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Indians to pay more for Oz visa

Thousands of overseas Indian students enrolled in Australian universities will now shell out extra dollars for a course.

india Updated: Sep 15, 2007 05:07 IST

Thousands of overseas Indian students enrolled in Australian universities, hoping to get permanent residence visa in Australia on the completion of their course, will now have to shell out thousands of dollars for another course or be compelled to go back home following changes to the General Skilled Migration (GSM) visa that came into effect on September 1.

"We feel betrayed as we structured our courses so as to be eligible for a permanent residence visa on the completion of our course. At the marketing events organised by universities, they clearly state that students would be eligible for permanent residency if they studied particular courses," said Yashwant Desai, who is enrolled in the Master of Science in Internetworking at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS).

Master of Science in Internetworking costs A$33,500 for an 18-month course including 12 units (subjects). The new visa regulations require two-year full time study. The option for Desai and thousands of other students is to either pack their bags and go back home or pay approximately A$15,000 more for another course.

"It is really unfair. It will be difficult to find a six-month course so we'll have to look for a one-year course, which will cost a lot more," says Dinesh Kakra from UTS.

Students, who started their courses in 2006 and 2007, will be evaluated under the new rules that came into force on Sep 1, not the rules that applied when they commenced.

"The new visa regulations should apply to students enrolling from September 1 and not students like me, who have almost completed their course of study," says Pulin Shah, who hails from Ahmedabad.

"With federal elections due later this year, we don't know when the visa rules may change again so instead of paying money in Australia, I would like to migrate to another country with the same opportunities and fair go policies," Shah adds.

Dispelling the perception that student visa was an easy way to migration, overseas Indian students say they are not looking for a permanent residence in Australia if they are allowed to work here on completion of their study and recover the money spent on exorbitant fees.

"As overseas students, we are not entitled to any of the benefits domestic students receive," says Desai, who hails from Mumbai.

A new visa category has been introduced for overseas students, who are unable to immediately qualify for GSM on completing their studies.

They will get a temporary 18-month visa with no work or study restrictions, but the main applicant must be under 45, have met the two-year study requirement in the last 6 months, have a suitable skills assessment in the nominated occupation and meet the English language threshold.

Jolan Patel, who is doing Master's in Information Technology which costs approximately AU$29,000, says, "This is my last semester, but for IT there aren't enough number of jobs available in Australia to match the thousands of students queuing for them."

In the year-to-date April 2007, as many as 40,010 Indian students have enrolled in Australian educational institutions, a growth of 55.1 percent from the previous year, according to the Australian Education International (AEI).

Desai says: "The courses offered by Australian Universities is value for money, but I would tell prospective students to weigh their options before deciding to come here for further study."

The growing influx of full fee paying Indian students is reaping rich dividends for Australia. Today, India is the second largest source of overseas students and a significant contributor to Australia's international education market, which is worth AU$9.8 billion to the national economy.