How important is your Credit Score?

Credit Score was one of those terms that I learnt about but never paid attention to until recently. I never understood why grown-ups kept harping on maintaining the credit score, until I was looking to borrow money. Here’s what I think, we tend to ignore the concept of credit when we are students. Once we surpass that stage of our life, loans, some may say, are inevitable. So it is not a bad thing to think about how you can look at improving or maintaining your Credit Score even whilst studying.

What is a Credit Score?

Before we go any further, I think it is important understand and clear any misunderstandings about Credit Score.

In simple, Credit Score is a numerical figure that represents your reliability in terms of borrower. It looks at your financial history and summarises it into one figure that screams if your credit worthy.

You can use site like getcreditscore.com.au to get your Credit Score free of charge. They connect directly to Equifax, Australia’s leading credit bureau, to identify you. You are required to provide personal details along with your Australian driver’s license. If you do not have a driver’s licence, you can get a free credit report from Equifax.

Importance of Credit Score

Credit Score isn’t a one time deal, it follows you through your entire life. Definitely don’t take it for granted. I am sure this applies to many countries, in Australia, Credit Score is everything.

Once you leave behind the student life and start your professional career, you will realize your Credit Score will appear in various aspects of your life. Credit Score will enhance your borrowing capacity with banks and financial institutes for luxury purchases. Your Credit Score will also add value to your renting history to rent a property of choice. Now a days, vendors including insurance companies, energy retailers, seek your credit history prior to contracting services.

It goes without saying that, a bad credit score can be disasterous. Not having neutral credit score may not be that great too.

How to build Credit Score while in Uni?

For starters, repaying any student loans whilst in University is a smart decision. Student loans, in most cases, are not required to be paid off until you graduate and earn above a certain threshold. However, you can get ahead of the game and start making smaller and consistent contributions towards your student loan.

Make sure you pay your rent on time! Whether you are residing in on or off campus accomodation, ensure you request for a transaction log from your landlords / real estate agents. Whilst you can not directly report rent payments to credit bureaus, your landlord / real estate agent may be registered with special credit services that accepts rent reports which will in turn be added to your credit record. This is a great way to use paying bills to your advantage, but at the same time finding landlords / agents who are registered for such services is not easy.

Get yourself a credit card. Credit cards have bad conotations, especially amongst students. If you are not adult enough to responsibily manage a credit card, how can you expect lenders to have trust in you? If you are serious about building the credit score, walk to a bank and sign up for a credit card. It is a very simple process, even for International Students. Simply make sure you pay for the relevant transactions at the end of the month without delays.

I would love to hear your thoughts on Credit Score. Is this something you thought about while being a student? How did you build your Credit Score while in University?

Things you may not know about Partner VISA Application

Every year many couples with foreign partners apply for the popular Partner Visa.Whilst the process seems simple at first sight, the lengthy process, paperwork and cost can place a lot of pressure on individuals if they are unsure what to expect. Minor errors or inadequacy of documents could lead to possible rejection without refund or significant delays in granting the Visa. To avoid any avoidable mistakes, you need to be well-informed about the process.

Here are some little known facts and we are also touching significant changes to the Partner Visa in the near future. 

It is expensive

The Australian Partner Visa is one of the most expensive Visas, with a rough estimate of AUD 7,000 application fee. In addition, we also need to factor in the costs for medical examination, police checks and Migration agent, which ranges between AUD 3,000 to 5,000. The application fee had increased significantly from last three to four years.

Types of Partner Visa

There are the two ways to obtain the Partner Visa: de facto or married. The former, de facto, is eligible if you and your partner lived to together for over 12 months. There is no intent for marriage required for this stream of Partner Visa. If you are married, you need not have lived together at the point of applying for the Visa. In both instances, you require evidence of genuine and on-going relationship. 

Importance of evidence

Many believe proving a relationship is easy now a days thanks to social media and shutterbugs. As there are many false applications, Department of Home Affairs scrutinise every detail. If there are any question marks, there is a tendency for the application to be rejected. It is important to share financial evidence, co-habitation evidence and social evidence. This includes, joint bills, assets co-owned, joint bank accounts with consistent activity.

Speaking of consistency, you need address any inconsistency in your relationship. For example, your case officer will cross-check your statements against social media. If you have been consistently posting your relationship on social media and stopped, explain the reason for the hiatus. 

It is difficult to prove a relationship where you haven’t lived together, especially long-distance relationship. In these instances, you will require statements from friends and family who are Citizens or Permanent Residents of Australia reflecting their knowledge of and vouching for the relationship. The key is to make the statements detailed and consistent to your cover letter and other evidence like social media posts. In addition, photographs (don’t submit albums!), social media posts and joint travel stamps will serve as evidence. 

