Migration & Visas

Students from over 120 countries around the world are delighted to call UNSW their uni - but there's nothing delightful about legal problems arising when you're far from home. 

Arc works along with the UNSW International Office to offer advice and support to international students in need, including with visa issues.

Student Visas: the basics

What are some of the conditions of my student visa?

Some of the mandatory conditions for students are:

  • You cannot work more than 40 hours per fortnight while your course is in session;
  • You must maintain satisfactory attendance and progress in your course as required by your university;
  • You must maintain Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC);
  • You must notify UNSW within 7 days if you change your residential address.

For more information regarding student visas contact the Department of Immigration.

What if I need to extend my student visa to finish my program? 

(Read this information in Chinese and Hindi)

If you need more time to complete your studies and your visa is expiring, you’ll need to apply for a new student visa. Student visas can’t be extended – once they expire you need a new one and need to go through the application process again. 

You submit your application online through your IMMI account. If your student visa was handled though an agent you might not have an account. You can set one up through the website (https://online.immi.gov.au/lus... ).

Don’t wait until your student visa is about to expire. Legally while you can apply for a new student visa up to 28 days after your current student visa expires, we would never recommend that you do this. You should never be in Australia for any period of time without a current, valid visa. 

Steps in applying for a new student visa

Get a new Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) before you apply for the visa. Make sure it has an end date after your official course completion date. Contact the UNSW International Office if you are a coursework student, and the Graduate Research School if a research student. 

Prepare a GTE statement. You need to submit a Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) statement with your application. You may know this as a Statement of Purpose. 

In your GTE statement, explain why you chose to come to Australia and UNSW. Write a little about how your UNSW degree is relevant to your future plans. If you’re a postgraduate student mention how your current degree relates to your previous study or expands on it. This should be straightforward if the postgraduate degree is in the same field as your earlier study, but if it is in a different field you can focus on how the degree helps your career interests or complements previous study. 

Write about the connections you have to your home country. This can include mentioning family members and friends who live in that country, financial commitments you have (for instance, if you own property or have interests in a business) and if you have a job you will start when you return. 

You can write about the type of work you would like to do in your country, the types of organisations you might work for and how your time in Australia has helped you. If you do have plans to stay in Australia after graduation, do not discuss those in your GTE statement. You need to show that you have a plan to depart Australia, not to remain. 

Other important points: 

You’ll need to pay the visa application charge when you submit your application. 

You must continue to have OSHC health insurance for the period of your visa and your studies. Update your policy so it covers your new completion time. It's best to get OSHC coverage for at least a month beyond when your course finishes. 

Most students don’t need another English test when applying for their new student visa. 

You need to have sufficient funds to cover the tuition fees and living expenses for 12 months (or up to the end of your studies if they will take less than 12 months to complete). 

For 2020, the annual minimum amount you need to show for living costs is $21041 for singles and $7362 for a partner or spouse. These can be in the form of savings, grants from a family member or student loans. Make sure you have proof of your financial circumstances and the source of your financial support/funding for your course, and upload documentary proof in your IMMI account if the online system asks you to do this.


Work and Visas

I know I am able to work 40 hours per fortnight but how is a fortnight calculated?

A fortnight means a period of 14 days commencing on any Monday and ending on the second following Sunday.

As an example of how the 40 hours per fortnight is calculated, imagine that a student had worked the following numbers of hours over a four week period:

  • Week 1 - 15 hours work
  • Week 2 - 25 hours work
  • Week 3 - 25 hours work
  • Week 4 - 10 hours work.

In the fortnight comprising weeks 1 and 2 above (40 hours worked in that 14 day period) or in the fortnight comprising weeks 3 and 4 above (35 hours worked in that 14 day period), the work condition is not breached. However, the student visa holder has breached their work condition in the fortnight comprising weeks 2 and 3 above (50 hours worked in that 14 day period). Students found to have breached their work conditions may be subject to cancellation of their visa.

