Dechen Dolkar 

Visa granted within 12 hours! Claims a visa grant notice shared on Facebook. 

The consultancy verified the claim saying that duration depended on the quality of application. However, many who are Australia bound agree that visas are granted faster compared to the past. This is attributed to the change in the process of international student visa application. 

The chairman of the Association of Bhutanese Education Consultancies, Palden Tshering, said the visa processing time of about 90 working days in the past has now come down to six to eight weeks.

“The processing time will be quicker and it has already started to become quicker. Few students even got their visa within two to three days after the process was streamlined,” the chairman said.

Palden Tshering said that the higher rejection of visas in the past was mainly because the consultancies didn’t filter the candidates. Recently, officials from the Australian High Commission from New Delhi conducted a seminar – ‘Bhutanese Student Visa Program’ with all the education consultancy and placement firms (ECPF) and training consultancy and placement firms (TCPF) registered with the education and labour ministry.

To clear the backlog the High Commission has recruited more people. The chairman said that Australian High Commission officials asked the ECPF to be the frontline for them, filtering the candidates.

He said that students applying should have a good profile, meaning good documentation evidence and a good score on the English test. He said that the High Commission made sure that consultancies have a responsibility to students that are applying for the visa are quality students because it helps with the visa grants and also helps with speeding up the process. 

“Documents submitted should be genuine. The High Commission asked the consultancies to check the visa application twice and submit documents once,” said Palden Tshering. “The ‘cut and paste’ Statement of Purpose (SOP) leads to visa rejections. 

Meanwhile, it was reaffirmed that applicants can apply for student visas on their own and not necessarily through an agent. 

Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said the visit of officials from the Australian High Commission was an opportunity for better coordination and understanding between both governments and the ECPF dealing with Australian universities. They said changes were made related to recent student visa policy announcements, updates on student arrivals, visa grants, visa processing times, and changes with student visa processes. 

Officials also said that consultancies were also made aware that there were no arbitrary objections from the Australian government on any categories of visas (such as diploma applicants) or a fixed cooling period after which applicants should reapply for visas once rejected. Instead, as long as quality applications are submitted, there are minimal chances of visa refusals.

Meanwhile, the Australian officials visited the Mongar and Gelephu hospitals with the purpose of empaneling more physicians and hospitals.

This will address two issues – to provide greater access to any application required to fulfill an Australian medical check for visa purposes and to ease the burden on the JDWNRH.

Bilateral discussions between the two governments have acknowledged the difficulties applicants face in traveling long distances to Thimphu for medical checks and the backlog presently being experienced in Thimphu.