When your application is being processed the Visa officer consider the below four aspects of the relationship.

  • Nature of household
  • Financial aspect of the relationship
  • Social aspect of the relationship
  • Nature of commitment to each other

You can access the below document to understand what each refers to. Having substantial evidence for each of these will help strengthen your application to prove genuinity of the relationship.

Attaching evidence

Any documents attached as a part of your application must be clear, complete and less than 5 MB in size. If it doesn’t meet the requirements, processing of the application maybe delayed.

Full disclosure

Apply what you learnt at school, honesty is the best policy. It is important even minor offences and inconsistencies in your relationship are disclosed. If it comes to light any information is false or incomplete, it could lead to rejection or worse you may be barred from applying for the visa for a several years. Especially ensure the Information represented on Form 80 – Character Assessment is accurate. 

All relationships undergo difficulties, some applicants state these on their statements. Be sure not to paint a picture that you are about to break-up.

Take health checks seriously

All applicants, referring to spouse and children, are required to take a health check. The Australian authorities take this very seriously as they are concerned for the well-being of the Australian community and also possible burdens on the Australian healthcare system. Even if the children are not planning to move to Australia, it is required for them to undergo a health check as they may return to Australia in the next few years. 

Longer processing time

Currently, there is a wait time of 12 to 18 month wait time for Partner Visa. The main reason for this is because the Department of Immigration limit the number of applications processed within an year, but there is double the number of applicants pending results. You need to be mindful that some documents such as Medical assessment and police checks may expire within this processing time. You will be required to provide these documents once again. Further, on shore applications take longer than off shore and prospective marriage visa.

Prospective changes to legislation

In December 2018, a new Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill was passed through Parliament. As per the amendment, the sponsor (partner who is an Australian Permanent Resident or Citizen) must lodge a sponsorship application and have it approved prior to applying for the partner visa. The processing time for the sponsorship application could take up to 12 months. It is still unclear as to when this will commence.

If you have any question in relation to your Partner Visa process, write to us at admin@intstudi.com

Integrating with Australian Community as International Students

Research shows that most International Students interact with co-nationals. Whilst their best friend is also a co-national, they limit interacting with domestic students. This is understandable given that there is a certain level of comfort and commonalities communicating with people from your country.  It was found that International Student’s social life play an important role in their academic excellence. International Students are more satisfied with their University life if they have domestic student friends.

Before we go into How to improve interaction, we need to question Why; why most International Students fail at integrating with other domestic students?

COMMON MISTAKES

Stereotyping

As humans we are quick to reach conclusions about other people. Most are driven by the stereotypes received through media and friends. Stereotyping redirects us from value-adding interactions to close-minded conversations. It is like rejecting a delicious cake before trying it because someone else said it doesn’t taste good.

A general perception is that Asian students engage only with other Asian students. According to a research, this is not far from wrong. The Asian students interviewed had said they are friends with few or no domestic students as they feel domestic students are not interested in hanging out with them.

Fear of being misunderstood

Each culture has it own rights and wrong, ways and means and do’s and don’ts. International Students feel it is easier to engage with other students of the same beliefs rather than be misunderstood by another. While many Asian students claim they are interested in hanging out with domestic students, they fear the domestic students feel otherwise. They believe they have nothing in common and possible language barriers. Speaking of language…

Difficulty in communication

This may be a real concern for International Students whose English skills are not top notch. In ability to express themselves to domestic students withdraw their interactions. We see the same applying in a lecture hall setting where the class participation is greater amongst the domestic students as oppose to International Students. Some students are insure about their foreign accents that restrict them to converse with domestic students and limit their interactions to only co-national students.

A recent case study revealed, one of the test subjects (an International Students) said, “If you try to engage with them, you will have to understand the slang, the sense of joke. Sometimes, everybody laughs, I don’t really understand what is funny.” However, it was suggested that academic interactions were easy compared to social interactions.

Sticking to comfort zone

In my opinion, all this leads back to being in the comfort zone. There is always something familiar about being around same nationality as it is the closest thing to home. Most International Students are less involved class activities and spend more time studying in library. They prefer to be alienated as oppose to exposing themselves to active participation at lectures.

WHY INTEGRATE?

Then the question is why is it important integrate with the Australian community. It is said that associating with domestic students lead to psychological, social and academic benefits.

