How to Get an Australian Student Visa

How to Get an Australian Student Visa main image

In order to study in Australia, you will need to obtain an Australian student visa. You must be able to prove to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) that you meet the following keyAustralian student visa requirements: Genuine Student Requirement, Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirement, financial requirements, English proficiency requirements, and health and character requirements. You’ll need to complete an Australian student visa application form, pay the visa application fee, and perhaps attend an interview. Read on for more detail on what all of this involves.

What is a ‘genuine student’?

 First, what’s meant by the term ‘genuine student’? To meet the criteria to be classed as a genuine student, you must show that you intend to obtain a valid educational outcome and that you are equipped with the language, educational and material background to reasonably be able to do this. When assessing whether the applicant for an Australian student visa is a genuine student, factors considered include:
  • English language proficiency
  • Sufficient finances
  • Prerequisite schooling (such as secondary and post-secondary education)
  • Age requirements
  • Intention to comply with visa conditions

What is a Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE)?

Introduced in November 2011, the Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirement states that the visa applicant must be able to demonstrate a genuine intention to stay in Australia temporarily for the purpose of study (or to accompany a student as a dependent (i.e. spouse or child), or as a guardian). The decision-makers at DIAC will consider the following factors:

  • The circumstances in your home country
  • The potential circumstances for you in Australia
  • The value of your chosen course to your future
  • Your immigration history
  • Any other relevant matters

In order to determining whether you are both a genuine student and a GTE, you may be asked to attend an interview at your nearest Australian embassy or consulate. Some applicants will only need to fill in a visa application form.

Completing an Australian student visa application form

You’ll first need to make sure you’re applying for the most relevant visa, using the correct Australian student visa application form. The DIAC website has a Visa Finder feature to help you find the most relevant type of visa for your circumstances. Most international students looking to study an undergraduate (bachelor’s) or postgraduate (master’s) degree will qualify for the Higher Education Sector visa (subclass 573). Most students will be eligible to apply online, but if you find you cannot, you must make a paper application to the Australian embassy or consulate in your country. You can only apply online for a student visa a maximum of 124 days before your course starts.

Before applying for a visa, you will need to obtain a Confirmation of Enrolment (COE) or a Letter of Offer confirming that you have been accepted into a course registered under the Commonwealth Register of Institutions of Courses (CRICOS). The COE will be in the form of an online code that you will need to enter into the appropriate section in the online visa application. You may also need to pay a deposit towards your tuition fees.

You will be able to change course afterwards if you wished, but it must be to one of the same levels, otherwise you will need to apply for a new visa entirely. Students may also package their studies to combine another course with their main course of study, in which case the visa application subclass will correspond to their main course of study (i.e. if your main course of study is an undergraduate degree, your visa subclass will be 573).

All students will need to identify their Assessment Level (AL) before they can proceed with their visa application. The AL is based on the course you intend to take and your country of origin, with AL 1 students regarded as the lowest immigration risk and AL 5 students the highest. The visa process will be slightly different depending on your assessment level, with students with ALs other than 1 having a more complicated visa application process.

The visa process is also different if you qualify for ‘streamlined visa processing’. This is available for international students wishing to study in Australia at a participating university if their main course is a bachelor’s degree or a master’s by coursework. If you are eligible for streamlined student visa processing you are not assigned an Assessment Level, as students eligible for this service are automatically determined to be low immigration risk. Eligible students will also have reduced evidentiary requirements for their student visa application. Students who intend to package their courses may still be eligible for streamlined visa processing if they meet certain requirements.

Australian student visa requirements

When filling in your online visa application form, you will need to provide evidence of the following Australian student visa requirements:

  • Financial requirements: Evidence of sufficient funds to cover tuition, travel and living costs. The Assessment Level of the student determines the level of funds required, who can provide these funds and how long the funds must be held. If you have dependents (such as a spouse and children), you will also need to show evidence of being able to cover living costs for them, regardless of whether they intend to travel to Australia or not.
  • English proficiency requirement: While all students are required to demonstrate they have the appropriate English language proficiency for their course, AL 1 and 2 applicants need only meet the requirements specified by their higher education provider, while AL 3 and 4 applicants must also provide DIAC with evidence of their English language proficiency. The DIAC website lists eligible tests, with possibilities being the IELTS, TOFEL iBT, Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic and Cambridge Advanced English (CAE) test. The score you will need will depend on whether you are starting a full degree, doing a foundation course or enrolling on a preliminary English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS).
  • Health requirements: Some students may be advised to take a medical and/or a radiological check-up to show they are in good health (this applies, for example, to those who intend to train as a doctor, dentist or nurse). If told to do so, you must attend an appointment with a doctor who has been approved by the Australian immigration department. Except those from Belgium or Norway, all students are obliged to purchase Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). You may purchase this cover through your university, or directly from one of the five approved providers: Australian Health Management, BUPA Australia, Medibank Private, Allianz Global Assistance and nib OSHC. The average cost of OSHC is AUS$437 (US$383) for 12 months for a single student. Students from Sweden who have purchased health insurance through CSN International or Kammarkollegiet will not need to purchase OSHC.
  • Character requirements: All students will also be assessed against the character requirementsstipulated by DIAC. This includes a criminal record check, to make sure you don’t have a substantial criminal record. You may also need to acquire a penal clearance certificate (or police certificate) or get a police statement, and may be asked to complete a Character Statutory Declaration Form.

