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6000 student visas restored after legal glitch
Old 10th March 2010, 02:53 PM   #1
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Default 6000 student visas restored after legal glitch

AS many as 6000 foreign students had their visas cancelled invalidly because two words were lacking in the maze of laws and regulations that control their lives.

Yesterday the Immigration Department said it was taking steps to identify all students affected by a March 2 court ruling on this technicality.

The Federal Court agreed with two ex-students that there was a small but crucial element missing from the legal machinery for automatic cancellation of the visas of underperforming foreign students. Drafters of a regulation had left out the words "and s20(1)".

The litigation concerned the Education Services for Overseas Students Act, for which former MP Bruce Baird yesterday proposed reforms including a "more flexible approach" to visa cancellation under the Migration Act.

The court ruling by Justice Robert Buchanan meant that "about 6000" automatic visa cancellations between July 2007 and December last year were invalid, the department said.

Sydney immigration lawyer Michael Jones, who ran one of the two successful Federal Court challenges, said he had alerted government lawyers to the legal oversight as early as September 2008 but it was not rectified until December last year. "They basically went into denial about it," he said. He said students still in the country should seek legal advice because they had a good chance of overturning the cancellation.

"The whole student visa cancellation system is a shambles," said David Bitel, of law firm Parish Patience, who ran the other challenge.

"They've come up with a system that is almost Kafkaesque."

Foreign students who fall behind academically or fail to turn up for class are given 28 days to present themselves with photo ID to the Immigration Department.

If they do not do this, the legal machinery is supposed to cancel their student visas automatically.

The Immigration Department said that last year alone education providers sent out 7583 warning notices of the kind that could lead to automatic cancellation.

"The department is considering the implications of [the Federal Court] judgment for affected student visa holders remaining in Australia," a spokesman said.

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