Changing courses

If you are thinking about changing your course, you need to ensure that you continue to meet the conditions of your student visa.

Changing course advice for streamlined visa holders

If you want to change to a new course and you were granted a visa under the streamlined visa processing arrangements you must maintain enrolment in a streamlined visa processing eligible course (or package of courses) with an education provider participating in the arrangements.

To check if your new course is eligible for streamlined visa processing, or to learn more about these visas, see streamlined student visa processing.

Important: If your new course is not with an education provider participating in the streamlined visa processing arrangements, read the information below about changing education providers.

If you enrol in a course (or package of courses) that is not eligible for streamlined visa processing, you no longer meet the criteria for which your visa was granted and may be considered for visa cancellation.

Changing course advice for visa holders who are not on streamlined visas

If you want to change to a new course at the same level of qualification, you do not need to apply for a new student visa unless your current visa is about to expire.

If your new course will be with a different education provider, read the information below regarding changing education providers.

Changing your level of qualification

If you want to change your level of qualification, you will need to apply for a new student visa because your visa subclass will change.

Example: You want to change from a bachelor degree to Certificate IV.

Important: Your eligibility for a visa may be affected if you change your course(s) of study before a decision is made on your visa application.  

Changing education provider advice for streamlined visa holders

If you were granted a visa under the streamlined visa processing arrangements you must stay enrolled in a streamlined visa processing eligible course with an education provider participating in the arrangements.

You can check if your new education provider is participating in the streamlined visa processing arrangements.

Important: If you enrol to study with an education provider that is not participating in the streamlined visa processing arrangements, you no longer meet the criteria for which your visa was granted and may be considered for visa cancellation.

Changing education provider advice for visa holders who are not on streamlined visas

If you are intending to change education provider, you should contact your current education provider for information. In most circumstances the new education provider will be restricted from enrolling you if you have not completed six months of the main course of study for which your visa was granted.

If you want to change provider before completing the first six months of your main course of study you must contact your current education provider for permission and receive a release letter. You will require a letter of offer from the new provider in order to apply for a letter of release from your original education provider.

If your education provider does not give you permission and you are not satisfied with the outcome you should first access the internal appeal process with your education provider. If you are still not satisfied you can appeal the education provider’s decision at an external complaint handling body, such as the State or Territory Ombudsman or the Overseas Student Ombudsman.

Changing your study plan

If you need to change your study plan for which your visa was granted due to personal or special circumstances see the FAQ section of our website.

Ceasing your studies

If you have decided to cease studying and cancel your student visa, see the FAQ section of our website to learn how you can request to cancel your student visa.

Scenarios

The following are common scenarios about international students changing courses and complying with their visa conditions.

Moving from a university to a vocational education course

  • You must complete six months of the highest qualification course in which your visa was granted before changing courses with a different education sector.
  • You must obtain a new visa to study in a different educational sector.

Names of people and education providers in this story are fictional for the purposes of this case study.

Mandeep was enrolled with the Eucalyptus University to study a Bachelor of Accounting. She was granted a Higher Education Sector (subclass 573) visa.

After commencing her bachelor degree, she was informed by a friend she could study her course faster and cheaper at a different institution. Mandeep thought this sounded like a good option as she wanted to get her degree as fast as possible. She thought she may have a problem with her visa if she changed her course.

Mandeep phoned the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to see if she could move to this cheaper institution. After confirming all the details of Mandeep’s case, the immigration officer told Mandeep her visa was granted under streamlined visa processing arrangements with the Eucalyptus University - if she changed to a non-streamlined education provider while holding a streamlined student visa, she may be in breach of a condition of her visa (condition 8516).

The immigration officer informed Mandeep that if she wanted to change education provider she would have to choose one of the following options:

  • transfer to another streamlined institution
  • remain in her current course and apply for a new student visa (after completing six months of her principal course) with a letter of offer or confirmation of enrolment from the new provider
  • depart Australia, request the voluntary cancellation of her student visa and then apply for a new student visa with a letter of offer or confirmation of enrolment from the new education provider.