Australian student visa documents

The DIAC website has a document checklist feature that will provide you with a list of documents required for your specific type of student visa. You simply need to select the type of visa you are requesting, and either indicate that you are eligible to apply for streamlined visa processing or select your appropriate Assessment Level. Then select ‘View Checklist’ to open a PDF document with all the necessary documents you need to provide. Typically, students must submit the following:

  • Completed Australia student visa application form (157A)
  • Paid visa application fee
  • Copy of passport biodata page (some students may be asked to physically provide their passport)
  • Certificate of Enrolment or Letter of Offer
  • Evidence of sufficient funds
  • Evidence of health insurance cover
  • English proficiency test results
  • Criminal record check results

Visa processing times will vary depending on your Assessment Level and the type of visa you are applying for. Allow up to four weeks, with online applications usually being considerably quicker. Your student visa will last for the duration of your studies, including holiday periods, and will also allow you some time to remain in Australia at the end of your course, in order to prepare for departure. Under some circumstances, it may be possible to apply for a further visa at the end of your course (consult the DIAC website for more details).

Arrival in Australia

You can arrive in Australia on your student visa up to 90 days before your course starts. Within seven days of arrival, you must inform your education provider of your resident address. While on a student visa, you may work up to 40 hours per fortnight during term time, and full time in the holidays. The visa is automatically issued with ‘permission to work’, although you are not allowed to begin working until your course has started. Keep in mind that any work required as part of your course is not included in the limit. If you intend to do unpaid or voluntary work, you must still apply for permission to work, and can still only work up to 40 hours per fortnight as mentioned above.

While in possession of a student visa, you have certain obligations to fulfil: you must remain enrolled in a CRICOS-registered course, attend classes regularly, make satisfactory course progress and maintain OSHC health insurance. There are also certain visa conditions you and yourdependents must comply with; breaching a visa condition may result in the cancellation of your visa.



Leaving Home to Study Abroad: An Emotional Guide

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Leaving home to study abroad is not like going for a college field trip or a sleepover at your best friend’s. You will be gone for a considerable period and it should not make you paranoid to see your family members getting emotional time and again as the date of your departure nears.

Similarly, you must keep your cool when close and distant relatives (who maybe have no real influence in your life) start sermonizing on the dos and don’ts of the new place even when they’ve never left their own city, let alone the country! In the part of the world I come from, you will receive their advice again and again… and again, till they see you off at the airport. (Beware; they may well call you and continue preaching even after you arrive.)

Although you will probably be overwhelmed with excitement at the prospect of starting a new chapter in your life, it’s also natural to feel emotional about leaving home to study abroad. There’s no harm in being sentimental, but you don’t want to spend your last few days or weeks getting irritated with those around you, or feeling sad at the prospect of being far away from family and old friends.

Here are my tips to guide you through this emotional phase:

1. Listen!

Whatever those around you are telling you, listen. Yes, you read it correct: listen to them. Make them feel satisfied, as it is their love for you that is forcing them to act weirdly. They care about you and want you to be safe. This doesn’t mean you have to actually act on their advice, but it does mean you should respect it.

2. Spend time with friends & family

While you will make new friends when you study abroad and have loads of new activities to keep you busy, nostalgia will one way or another bother you. Collect as many good memories as possible. Spend time with your loved ones and cherish all the memories; in those times when you feel homesick and unable to concentrate on anything, they might lift you up.

3. Remember they are rooting for you

You may be struggling leaving home to study abroad; you have a room to keep clean, assignments to complete, laundry to do, maybe a part-time job to manage your little expenses, and when you are done doing all that you have to prepare your meal. Sounds devastating, but this is what gives you invaluable life experience. Enjoy it and know that your friends and family are rooting for you.

They trust in you and believe you have the potential to make it big. One of my cousins wrote to me when I told him about my departure: “I am sure you are excited, nervous and perhaps even a little weary all at the same time which is entirely natural – just be positive and remindful that we’re all rooting for you and that things will always fall into place.” This is my advice to you. You can choose to ignore it if you like!

