Get a student visa for Australia

Posted October 13, 2011, by Andrea Riddell

Australia has a reputation for delivering high-quality education and training, and welcomes international students to its shores. If you are an international student wishing to study within Australia, but you are not an Australian citizen, you will need to apply for a student visa. Visas are granted by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) to eligible students.

Applying for a visa

Applying for a visa can seem like a daunting and confusing process, but by being prepared and organised you can cut down on stress and confusion. You should first check with your local Australian Government office to find out whether you would be eligible for a student visa.

Before you apply for a visa you need to have received acceptance by an Australian tertiary education institution giving you permission to study with them. To be eligible for a student visa you will be required to study on a full-time basis in a course that is registered, or partly registered, with the Australian Government and is allowed to offer courses to international students.

You will be required to apply for a student visa under the sub-class for your chosen course. There are seven sub-classes for each education sector. The level of qualification – such as undergraduate, postgraduate, and vocational education and training – determines what sub-class you fall under.


There are some general requirements you will need to meet in order to be eligible for a visa. You will need to have:

  • Good character
  • Sound health
  • Health insurance through the Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)
  • No outstanding debts to the Commonwealth of Australia, or an acceptable repayment plan
  • Adequate accommodation, support and welfare if you are under 18 years of age

English language requirements

Not all students will need to provide evidence of their English language skills. However, some students may be required to provide results from a general or academic English language exam. See English language testing systems for more information.


All applications are assessed based on assessment levels. These are determined by your passport and the visa sub-class you have applied to study under. Assessment levels are relative to how likely students are to comply with their visa conditions, based on the previous compliance of students from that country. The higher the assessment level, the bigger the immigration risk.

If your country has a high assessment level (5 being the highest) you will need to provide more evidence to validate your claim to study in Australia. You will also need to demonstrate that you have adequate financial capacity and an understanding of the English language, as well as other evidence.


You may need to bring in evidentiary documents to support your study claim, especially if your assessment level is high. You may need to prove that you are capable of covering all of the costs associated with studying and living in Australia.

You will also need proof of your enrolment with an Australian tertiary education provider. An ‘offer of a place’ letter from your course provider will need to be included with your application. You may also be required to show an electronic confirmation of enrolment certificate.

Get in contact with your local Australian Government office to find out what you will be required to provide.

Student visa conditions

Once you have obtained your student visa and are studying in Australia, or about to, there are a number of conditions that you need to comply to. In order to keep your student visa you must:

  • Satisfy all course requirements, including attendance and enrolment
  • Not work unless you have permission to – see different visa types in Working in Australia
  • Maintain your health insurance with OSHC
  • Leave before your visa expires
  • Remain with your original Australian course provider for the first six months of your course. If your course is shorter than six months then you must study for the duration.
  • Advise your education provider of your residential address upon arrival, and any subsequent changes to your address

Working in Australia

Working while you are studying in Australia is a great way to help pay for tuition fees, textbooks and living expenses.

If you were granted a Student visa on or after 26 April 2008, you will automatically have permission to work. If you were granted a Student visa before 26 April 2008, you will need to apply for Permission to Work after you have started your course in Australia. You can apply for Permission to Work online, in person or by post. You will also need an Australian Tax File Number in order to be able to work in Australia, which you can apply for once you arrive.

You are limited to working a maximum of 20 hours per week during course session periods, but you can work unlimited hours when your course is not in session.

Andrea Riddell

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