Mandeep decided to move to the cheaper institution, regardless of the information she had found out about her visa. Shortly after, the department contacted her and issued a Notice of Intention to Consider Cancellation for her student visa. Mandeep responded to the notice and provided reasons why her visa should not be cancelled. The department considered her response and proceeded to cancel her student visa for breach of condition 8516.

Mandeep was upset and regretted not abiding by the conditions of her visa. Mandeep no longer held a visa to remain lawfully in Australia and made arrangements to return to her home country.

Changing courses in the first six months

  • If you have not completed six months of the highest qualification course in which your visa was granted, you need a release letter from your education provider.
  • If you are refused a release letter you may wish to access the internal appeal process with your education provider.

Names of people and education providers in this story are fictional for the purposes of this case study.

Trung had heard a lot about Australia. His cousin had studied in Australia and Trung believed if he trained in Australia this would result in good employment prospects. His dream was to set up a boutique hotel. Trung applied to the Australian University to undertake a Bachelor of Commerce and the education agent assisted him in applying for a visa to be able to study this course.

Trung arrived in Australia on a Higher Education Sector (subclass 573) student visa in late July. He was excited to commence his course but as the semester progressed he felt overwhelmed by how intense and technical the lectures were. He also struggled with the Australian accent. After eight weeks Trung began to lose interest in the course and stopped attending classes.

Trung went to the Blue Gum Institute and sought to enrol in a Certificate III in Hospitality at Blue Gum Institute, which would mean he could still pursue his dream of opening a hotel. The student advisor explained to Trung that he required a release letter from the Australian University prior to being able to enrol with Blue Gum Institute. Trung applied for a release letter but was not granted one.

Trung called the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for advice. They advised Trung his current visa was granted to study in the higher education sector at the Australian University and as Trung wanted to study Hospitality at the vocational level he needed a Vocational Education and Training Sector (subclass 572) student visa which is the correct visa for students that study in vocational education and training courses.

The department told Trung he needed to apply for this visa in his home country.

Trung decided to go home and apply for a subclass 572 student visa for the course at Blue Gum Institute. He was happy in his course once he returned to Australia on the subclass 572 visa and thinks he may go back to the bachelor course once he has completed this stage of his education.

Moving to a ELICOS course at the advice of your university

    If you are having difficulties in your course talk to your student advisor.
  • If delaying the commencement of your course to complete an English course confirm your education provider has issued you a new confirmation of enrolment.

Names of people and education providers in this story are fictional for the purposes of this case study.

Bess enrolled in a Bachelor of Engineering at Banksia University. She had achieved high marks in her previous schooling in China and was looking forward to commencing her course at Banksia University. Bess had achieved the appropriate IELTS level and was confident she would be able to do well in her chosen course of study.

Bess commenced her first semester but struggled with some of the language used in her course. She also found it hard to keep up with the pace that some of her lecturers spoke. Bess was concerned if she failed her course, her visa may be cancelled and she would have to return to China.

She decided to talk to a student adviser about her situation. After Bess discussed the issue with her student adviser, it was suggested she take an ELICOS level English course for one semester with the expectation she would return to her bachelor degree once her English improved.

Bess was concerned this would affect her student visa. She called the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and asked if she could move to an ELICOS course if she was intending to return to her original study plan.

The immigration officer told her as long as she continued her planned study at the subclass 573 visa level after completing the English course, she will continue to meet her visa conditions. Bess called Banksia University to confirm her enrolment after completing her English course.

Bess completed her English course and then recommenced her bachelor degree.

Changing courses after the first six months

  • If you have completed six months of the highest qualification course in which your visa was granted, you may choose to change courses or educational sectors.
  • If you choose to change education sectors you must apply for a new visa and continue to study your original course until your new visa is granted for your new course.

Names of people and education providers in this story are fictional for the purposes of this case study.

Kumar arrived in Australia on a Higher Education Sector (subclass 573) student visa.

He commenced his bachelor degree at Wattle University; studying a Bachelor of Communication to learn about the role of communication in modern society. Kumar had aspirations to open his own mobile phone store.