4. Have fun & take care of yourself

You are in a new place, new environment, and a different culture. Enjoy every bit of it; this time might never come back. But you have to be responsible as well. Even if you are not following the instructions of your family and friends, you must take care of yourself in the best possible way. You are not a kid anymore so make all the decisions carefully and make your experience worth remembering.

Last but not the least; never forget those who care for you when leaving home. Keep in touch while you study abroad. Even an email once in a few weeks/months can suffice.


14 Reasons Why Studying Abroad in Australia was the Best

Myles Takes the World

Today is my last day at CQU. I’m off to Sydney tomorrow morning to meet my family and celebrate my 21st birthday American style. Excited is an understatement, but it’s still bittersweet to leave my home for the last four months. I thought a good way to end my study abroad experience would be to write about why I had the time of my life here.

1. It’s really, really far away from Ipswich, Massachusetts. 15,652 kilometers, or 9725 miles, to be exact. You’re probably thinking, duh, it’s on the other side of the world. What I mean is that judging by the tuition price of my master’s degree I’ll be coming out of Hofstra with in two years, I’m going to be in a lot of debt, like a disgusting amount of debt that will take years to pay off. Plane tickets to Australia are expensive, so this…

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How to Study Abroad as a Student-Athlete

ISA Study Abroad Student Blog

Kelley Wollak is currently a student at University of Nebraska Omaha and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Malaga, Spain.

Being a collegiate student-athlete is a huge dedication of time and effort to not only your sport but your education.  Both being a student-athlete and a student abroad can have enormous benefits to career building and personal growth.  As an athlete, it is daunting to think of leaving to study abroad and miss training, practice and time with your team.  However, I believe you can get the best of both worlds and I have.

student-athlete-study-abroad This is the gorgeous view from the Alcazaba in Málaga! ISA took us on an excursion up the mountain to see the sights and learn about the history of southern Spain.

 Here are my tips for being a student-athlete abroad:

  1. Pick a Program That is Right…

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UK Universities and Australian Universities Compared

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The Guardian’s Higher Education Network has spent the past fortnight comparing universities in the UK and Australia. The series highlights the many similarities between the two countries’ higher education systems while also exploring some of the contrasts and controversies and areas of collaboration and competition. Take a look at the series summary below to find out how UK universities and Australian universities match up in some of the most pressing issues for today’s higher education providers.

Which country’s universities are more innovative?

Pointing out that the UK and Australian higher education systems owe many of their similarities to their governments’ tendency to mimic each other’s policies, the series started with an interactive timeline showing major developmental milestones – and which nation got there first. This is admittedly highly subjective, largely depending on your perspective; those who disagree with policies such as increasing the tuition fee cap are unlikely to view the first country to do so as the most progressive or innovative. However, it is a fun way to get a quick overview of major changes at UK and Australian universities over the past three decades, and track parallel developments in the two countries.

Continuing the interactive theme, the network challenged readers to guess the missing word in a series of quotes from the countries’ respective higher education ministers, commenting on their own and each other’s policies.

Which country’s universities are more collaborative?Focusing on the ever-growing emphasis placed on international collaboration, the series featured a blog post from Simon Marginson, a professor at the UK’sInstitute of Education and professorial associate at Australia’s University of Melbourne, who argued that the major difference between the two countries is the strength of Australia’s relationship with fast-growing Asian nations such as China, Taiwan, and Singapore. In contrast, Marginson argued, “Among all the English-speaking nations, the UK has the lowest rates of research collaboration in dynamic Asia.”

The wide range of research collaborations involving UK universities and Australian universities was showcased in a photo gallery, with comments from participating academics highlighting some of the benefits and challenges of these kinds of cross-planet projects. Time zone differences definitely came top of the ‘challenges’ pile, though this was viewed in more positive terms surprisingly often. As the University of Melbourne’s Vanessa Teague put it, “we get twice as much work done in a week: one side works while the other side sleeps”.

This piece was complemented by blog contributions from two academics who have each experienced working within both UK and Australian universities. Interestingly, both viewed their home country as less successfully collaborative at a national level compared to their new host. Chris Elders, who moved from working in UK universities to join Australia’s Curtin University last year, said, “I am struck by the much greater sense of collaboration between institutions, compared with the more fiercely competitive atmosphere in the UK.” Yet Emily Hudson, who made the move in the opposite direction to join Oxford University in 2012, said she’d experienced a greater sense of collaboration in the UK: “I have found that the UK’s size and proximity to other countries makes it far easier to maintain connections with the broader academic community.”

Which country has the better higher education funding system?

