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Recent reforms to international student visas will make it easier to study at NSW colleges and will boost the state’s economy, according to Premier Barry O’Farrell.

The federal government agreed during a meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to revise high-quality vocational education and training (VET) courses including TAFEs.

This will extend streamlined visa arrangements, meaning they are in line with universities.

Mr O’Farrell said by the next academic year, all overseas students will need less documentary evidence, which allows for faster and easier processing of visa applications.

The visa reform comes following a 2009 tightening of visa requirements, which led to a significant drop in international student enrolments.

According to state government figures, NSW VET providers experienced a 20 per cent fall in the academic year of 2010-2011 alone.

Mr O’Farrell said the new reform will help boost the NSW economy.

“We have the largest international education industry in Australia but in recent years it has been hit by the double whammy of visa changes and the high Australian dollar,” he said in a statement.

“[The reform] will put us back in the game as we compete with other education markets around the world.”

But even with a new, easier visa process for studying in NSW, the application for a permanent visa after graduation is still an issue for most international students.

A student at TAFE NSW, who wished to remain anonymous, rejects the reform: “It doesn’t make much sense; it’s easier to come to Australia for studies, but it’s still very difficult to stay when you’ve finished.

Why should international students come to this country when they know they will have problems getting a permanent visa after?”

A spokesperson from the Australian immigration department said the student visa program is not an implied pathway to a permanent visa or a guaranteed right permanent residency and should not be viewed that way.

“The reason international students come here is for study purposes. Certainly once they get qualifications they’re welcome to apply to enter Australia under the skill string of our migration program,” the spokesperson said.

A survey conducted by the International Development Program (IDP) in 2011 found that more than 60 per cent of international students hoped to obtain a permanent residency in Australia, but less than 20 per cent were successful.

The TAFE NSW student hopes the federal government will make changes to the current restricted permanent visa application.

“I came here for a good education so I could live and work in Australia. I don’t want to go back to my home country where living conditions are far worse.”

Nearly 500,000 international students study in Australia.

There are currently 230,000 international students enrolled in NSW.

By Susan Moozar