After two months studying Kumar decided he wanted to change to a Diploma of Marketing. He felt the diploma course was more suited to his career aspiration as it would provide him with sound theory and knowledge of marketing to enable him to progress his career prospects in sales and marketing management.

While continuing his studies at Wattle University, Kumar researched education providers and approached Bottlebrush Institute and enquired about enrolling in a Diploma of Marketing. The Bottlebrush Institute administration staff advised Kumar he would need to provide a release letter from Wattle University, before he could enrol in this diploma course. Kumar was confused and didn’t understand why he needed a release letter. The administration staff explained that a release letter was required because he had not completed six months of the Bachelor of Communication for which his subclass 573 visa was granted.

Following receipt of this advice from the Bottlebrush College, Kumar checked the conditions of his student visa with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. The department confirmed Kumar’s visa was granted to study in the higher education sector at Wattle University. If he wanted to study a Diploma of Marketing, he needed a subclass 572 student visa, which is the correct visa for students who study a vocational education and training courses.

Upon receiving this information Kumar continued studying his Bachelor of Communication at Wattle University. He decided after completing six months of this course (his principle course) he would transfer to the diploma.

He later applied for the diploma course with the other institution and obtained a confirmation of enrolment for the diploma. He then applied for a Vocational Education and Training Sector (subclass 572) student visa.

Stopping study to work for a while

  • You can only work 40 hours per fortnight.
  • You must continue to study.

Names of people and education providers in this story are fictional for the purposes of this case study.

José arrived in Australia on a Vocational Education and Training Sector (subclass 572) student visa.

He was from Peru and came to study in Australia as he had heard it was a great country to receive an education.

José enrolled in a Diploma of Information Technology. He was not sure what career path he would eventually take and felt that information technology was a good starting place.

He commenced his Diploma at Boomerang College and made a lot of friends in Australia while studying. One of his friends told him about casual work available at the local Greek Taverna and José started to work there on weekends. He was aware of his visas work conditions and only worked 10 hours per day on the weekends to ensure he didn’t work more than the maximum of 40 hours per fortnight allowed.

José enjoyed working at the Greek Taverna and wanted to increase his hours for a short while. He stopped attending classes and thought he would return to Boomerang College the following semester.

As his intention was to only work full-time for one semester, José did not think there would be a problem with not attending class.

A short while later, José received a notice from Boomerang College advising they were going to report him for unsatisfactory attendance. The notice said he could access the College’s complaints and appeals. José was surprised to receive the notice and the following day attended Boomerang College to speak with the student advisor.

José explained he intended to work full-time this semester and return to his diploma the following semester. The student advisor told José he was breaching his visa conditions by working full-time and not attending classes. The advisor explained students are able to defer or temporarily suspend their studies; however this would only be approved on the grounds of compassionate and compelling circumstances. He was also told that suspending or cancelling his enrolment may affect his student visa.

José did not take the advice he received from the student advisor seriously and continued to work full-time.

Boomerang College cancelled José's certificate of enrolment and José soon received a Notice of Intention to Consider Cancellation of his student visa from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. He did not respond to the notice and the department cancelled his student visa. 

As a result of the cancellation, José is barred from applying for various types of visas while in Australia and is subject to a three-year exclusion period (re-entry ban) that may affect his ability to be granted a further temporary visa. José lost his job and no longer had a visa - he had to return to his home country.

Read more about working while studying in Australia.

Extending your visa to continue your course

  • You need to apply for another visa prior to the end of your current visa.

Names of people and education providers in this story are fictional for the purposes of this case study.

Shuxia applied for her visa to do a package course leading to a bachelor degree at Bottlebrush University. She looked forward to living away from home for the first time and studying in Australia.

The first course Shuxia had to undertake was an ELICOS language course. Unfortunately, Shuxia spent too much time enjoying her new life in Australia and did not pass the course. She had to redo the English course again until she passed before she could progress to studying her diploma.

By the time Shuxia passed the ELICOS course and began studying her advanced diploma, she started to take her study more seriously.