There are many phases of settling overseas as an International Student. One of the earlier stages is culture shock. Research has shown that integration with domestic students makes one happier. The reason being local mates help International Students to cope with culture shock by sharing local knowledge and helping them adapt to local experiences. Hence, being well-adjusted.

Furthermore, International Students can improve their communication and interpersonal skills through these interactions. The same can be extended to classroom participation and build confidence for future work placements and job interviews.

Even from University point of view, International Students are likely to  recommend their University if they have had good experience with domestic students.

HOW TO INTEGRATE?

As the Universities recognise the importance of multi-cultural interactions, there are many efforts done in this regard which International Students must take advantage.

Leave stereotypes at home

This is easy, just don’t have any preconceptions about any nationality. A study on preconceptions claimed  it is not uncommon for International Students to perceive domestic students as uninformed and disinterested in their culture. Even so, you should not fear and limit your interaction just because you believe other International and domestic students may have stereotypes about your nationality. As far as my experience, I have not had any unfavourable interactions with domestic students. They are welcoming and offers assistance whenever you require.

Participate in University clubs

University clubs are a good way to connect with domestic students with similar interests, and break down any barriers and a great conversation starter. Participation in club activities will improve your interpersonal and communication skills, help you to be updated with world issues and it will also look good in your CV.

Learn about the Australian culture

It doesn’t hurt to learn about the Australian culture, history and other interesting facts. You will then have information to start a conversation with domestic students or be able engage in a conversation with fellow students. Researching is not that difficult as there is plenty of information online and on YouTube.

Improve communication

This not only related to integration but also to improve your overall academic and professional years in Australia. If you believe in the need to improve your communication significantly, you can join English language courses. Speak to your University administration. Otherwise, there is no better way to improve your communication other than by practising. Take conscious effort to participate in classroom activities, engage in conversations in English and read academic literature. Remember, accents don’t matter – be yourself. Ensure your communication is clear, concise and slow paced for better understanding. If you don’t understand what is said by your counterpart, there is no harm / shame asking them to repeat.

Make the first move

You can always make the first move to start a conversation, invite a mate for dinner or grab a drink after class. Sometimes you need to put the extra effort to start a friendship.

Leave a comment down below if there are other ways for International Students to integrate with Australian community.

Until next time…

All You Need to Know About Temporary Graduate 485 Visa as an International Student

If you just graduated – firstly, congratulations – secondly, if you are unsure what to do next, you may want to consider applying for the Temporary Graduate 485 Visa. For all International Students, I urge you to take advantage of the opportunity offered by the Australian government for you to gain skilled Australian work experience. Even for those who are still deliberating whether to study in Australia or what course to select, this article will facilitate your long-term plan of permanently migrating to Australia.

I am going to break down everything you need to know about Temporary Graduate 485 Visa and how to apply for it.

What is subclass 485 visa?

In colloquial terms this is also known as “Work Visa” or “Temporary Resident (TR) Visa” – all of this most likely are being referred to the subclass 485 visa. This visa is offered to International Students who have completed a minimum of two years of studies in Australia. The visa allows you to stay in the country for two to four years with unfettered work rights. During this time you may study full-time as well (I will tell you why this may be a necessity. Keep reading).

Why is it offered?

This was introduced in 2008, and in my opinion highly useful for International Students to obtain skilled Australian work experience. I also consider it to be a transition period for you to a) decide if you wish to be in Australia b) work on the next step like Permanent Residency.

Gaining points for PR

You are able to gain five extra points if you have one to three years of experience in the field that you are applying under the Skilled Occupation (SO) list. It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway. Use this visa as an opportunity to get the five extra points you require to get you over the line for the points required for Permanent Residency.

Further, if there are units required to be eligible under the SO list, you can enrol for those units in particular during the course of the visa.

Eligibility requirements

Being eligible for this visa is quite simple if you know the exact criteria.

  1. Hold a valid visa and is the primary applicant.
    • Either you are currently holding a student visa after completing at least two years of studies in Australia.
    • Or you must be in a Bridging visa A or Bridging visa B after completing at least two years of studies in Australia within the last six months of lodging 485 visa.
  2. Under 50 years of age.
  3. Meet the minimum English language requirement, which is 6 in IELTS or equivalent. You can use the same one that you used for the student visa, provided it is not expired.
  4. Does not hold any criminal record and does not have any outstanding debt to the Australian government.

How to apply for 485 visa?

If you meet the above criteria it is very unlikely you will be rejected as you have the eligibility to obtain the 485. However, there are chances it may be rejected due to errors by the applicant through incorrect processing or failure to provide required or proper documentation. I have listed everything that you need to do to in order to ensure there are no delays or rejections.

