Student visas

If you want to study in Australia you'll probably need a student visa. Here's everything you need to know.

In 2015 over 600,000 people from other countries lived and studied in Australia. But you can’t just arrive and declare your intent to study. You need to have the right visa and the right paperwork. Read this guide to learn about student visa conditions, eligibility and the visa application process.

Student visa (subclass 500)

This is the most common visa issued to international students. To be eligible for this visa, you will need to meet the following criteria:

  • You must be enrolled in a course. You cannot apply for a student visa if you’re not enrolled in a course. And the course must be registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS).
  • Financial capacity. You need to show that you have enough money to cover your tuition and living expenses while in Australia. You can either have money in an Australian bank or have access to funds from your parents.
  • Temporary entrant. A student visa is for gaining an education, not for staying in Australia. You must convince the Australian government that you do not intend to stay beyond your student visa, although there are exceptions to this rule, which we will look at later.
  • Health. You must have health insurance for the time of your stay in Australia. You can pay for a health provider yourself, but sometimes the educational institution will pay on your behalf. In addition to having health insurance, you must be in good health when you enter Australia.
  • Character. Anyone who enters Australia must be of good character. You may need to have a background check and there is a questionnaire you will need to fill out.
  • Family members. The Sub 500 visa allows family members to join you. More paperwork is involved and you must show that you can financially take care of all family members who are joining you.

What other visa types are there?

There are a few more study visas for more specific purposes.

Visa typeConditions
Student Guardian visa (Subclass 590)
  • This visa is for the parent or guardian of a student who is under the age of 18 or needs a permanent carer.
  • You may stay in Australia with the student while they are enrolled to study. The visa also allows you to study for up to three months. You can take an English language course or any other course that is no more than three months in length.
  • You’re not usually allowed to work under this visa as caring for the student is considered your job, but there are exceptions.
Training visa (Subclass 407)
  • This visa is for those who come to Australia to take part in corporate training exercises and retreats.
Temporary graduate visa (subclass 485)
  • If you want to look for work in your field after you graduate, this is the visa for you. Depending on your qualifications, you can get a visa that is valid for four years.
  • You can travel, work and study for those four years.

Can I work while on a student visa?

Yes, you can work in Australia while on a student visa. It is quite common for students to work so they can afford the essentials, such as rent, food, transport and so forth. But there are restrictions on the number of hours you can work while on a student visa.

Students can work:

  • 40 hours a fortnight (20 hours a week) while your classes are in session
  • Unlimited hours when classes are not in session (such as during breaks and vacations)
  • Unlimited hours of unpaid voluntary work.

If you have a family member with you, they are permitted to work up to 40 hours per fortnight. However, if you’re studying at a Master’s level, then your family members are permitted to work for as many hours as they want.

If your accompanying family member wishes to undertake their own education, much like the working visa, they can study for up to three months while here with you.

You might not need a student visa

You can undertake some study while in Australia on a Working Holiday visa (Subclass 417 and 462), up to a maximum of 17 weeks. This would lend itself to short courses, such as a Certificate IV, rather than a full university course.

Unlike the student visa, a 417 Working Holiday visa has age restrictions. You must be 18-30 years of age, and eligibility can vary between countries.

You can learn more about working holiday visas here, including how to apply and how to extend them.

How do I apply for a student visa?

You must apply for the student visa (Subclass 500) online. You should also apply for your visa well in advance of arriving in Australia as processing times can be lengthy.

The first step in your application is to ensure that you have been accepted into a place of higher education within Australia. There are a limited number of courses you can apply to so you should look at the complete list on the CRICOS registry. You will need to provide a confirmation of your enrolment when you make your visa application.

There is a document checklist tool available online, which includes a passport, a statement from the university you will be attending and other required documents. Since you have to complete your application online, you need to scan all documentation and attach it to your application.

You must pay for your application upon submission or it will not be considered.

How can a migration agent help me?

A migration agent can be a vital source of information, guidance and comfort when applying for a student visa, especially for foreign students coming to a new country.

A migration agent will help you through the process of applying as well as ensure all your documents are up to date and ready to go. They are also experts in Australian immigration policy. If you have any questions, no matter how simple or complicated, these agents can help you.

Can they guarantee you a visa to Australia? No, but they will be honest with you when it comes to your application and show you where you may run into trouble.

Do you have more questions about Australian student visas?

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