All was going well until Shuxia realised her student visa would cease before she would be able to finish her bachelor degree. Two months before her visa expired, Shuxia went to the immigration website to find out about making an application for another student visa.

She found a calculator which would tell her how much her visa would cost her. Shuxia then found the visa application section of the website. She completed a valid application and provided the Visa Application Charge.

Shuxia was granted a bridging visa A so that if her current visa ceased before her application was finalised, she could lawfully stay in Australia until the immigration department made a decision about her visa application.

After providing documentation to show her progress at university was good, Shuxia was granted her subclass 573 student visa and was able to finish her bachelor degree.

 

Personal problems affecting studies

  • Seek treatment from a professional.
  • If you are having difficulties in your course talk to your student advisor.

Names of people and education providers in this story are fictional for the purposes of this case study.

Swati successfully completed a Certificate IV in Business at the Blue Gum Institute and applied for a second visa - a subclass 573 student visa to study a Bachelor in Management at the Australia University. She hoped these skills would help her family’s business in India.

One week before Swati was due to start her management degree, she received a call from her father - her mother had been diagnosed with cancer. Swati was upset and worried about her mother and would ring India every few hours. She wanted to return home but her father insisted she continue her studies in Australia. Swati tried hard to continue with her studies but she could not concentrate because she was so upset and worried.

Swati's course attendance started to decline, until she was too upset to attend her studies at all. Swati received a warning letter from the Australia University advising that her course progress was not adequate and she risked being reported to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. This made Swati feel more depressed.

Swati went to see the student advisor at the Australia University for advice. The advisor suggested she go and speak to a doctor. Swati went to her local doctor who referred her to a psychologist.

The psychologist diagnosed Swati with depression. Swati wanted to feel better before continuing her studies. She took her documentation from the doctor and psychologist to the student advisor. The advisor granted Swati a deferral on the grounds of compassionate circumstances.

One week after the deferral was granted, Swati returned home to India for the period of her deferral. She took her medical and deferral documents with her as well as her new confirmation of enrolment that showed she would recommence her course in six months.

Swati felt better at home and was able to support her mother. She returned to Australia five and half months later and resumed her course two weeks after arriving in Australia.

 

Guardian departs Australia and leaves student minor in Australia

  • Before departure make arrangements for the student minor.
  • Appropriately inform the school and the department of the arrangements prior to departure.

Names of people and education providers in this story are fictional for the purposes of this case study.

Romita came to Australia on a guardian visa to look after her son Surjit while he studied his high school qualifications.

All was going well until Romita’s husband Kirpal became ill and she needed to go home while her husband was in hospital for an operation. Romita thought she would need to be in India for six weeks while her husband recovered.

Romita did not know what to do - she did not want to take Surjit with her. He was studying in year 12 and she felt it was important for him to do well in his studies. Romita talked to Surjit’s school to ask for their advice.

Surjit’s school advised Romita she should find another welfare arrangement before she goes back to India - they could help find a homestay arrangement for Surjit. Romita said she had a daughter who was 26 working in Australia on a subclass 457 visa. The school said they would be happy with a close relative looking after Surjit as long as the department approved the arrangement before Romita left Australia.

Romita called the department to seek advice. The immigration officer handling her query pointed out it was a requirement of her visa that she does not travel without Surjit. The immigration officer advised her if she could submit evidence of the need to travel, it would be appropriate for her to arrange for her daughter, provided she was more than 21 years of age, to look after Surjit in her absence. She was also advised that form 157N must be submitted together with information for her expected date of return. She was advised that the department should be informed of any change in circumstances.

Romita submitted this information to the department and her daughter was approved as the temporary guardian of Surjit. The immigration officer advised Romita she should take the confirmation of the changed welfare arrangements with her when she travelled in and out of Australia.

Romita returned home and cared for Kirpal. Once he was able to look after himself, Romita returned to Australia and stayed until Surjit finished his schooling, which was just before his 18th birthday.

Read more about education providers approving care arrangements for students less than 18 years old. Form 157N also explains what is and who can become a guardian.

To read common queries about changing courses, see the FAQ section of our website.

Last reviewed Tuesday 14 January 2014

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