Fact Sheet 50 – Overseas Students in Australia
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The student visa program 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 program by using objective measures of risk to determine visa requirements.
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.
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 (subclass 570) visa
- Schools sector (subclass 571) visa
- Vocational Education and Training sector (subclass 572) visa
- Higher Education sector (subclass 573) visa
- Postgraduate Research sector (subclass 574) visa
- Non-award sector (subclass 575) visa
- AusAID and Defence sector (subclass 576) visa.
Generally, only students subject to Assessment Level 1 or students eligible for streamlined visa processing may be granted their first student visa while they are in Australia. Other students may only be able to obtain their first student visa while they are in Australia under exceptional circumstances.
See: Student Visa Program—Assessment Levels (formerly known as Form 1219i) ( 73KB PDF file)
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 (formerly known as Form 1160i) ( 75KB PDF file)
Students must provide evidence to satisfy the assessment criteria that apply to them before they can be granted a student visa. This may 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 5 represents the highest.
See: Student Visa Program—Assessment Levels (formerly known as Form 1219i) ( 73KB PDF file)
Streamlined visa processing is available for prospective international students with a confirmation of enrolment (CoE) from a participating university at bachelor, masters or doctoral degree level. Student visa applicants who are eligible for streamlined visa processing are not subject to assessment levels.
See: The university sector streamlined visa processing ( 80KB PDF file)
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 may not need OSHC if they have acceptable health cover offered by those countries.
Passport holders from certain countries may 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
Students may '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
Permission to work
Students and their dependent family members who were granted a student visa on or after 26 April 2008 have permission to work.
See: New permission to work arrangement for student visa holders (58KB PDF file)
Students and dependent family members who were granted a student visa before 26 April 2008 and have not yet applied for permission to work may only apply for permission to work after they have started their course in Australia.
See: How to apply for permission to work
Students and their dependent 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 may 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 may 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 (subclass 573) visa, Postgraduate (subclass 574) or AusAID and Defence (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 and all Assessment Level 4 students (except those in the schools sector) undertaking a course or courses of 10 months duration or less, are subject to a 'no further stay' condition. This condition generally prevents students from extending their stay in Australia, although they may apply for a Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa or a student visa with permission to work or a student visa with permission to work.
If an Assessment Level 3 student provides evidence of funds to cover a further 12 month stay, the 'no further stay' condition is no longer mandatory.
Students who are sponsored by the Australian Government, or the government of their home country, may also be subject to a 'no further stay' 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 aged 18 years or over may 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.
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.
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 2–4 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
In Australia, some temporary resident visa holders who are Assessment Level 1 may apply for a student visa using online lodgement.
Student visa holders who are in Australia may apply for permission to work using online lodgement. They may also apply for another student visa to extend their stay.
The student visa program report is a quarterly statistical publication that provides data on the student visa program 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
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
Further information is available on the department's website.
The department also operates a national general enquiries line.
Telephone: 131 881
Hours of operation: Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm. Recorded information is available outside these hours.
Fact Sheet 50. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of
Immigration and Citizenship, Canberra.
Last reviewed April 2013.