I’d like to first start off by saying that I’m not an education or a migration agent/expert (nor have I ever been an immigration officer), so the advice given below are based off my own experiences and should not be considered/used as advice equivalent to that of an agent. These advice are based on my personal experiences regarding visa applications in general. If you still have doubts on how exactly to write your GTE statement after reading this article (maybe because your case is much more complex than mine), I’d recommend you contacting an education or migration agent to assist you.
So what exactly is a GTE anyway, and why is it necessary? Whether you are thinking of or already in the process of applying for a student visa in Australia, you would’ve heard or read about the genuine temporary entrant (or GTE) requirement. It is part and parcel of the (Australian) Department of Home Affairs’ vetting process for people applying for a student visa, and it basically refers to a statement or letter explaining to the immigration officer looking over your application that your intentions for applying for a student visa is legitimate and real. Sure, you’ve got proof that you’ve already enrolled in a degree or program in Australia, that you can afford to pay for the education, that you’re healthy enough to undertake the studies (if you’ve already done the health examination prior to submitting your student visa application), and all other documents you deem would be helpful to get a visa approval, but those documents don’t really provide much information about you or your intentions for studying in Australia.
In my opinion, this GTE requirement was not meant to scare people off from applying to study in Australia (unless you’re planning to go there for nefarious purposes), but it’s a way for you to express your background in more detail. Think of it as a cover letter that you submit when applying for a job; it’s a document wherein you can express to the HR manager why you’re interested in a position within their company and why you’re the best candidate for that position. The GTE requirement functions in a similar way, in that it’s your opportunity to convince the immigration officer why they should grant you a student visa. A straightforward but detailed-enough statement letter would be helpful in meeting the GTE requirement, which you can upload later on in your student visa application.
I’d like to point out early on that in the Australian student visa application, the GTE statement will be requested in a text box and as a file upload of the statement letter. The text box portion is the confusing part, because it’s limited to only 2000 characters, not words (it feels like writing in Twitter, where you have to be vigilant of how many characters you’ve used up to say what you want). And this is where the statement letter comes in—this text box portion becomes easier when you’ve already written out your statement letter; you can simply summarize what you’ve written in your GTE statement and—voilà!—piece of cake.
GTE Statement Letter
Writing a GTE statement letter is a difficult task; I feel you because I’ve been there before. I’m fairly confident of my writing skills in the English language (considering I’m a native speaker/writer in the language), but even I was at a loss on how to get started with this. I have asked an acquaintance (a high school batchmate already studying in Australia) about what he wrote for his statement letter, and his tips became the starting point of my research into how to write this all-too-important statement.
There are plenty of guidelines you can find online about how to write a statement letter, but some links I’d recommend are the following (they more or less have the same content but with different explanations):
The GTE is very personal (again, think about how you’d write a cover letter for a job application), so the contents will be on a case-to-case basis. Essentially you really have to make a case to convince the Department of Home Affairs to grant you a student visa. This letter is where you can weave a narrative (a.k.a. storytelling) about yourself—your educational/professional background and what led you to want to study in Australia. It’s an opportunity for you to share your values, goals, and passion for the course you are taking up.
Ministerial Direction 69 isn’t a checklist wherein you have to address all of them in your GTE, it’s just a guideline for what topics you can cover or think about when writing. I recommend you focus on the following, because the immigration history will already be asked in one part of the application form:
Circumstances in Home Country (or Country of Residence) – What’s your motivation to study in Australia?
Potential Circumstances in Australia – How well do you know your intended course and school?
Value of the Course to the Applicant’s Future – What are the benefits for you (and your home country) if you study in Australia?
For my GTE statement (the signed letter I wrote and uploaded later on, not the one placed in the text box in the application form), I only had 4 paragraphs: The first one introduces what I am (enrolled postgraduate student in [program name] at [university name]), what are my qualifications (I completed my undergraduate degree in [course name] at [university name] in [country name]), what experiences do I have (preferably related to your previous degree/program), and what inspired me to undertake further studies.
The second paragraph (which was meant to address Circumstances in Home Country and Potential Circumstances in Australia) explained why I chose to study in Australia. In my case, there is no formal degree in Lighting Design in the Philippines, and the programs in other countries focused more on Fine Arts rather than Architecture. So here, you have to show what kind of efforts you’ve made to actually research your study/school options. You have to share why you’ve chosen that specific course (it’s a well-defined and technical program) and why you want to attend a specific school (reputable and high-ranking university, both overall and in my field of study).
The third paragraph covered Value of the Course to the Applicant’s Future and Circumstances in Home Country. Here, I wrote about my career goals (to be a lighting designer/architect specializing in sustainable design), and how the Australian degree will contribute to my career goal (the skills and knowledge would equip me to find work in the professional or academic industry). Yes, I know that last part seems like a cliché, but to balance that out, I added specific details like how there is a lack of lighting design professionals in the country (which is entirely true), and how I hope to add to that number. Really, try to be as specific as possible and relate your course with your future goals.
The fourth paragraph was just a declaration that I only plan to stay in Australia temporarily (my intention to stay in Australia is temporary, as I plan to return to my home country to [your future plans]). I find it’s easier to write in this section about job prospects (i.e. teach at university) or familial obligations (i.e. commissioned by relatives to design their family home, or taking care of elderly parents) back home. You can end the GTE statement by telling what you will do in your home country after your studies. Don’t lie or write unrealistic things–be truthful as possible so you won’t get into any potential trouble (remember, the GTE statement is part of your visa application!).
So, there! I hope my approach/explanation was helpful for you to understand the writing process for the GTE. I know I’ve covered the above factors in different parts of my GTE, but it really depends on you on how you want your narrative to flow. Frankly, the GTE statement gives you the freedom to share a slice of your life to the immigration officer, so they would understand where you’re coming from (your background) and how the Australian degree will lead you to where you want to go (your career goals/plan).