Two types of 485 visa

I think this is the first mistake: selecting the wrong type of 485 visa. If you select the wrong category, it may either be rejected or granted for a shorter period.

  1. 485 Graduate Work – if you have studied for a course below Bachelor’s degree and has the occupation under skill list, you may apply through Graduate Work category. This will be granted for 18 months.
  2. 485 Post Study Work – is the most commonly used category, and you can apply if have completed a Bachelor’s or higher and meet the two-year study requirement. You will be granted a visa for two years or four years if you have completed a Post Graduate research.

When to apply?

At the time you apply you must have completed your studies in Australia for at least two years. You need not wait until graduation but once your final results are released, you can request for a letter of completion and final transcript from the University admin. A small fee will be charged by the University for processing these documents.

When you complete your studies, the University is legally required to inform Department of Home Affairs that you have completed your studies. So if you depart Australia for a holiday right after completion of studies without applying for 485 visa, there is a possibility your current student visa will be cancelled and you will not be allowed to enter the country on return. The reason being, it may be assumed you are leaving upon completion of studies. Therefore, it is recommended that you apply for the 485 visa prior to any overseas travel after completing your course.

Documents required

Click below to access the list of documents you require and you should start gathering whatever you are able to well in advance to avoid delays.

Document checklist for Temporary Graduate 485 Visa

According to the Department of Home Affairs website, “provide certified copies of original documents. Do not include original documents unless specifically asked for them. Police certificates should be original documents. Documents not in English must be accompanied by accredited English translations.”

Can you do it yourself?

Most definitely! It is an extremely easy process and you can save some good money by doing it yourself. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. There is plenty of guidance online and still if nothing makes sense, simply contact Department of Home Affairs on 131 881. Be sure to contact them first thing in the morning to avoid being in the call queue for an hour.

All you need to make sure is that:

  • your documents are in order as per the checklist,
  • the documents are true copies,
  • the documents certified and quality scans,
  • you have selected the correct category as shown above.

How much does it cost?

Usually you will hear only about the application fee. But there are other fees you  have to pay in order to obtain the required documents. These costs are likely to change, so always refer to the respective websites linked below.

Application fee

The general application fee for an individual applicant is from $1,535.00. This cost will change depending on other factors such as dependence (spouse or children) and whether you lodge the application online or offline. Get an accurate estimate from Department of Home Affairs.

Police check

For overseas police checks, you will have to check from the relevant department in the foreign country. The national police check from the Australian Federal Police  will cost $42.00.

Health assessment

An Australian immigration health check-up is required to lodge the 485 visa. This must be carried out by an authorised Bupa heath centre. This visa requires a medical examination and a chest x-ray costing $232.60 and $280.00, respectively.

Medical insurance

It is hard to give an estimate as your medical insurances will vary depending on your requirements. You will require private insurance under Visitor Cover and the insurer is able to advise what is best suited as per your requirement. One of the cheapest and popular providers would be Bupa of approximately $1,200.00 a year and could be paid on a month to month basis.

If you have any questions relating to your 485 visa application, write to us on admin@intstudi.com. One of our Happy Helpers will be in touch.

Until next time…

How to find cheap accommodation for International Students?

What’s worse than job hunting? Obviously, apartment hunting!!! Whether you like or not, finding the right accommodation is imperative to the life of an International Student. Accommodation is the highest contributor of living cost for studying abroad. Many International Students end up compromising quality of living over cost of living. This is a valid reason at times, but if there is an alternate way to balance the two factors of quality and cost, it is definitely worth your consideration. I have made my fair share of mistakes when it came to accommodation. Without regretting over it, I like to think of it as I made the mistake, so you don’t have to.

Hear me out.

First time arrivals, here’s what you need to know…

When you are coming to Australia for the time, you always want to make comfortable choice but this might not necessarily be the right choice. For starters, here’s what you need to know and may have to consider.

1. Rent is paid weekly

I am not sure if this is the case for other countries, but in my native country, rent is paid on a monthly basis. In Australia, rent is paid in advance on a weekly basis. The average rent could vary from $160.00 per week to all the way up to $750.00 per week. The rent you pay really depends other external factors that I will address through out the article. Some rent includes all bills, meaning you don’t have to worry about electricity, internet and water, everything is included in the weekly rent. You have to get this clarified before signing the contract.

studio apartment for students

2. Security payment

Your landlord will request a security payment, we call a bond, at the start of your tenancy. This is usually equal to the value of four week’s agreed rent. Be sure to bring the bond payment when you come for the first time. While you are able to recover this at the end of tenancy, we have heard appalling stories where the students are scammed to a point that they have to forego their bond simply because the landlord refused to pay it back for unjustified reasons. I would recommend that you try to make an electronic fund transfer as oppose to cash payment, so you have a trail of evidence. In addition, be sure to accept a receipt confirming the bond payment with a note that it is refundable.