With higher education funding close to the surface of any debate in the sector, several contributions to the series explored funding choices already made by the two countries, as well as those looming in the near future. Deakin University’s Jane den Hollander argued that proposed cuts to higher education funding in Australia could lead to fewer choices for students unable to afford hiked up tuition fees; potential job losses and cuts to academic salaries; and increased debt for the poorest students and graduates – meaning more student loans remaining unpaid.

Australian National University’s Ian Young explored the issue of deregulating fees, highlighting this as an example of the two countries’ tendency not to learn from each other’s mistakes. The UK government, he argued, should have known that almost all UK universities would charge the full £9,000 maximum rate when this was cap introduced, by looking at the Australian precedent. Concluding that the only way to ensure there is real price competition is to deregulate entirely, he suggested that this is the most practical – if not always popular – pathway for both countries.

But Gill Wyness and Richard Murphy, each holding positions at two UK universities, were keen to warn against following the Australian example too readily. While recognizing the appeal and apparent strengths of Australia’s higher education funding system, they argued that the Australian model demands higher taxpayer contributions, risks deterring lower-income students from studying certain subjects for which fees are higher, and has also raised concerns about a lack of quality control in entry requirements or completion standards.

Which is ahead on equal access?

Access to Higher Education

Throughout the series, questions of equal access and treatment recurred, with a live chat dedicated to the question of whether removing the cap on enrolment numbers is really likely to mean increased access to higher education for those from lower-income backgrounds.

Curtin University’s Tim Pitman pitted Australian and UK universities against each other on the question of social mobility, highlighting the major ground still to be covered by both countries in the area of equal access. Overall, he concluded, the picture remains similarly depressing in each nation, while calling for continued efforts to find better ways of defining ‘disadvantage’.

A contributor to the ‘Academics Anonymous’ column was not so hesitant to criticize. Speaking of her experience of “persistent verbal abuse” and various other tactics designed to halt her career progress, she said she’d found leading UK universities to be much more rigidly hierarchical and sexist than their Australian counterparts.

But Australian universities also came under fire, in a contribution from the National Tertiary Education Union’s Celeste Liddle. Highlighting the challenges of equal access faced by Indigenous students and staff members in Australia, she predicted even tougher times ahead following planned government cuts to higher education funding.


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Coping With Study Abroad Problems

Coping With Study Abroad Problems main image

International students often find it difficult to learn the ways of their new country. Although they have been told time and again about the dos and don’ts, they often find themselves entangled in situations that not only affect their studies but also hurt their study abroad experience.

I recently had an opportunity to have a brief chat with Danny Ong, the author of a guide for international students called The International Student’s Handbook: Living and Studying in Australia. Even if you are not studying in Australia, Danny’s tips can help you deal with the most common study abroad problems

DO: Learn the rules of your study abroad location

The first and the foremost task for international students is to know all the rules and regulations of their study abroad location and abide by them. Most study abroad problems can be prevented in this way, and it shouldn’t be hard to find information to guide you through the time you are going to stay there. Still, if you are not able to find any particular piece of information, Danny says: “Ask questions and never hesitate to ask them again if you don’t get the answer the first time.”

He also jokes: “I always say, whenever it comes to taking an advice, never ask your friend.” He may have a point. When you already have a professional staff at your university or college dedicated solely to your support and wellbeing, why look elsewhere?

DON’T: Limit your social circle

Everybody loves to be in their comfort zone and that’s why many international students tend to mingle with people of their own country, rather than mixing with members of other communities. Now there is no harm in hanging out with your country fellows, but don’t stick just to them exclusively. Having a limited social group may not seem like the biggest of study abroad problems, but it is a pretty common occurrence – and it means you’ll miss out on all kinds of experiences, friendships, and future connections,.

DON’T: Be afraid to stand up for your student rights

Most students won’t encounter this kind of problem, but unfortunately there have been cases reported where international students have been deprived of their rights in one way or the other, often relating to student jobs, accommodation and so on. If you for any reason feel you have been mistreated or your student rights have been exploited unjustly, never be afraid of coming forward.

Take Danny’s advice seriously: “There are always good and bad elements in every society, but that should not discourage students. They should come forward and speak about any confusion they are facing. They should not worry about privacy, as legally and ethically their conversations with professional staff stay confidential.”

And finally… DO: Remember one cannot clap with a single hand.

Miles away from home, you certainly still always be able to find the right people for help in whatever study abroad problems you are facing. Don’t try to solve everything on your own. Make use of university staff, and make use of your friendships – my personal experience is that friends are very valuable and they do give good advice.

But DON’T: Lose sight of why you’re here.

Having emphasized the importance of good friends, it’s also worth pointing out that studies should still come before socializing! And if you want to get the most out of your studies, you need to learn to say ‘no’ sometimes.