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Fact sheet 50 – Overseas students in Australia

The student visa programme enables overseas students to come to Australia to undertake full-time study in registered courses.

When processing applications, the department ensures:

  • transparency in the requirements to be granted a student visa
  • consistency in decision-making
  • integrity of the student visa programme by using objective measures of risk to determine visa requirements.

Eligibility

Before applying for a student visa, students must have been accepted for full-time study in a registered course in Australia.

A registered course is an accredited education or training course listed on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) and offered by an Australian education provider registered to offer courses to overseas students.
See: CRICOS

Applying for a student visa

Students must apply for a visa in the sector that relates to their main course of study:

  • Independent English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) Sector visa (subclass 570)
  • Schools Sector visa (subclass 571)
  • Vocational Education and Training Sector visa (subclass 572)
  • Higher Education Sector visa (subclass 573)
  • Postgraduate Research Sector visa (subclass 574)
  • Non-award Sector visa (subclass 575)
  • Foreign Affairs or Defence Sector visa (subclass 576).

Generally, only students subject to Assessment Level 1 or students eligible for streamlined visa processing might be granted their first student visa while they are in Australia. Other students might only be able to obtain their first student visa while they are in Australia under exceptional circumstances.
See: Student Visa Programme—Assessment Levels (formerly known as Form 1219i)

Students who already have a student visa to study in Australia, but want to change their main course of study to one in a different education sector must apply for a new student visa in the education sector appropriate to their new main course of study.
See: Applying for a student visa (144KB PDF) (formerly known as Form 1160i)

Assessment factors and streamlined visa processing

Students must provide evidence to satisfy the assessment criteria that apply to them before they can be granted a student visa. This might include evidence that they have the financial capacity to cover living costs in Australia—tuition fees, travel costs and capacity to support any family members. Applicants must also satisfy criteria for proficiency in English, level of education and other matters such as the potential to breach visa conditions.

The evidence required for these criteria varies according to the student visa applicant’s assessment level. Assessment Level 1 represents the lowest evidentiary requirements and Assessment Level 3 represents the highest.
See: Student Visa Programme - Assessment Levels (formerly known as Form 1219i)

Please note: The Assessment Level Framework was simplified on 22 March 2014 and Assessment Level 4 and Assessment Level 5 were removed.
See: Simplification of the student visa Assessment Level Framework

Streamlined visa processing is available for prospective international students with a confirmation of enrolment from a participating education provider at bachelor, masters or doctoral degree level. Student visa applicants who are eligible for streamlined visa processing are not subject to assessment levels.
See: Streamlined visa processing

On 22 March 2014, streamlined visa processing was extended to certain low immigration risk non-university higher education providers who offer bachelor, masters or doctoral degree level courses.
See: Extension of streamlined visa processing to eligible non-university providers

All students and accompanying family members must meet character and health requirements and obtain overseas student health cover (OSHC) for the duration of their visa. Students from Belgium, Norway and Sweden might not need OSHC if they have acceptable health cover offered by those countries.

Passport holders from certain countries might be entitled to Medicare, however it is still a requirement for overseas students to obtain OSHC for the duration of their stay in Australia while on a student visa.
See: Health insurance for students 

Genuine Temporary Entrant requirement

To be granted any student visa, applicants must satisfy the department that they have a genuine intention to stay in Australia temporarily. The Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirement addresses whether the individual circumstances of an applicant indicate that their intention is for a temporary stay in Australia. A genuineness assessment is made by taking into account a number of personal factors relating to an applicant, such as their immigration history, circumstances that might encourage the applicant to return to their home country and conditions that might encourage the applicant to remain in Australia.

The GTE requirement does not make it more difficult for genuine student visa applicants to obtain a visa. It does, however, provide a useful way to help identify those applicants who are using the student visa programme for motives other than gaining a quality education. The GTE requirement is also not designed to exclude those students who, after studying in Australia, go on to develop the skills required by the Australian labour market and apply to obtain permanent residency.

