Australia to return 8000 revoked visas to foreign students

16 September 2005

Flawed paperwork has forced the Australian Immigration Department to give back 8000 visas to foreign students who had lost the right to study because of poor grades or low class attendance. The department must search diplomatic posts overseas to offer the students their visas back.

The move comes after Immigration lost a court case in the Federal Magistrates Court in June, in which Mohammad Ahsan Uddin had his student visa to study cookery cancelled for attending only 47 percent of his classes in term four last year.

According to Immigration's acting deputy secretary, Abul Rizvi, schools or colleges must tell the department if foreign students are not attending at least 80 per cent of courses or are failing too many subjects. In such cases the colleges ultimately issue a notice - copied to the department - ordering the student to report to the department within 28 days.

Mr Rizvi said the decision in Mr Uddin's case had found the form was invalid because it was more restrictive than the laws allowed about where and to whom he had to report.

The form has been used in about 8000 cases since 2001, so all those visas have been restored.

Mr Rizvi said most of the students would have returned home, but hundreds were probably still in Australia. He said the move was cheaper than clogging "up the courts with 8000 appeals".

The visas - which can last up to five years - would continue as if they had never stopped. Students could return to study if their institutions would have them. If not, or if their visas had expired, they would be offered bridging visas while they applied for a regular visa.

"What we're saying to anyone in the world … if you think you've been affected, come in and see us. And that might be if you're in Hong Kong - come in and see us … if the person said: 'Well look I'm not enrolled right now but if Sydney Uni wants me back and they've offered me a confirmation of enrolment', well that's fine," he said.

Immigration will provide information at diplomatic posts about the thousands of restored visas and will try to contact former students believed to be still in Australia.