindreaders!
When we look at our prospective student visa applicants we look for parts of the GTE criteria that can strengthen our client’s application.
Benefits of studying in Australia
As I mentioned previously, the visa rules recognise and reward visa applicants who have studied in Australia. The Temporary Graduate visa is a visa specifically designed for people who have completed their studies on a Student Visa to be able to gain work experience using their Australian qualifications.
Another example is that applicants for General Skilled Migration visas (the points-tested permanent residence 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. It is a bit confusing to explain this all to students in the context of the GTE criteria, but it would be wrong for international students not to know that they have options after completing their studies.