Course packaging

Students might 'package' their studies to combine a preliminary course with their main course of study on the one student visa. The subclass that applies to the package would be the one that corresponds to the main course of study. The student's Assessment Level is based on the package of courses they are studying.
See: Course packaging

Visa conditions

Permission to work

Students and their dependant family members with permission to work must not undertake work until the main student visa holder has started their course in Australia. They are limited to 40 hours work per fortnight while their course is in session, but might work unlimited hours during formal holiday periods. Holders of a Postgraduate Research (subclass 574) visa who have started their course have unrestricted permission to work.

Student visa holders found to be working in excess of their limited work rights might be subject to visa cancellation.

Family members' permission to work

Family members who have permission to work can work up to 40 hours per fortnight once the main student visa holder has started the course of study.

Where students are on a Higher Education Sector (subclass 573) visa, Postgraduate Research Sector (subclass 574) visa or a Foreign Affairs or Defence Sector (subclass 576) visa and have started a masters or doctorate course, any family member who has permission to work can do so for unlimited hours.

No extension of stay

Most Assessment Level 3 students undertaking a course or courses of 10 months duration or less, are subject to a 'Further Stay Restricted' condition. This condition generally prevents students from extending their stay in Australia.

If an Assessment Level 3 students provides evidence of funds to cover a further 12 month stay, the 'Further Stay Restricted' condition is no longer mandatory.

Students who are sponsored by the Australian Government, or the government of their home country, might also be subject to a 'Further Stay Restricted' condition. They will only be able to extend their studies in Australia if the sponsoring government gives written consent.

Change of address

Students must inform their education provider of their current residential address within seven days of arrival and of any change of address in Australia within seven days of the change. Students must also notify their current provider of any change of enrolment to a new provider.

Family members

Family members aged 18 years or over might only study for up to three months. If they want to undertake a course of study that exceeds three months, they must apply for a student visa in their own right.

School-age family members, children aged 5–18 years, who join the student in Australia for more than three months must attend school. The student must meet any associated education or tuition costs for that child.

A student's child aged 18 years or over cannot apply for a student visa as a family member. If they want to study in Australia, they must apply for a student visa in their own right.

Student Guardian (subclass 580) visa

Where students are under 18 years of age, it is possible for a parent or relative to apply for a student guardian visa to accompany them to Australia. The student guardian visa allows that person to stay in Australia to care for the student until they turn 18. A student guardian does not have permission to work while in Australia.

Online applications

The Australian Government offers online lodgement of student visa applications 24 hours a day.

Applicants must hold a valid passport and a confirmation of enrolment from a registered Australian education provider. They must also be able to pay the visa application charges with an acceptable credit card. If a visa is granted, an email will be sent to the applicant confirming visa conditions and requirements.

Assessment Level 1 students outside Australia can apply for a student visa using eVisa, provided they are at least six years of age and are applying no more than four months (124 days) before the start of their course.

Assessment Level 2–3 students outside Australia cannot currently apply using online lodgement unless they hold a passport from the countries listed below, are resident in that country and lodge their application with a registered migration agent who is party to a valid Deed of Agreement with the department. The countries are:

  • the People's Republic of China
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Thailand.

In Australia, some temporary resident visa holders who are Assessment Level 1 might apply for a student visa using online lodgement.

Student visa holders who are in Australia might apply for permission to work using online lodgement. They might also apply for another student visa to extend their stay.
See: Students

Statistics

The student visa programme report is a quarterly statistical publication that provides data on the student visa programme administered by the department. This report will be a valuable resource for anyone who has an interest in the international student sector.
See: Student visa statistics

Further information for students

The Education Services for Overseas Student Act 2000 provides important safeguards for overseas students in Australia. The Act regulates the activities of education providers delivering education and training to international students by setting standards and providing tuition and financial assurance.
See: Australian Education International

If students choose to work part-time while studying in Australia they have the same work rights as Australian permanent residents and citizens. For more information and advice about conditions of employment in Australia students can contact the Fair Work Ombudsman.
See: Fair Work Ombudsman

Fact sheet 50. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Canberra.