If you are being scammed or treated unfairly, contact Fair Trading division of your state for advise. Matters such as this are taken very serious under the Australian trading law. They will either act as a mediator to resolve the matter or direct you to organisations such as tenants unions and consumer advocates for further assistance.

3. Pack lightly

While we are working on a dedicated article on what you should and should not bring on your first visit. Just remember,  you can basically find anything and everything here in Australia.  As it is a culturally diverse country,  you will find local stores importing products from your home country. Being light on your travel will make your relocation from place to place convenient, less stressful and inexpensive.

4. Short-term contracts

It is so important not commit to long-term contracts at the beginning, especially before entering the country. Ideal situation would be a month-to-month contract or three months. This way, once you come to Australia, you will get a better chance to understand how you like the area, living situation, access to transport and other options. Even later, you should opt for short-term contracts, not allowing you to be tied to one that you may or may not like for too long. If you are bounded by a yearly contract, remember you will have to pay the rent even though you may not occupy it over the vacation periods. Waste a of $$$!

One might think, “Will I not find a good place to stay after the short contract?”. Remember, now you have all available search options like friends, websites, and many more, so there is nothing to worry.

student accommodation

5. Types of accommodation

There are many options for accommodation. The most expensive would be having your own studio apartment, but definitely has its advantages. Another option, also the popular option amongst International Students, is shared accommodation. Higher the number of occupants, cheaper it is for you. You can either share apartment / house with an independant bedroom (with / without ensuite bathroom) or share the bedroom if the room is of considerable size. I am sure it is self-understandable which type is more expensive than the other.

Formal during my time at campus accommodation

Factors to consider before settling

6. Proximity to University

Accommodation around any University is expensive than what you will find in the outer suburbs.  At the same time, if you look beyond dollar value, the convenience may out weigh the cost. Living closer to the University means you are able to maximise your University life and benefits on campus such as the library, study spaces, labs, etc. You also cut down on wasteful travel time back and forth and schedule group assignment meetings conveniently. In certain states such as New South Wales and Victoria, International Students do not receive concession on travel, hence adding to living costs. If none of these are of concern to you, as much as you are worried about the cost, definitely look at outer suburbs with easy access to public transport route to University.

7. Environment

One time during my house hunting days, I went to inspect a prospective shared accommodation space and I was horrified at the state it was maintained. Within few seconds of entering the house, I knew I wasn’t going to take it. Student life can be messy and untidy, but you need to make sure that it doesn’t affect your well-being.

We are very much affected by the environment and its energy. Pick an environment that suits you. I always wanted to ensure the space I chose is filled with natural light as that’s what makes me productive, dark and gloominess dampens my mood.

8. On-campus or off-campus

While on-campus accommodation is considered to be expensive, you are able to find different colleges in the lower range of $250 to $550 per week. The most expensive accommodation are single spaces with catering facilities, where residents are offered meals and they do not have to hassle with food preparation. While that is premier, you can opt for shared spaces in the lower range. Reliability and term of contract are the main differences between on and off campus. On-campus accommodation are generally for a minimum of one year. Off-campus accommodation are relatively inexpensive, but you will have to take time off your day to actually visit these locations. You can ask your mates if there are spare rooms where they reside.

While some off-campus accommodation lacks basic facilities, there plenty around Universities that are pretty good for the cost. Just make sure basic facilities are provided.

on campus accommodation at UNSW

9. How to apply for student accommodation?

There many ways to do this. Firstly, if you are coming to Australia for the first time, the best option would be checking online. There are so many sites such as University website for on-campus options and off-campus on GumTree, Flat Mates, Student, Uni Lodge, etc,

Once you are in the country, a common way to do it is through networking with fellow students. There are also plenty of websites and social media groups dedicated for student accommodation, primarily for International Students.

10. Final thoughts

The premier on-campus accommodations are a great option for comfort, convenience and reliability if you are under a sponsorship or is able to afford the rent. However, if you are light on your budget, first look at on-campus lower range options, then off-campus within close proximity to University and lastly accommodation in outer suburbs.

What are your thoughts on accommodation for International Students? Do you have any experiences good or bad that you could share?

Until next time…