Australia ranks as one of the best places to live in the world by all indices of income, human development, healthcare and civil rights. The sixth-largest country in the world by land mass, its comparatively small population is concentrated in the highly-urbanized east of the Australian continent.
The political entity that is modern Australia began to come into being with the arrival of British settlers in 1788. Many of the first settlers were convicts, but freemen started to arrive in increasing numbers after the discovery of gold in the mid-19th century.
Aboriginal Australians, who had inhabited the continent for tens of thousands of years prior to British colonization, numbered a few hundred thousand. Two centuries of discrimination and expropriation cut their population drastically, and now they make up less than 3% of Australia’s approximately 23 million people.
Much of Australia’s population is concentrated along the coast in urban areas such as Sydney, its largest city
Australia’s politicians at first looked to Europe and the US in foreign policy, but in the past 20 years or so they have made East Asia the priority, in particular Indonesia and China.
The government formally apologized in 2008 for the past wrongs committed against the indigenous Australians, who still suffer from high rates of unemployment, imprisonment and drug abuse.
The gradual dismantling of the “White Australia” immigration policy in the decades after World War II heralded an increase in the number of non-European arrivals, and migration remains a politically-sensitive issue.
Originally composed of six separate colonies of the British Empire, Australia’s path to independent statehood began with the formation of a federal state in 1901 and was largely complete by World War II.
The last few remaining constitutional links with the United Kingdom were severed in 1986, although Australia remains part of the Commonwealth, and The Queen is the head of state, represented by a governor-general.
The future of the monarchy is a recurring issue in politics. In a 1999 referendum nearly 55% of Australians voted against becoming a republic.
The six states of the federation retain extensive powers, particularly over education, police, the judiciary and transport.
Australia’s growing orientation towards its Asian neighbors is reflected in its economic policy. It is a key member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum, and aims to forge free trade deals with China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
It has also played a bigger regional role, mediating between warring groups in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, as well as deploying thousands of peacekeepers in newly-independent East Timor.
The island continent combines a wide variety of landscapes. These include deserts in the interior, hills and mountains, tropical rain forests, and densely-populated coastal strips with long beaches and coral reefs off the shoreline.
Through its isolation from other continents, Australia has developed an abundance of unique plant and animal life, most famously marsupials such as the kangaroo.
Huge areas of Australia’s hinterland are arid and sparsely populated
Australian student visa requirements:
- Financial requirements: Evidence of sufficient funds to cover tuition, travel and living costs. The Assessment Level of the student determines the level of funds required, who can provide these funds and how long the funds must be held. If you have dependents (such as a spouse and children), you will also need to show evidence of being able to cover living costs for them, regardless of whether they intend to travel to Australia or not
- English proficiency requirement: While all students are required to demonstrate they have the appropriate English language proficiency for their course, AL 1 and 2 applicants need only meet the requirements specified by their higher education provider, while AL 3 and 4 applicants must also provide DIAC with evidence of their English language proficiency. The DIAC website lists eligible tests, with possibilities being the IELTS, TOFEL iBT, Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic and Cambridge Advanced English (CAE) test. The score you will need will depend on whether you are starting a full degree, doing a foundation course, or enrolling on a preliminary English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS).
- Health requirements: Some students may be advised to take a medical and/or a radiological check-up to show they are in good health (this applies, for example, to those who intend to train as a doctor, dentist or nurse). If told to do so, you must attend an appointment with a doctor who has been approved by the Australian immigration department. Except those from Belgium or Norway, all students are obliged to purchase Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). You may purchase this cover through your university, or directly from one of the five approved providers: Australian Health Management, BUPA Australia, Medibank Private, Allianz Global Assistance and nib OSHC. The average cost of OSHC is AUS$437 (US$383) for 12 months for a single student. Students from Sweden who have purchased health insurance through CSN International or Kammarkollegiet will not need to purchase OSHC.
- Character requirements: All students will also be assessed against the character requirements stipulated by DIAC. This includes a criminal record check, to make sure you don’t have a substantial criminal record. You may also need to acquire a penal clearance certificate (or police certificate) or get a police statement, and may be asked to complete a Character Statutory Declaration Form.
The DIAC website has a document checklist feature that will provide you with a list of documents required for your specific type of student visa. You simply need to select the type of visa you are requesting, and either indicate that you are eligible to apply for streamlined visa processing or select your appropriate Assessment Level. Then select ‘View Checklist’ to open a PDF document with all the necessary documents you need to provide. Typically, students must submit the following:
- Completed Australia student visa application form (157A)
- Paid visa application fee
- Copy of passport biodata page (some students may be asked to physically provide their passport)
- Certificate of Enrolment or Letter of Offer
- Evidence of sufficient funds
- Evidence of health insurance cover
- English proficiency test results
- Criminal record check results
Visa processing times will vary depending on your Assessment Level and the type of visa you are applying for. Allow up to four weeks, with online applications usually being considerably quicker. Your student visa will last for the duration of your studies, including holiday periods, and will also allow you some time to remain in Australia at the end of your course, in order to prepare for departure. Under some circumstances, it may be possible to apply for a further visa at the end of your course (consult the DIAC website for more details).