If you are a coursework student the work limitation only applies while your university course is 'in session'. This means the official session times across the three UNSW terms including exams, but not including term breaks once exams are finished. It does include Summer Term, so if you want to work during the Christmas break you'll still have the work limitation if you are also enrolled in courses over the Summer Term. 

For more information, have a look at the Department of Immigration's website.

Can I volunteer whilst studying in Australia on a student visa? Does it count towards the 40 hours per fortnight that I am allowed to work?

Yes you can volunteer and the hours will not count towards your 40 hour per fortnight work limit as long as the volunteer work:

  • is of benefit to the community
  • is for a non-profit organisation
  • would not otherwise be undertaken in return for wages by an Australian resident (that is, it is a designated volunteer position), and
  • is genuinely voluntary (that is, no remuneration, either in cash or kind is received-board and lodging acceptable).

When can my visa be cancelled? 

Your visa can only be cancelled for specified reasons: Where the visa granted on basis of incorrect information or false documents; Failure to comply with visa conditions and other grounds; Bad character or other public interest grounds; Committing an offence under the Migration Act 1958.

What does "bad character" mean?

The actions that lead to failing the character test are very serious. A person will be deemed to be of bad character where:

  • They have a substantial criminal record (sentenced to jail for more than 12 months); or
  • There is a significant risk to the community that they would:
    • engage in criminal conduct; or
    • harass, molest, intimidate or stalk another person in Australia; or
    • engage in vilification or incite discord; or
    • be a danger to the Australian community (by being violence or threatening harm).

What are some offences under Australian Immigration law?

These include:

  • Working in breach of a visa condition;
  • Presenting false documents or making false or misleading statements to an officer;
  • Bringing non-citizens into or harbouring illegal entrants in Australia;
  • Taking part in a marriage arranged to secure a visa.

Academic Progress and Visas

I have been suspended from UNSW. What happens to my visa status?

This usually results in cancellation of your student visa because satisfactory attendance and progress is a condition of your visa.

Students who do not comply with the conditions of their visa (for example, by failing too many courses) will receive a breach notice from the University. If this happens, you have 28 days to report to the Department of Immigration and make submissions about the breach and the circumstances that led to the breach.


Debt and Visas

I am an international student. What happens if I owe money to UNSW?

University debt can affect your visa. Non-payment of your tuition fees can lead to the cancellation of your enrolment (which would breach conditions of your visa) and you will be sent home.

If you think that you will have difficulties paying your fees, you should contact UNSW Student Central (Financial Team). You may be able to pay under a payment plan if you can show evidence of financial hardship.

Students who owe money to the University will also be denied:

  • graduation
  • academic transcripts
  • access to computer labs
  • library services

For more information have a look at the UNSW website.

I am in Australia on a student visa and owe money to a friend. Can this debt jeopardise my visa?

No it cannot. The only way personal debts can be enforced in NSW is through the civil court system. Personal debts have nothing to do with the police or with the immigration system. You cannot be sent to jail for non-payment of a debt or have your visa cancelled.

Private or personal debt is not a matter considered by the Australian Department of Home Affairs. There is no provision in the Migration Act 1958 or any Australian law which allows for the cancellation of a temporary visa on the basis of a personal debt.

I owe money to my gym company. I have received a letter from a debt collector saying I will be reported to Immigration if I do not pay the money. Can they do this?

Absolutely not. 

Private financial issues and contracts have nothing to do with Australian immigration law. 

There are also legal limits to what debt collectors can and cannot do. A debt collector is never allowed to frighten or intimidate you, or misrepresent who they are or deceive you in any way (for example, lying about the amount you owe, what you have to do or what can happen if you do not pay).

Under the Australian Consumer Law, it is an offence to use "physical force or undue harassment or coercion" in connection with payment of goods and services (including collecting payment). If this has happened to you, please come in to see us. 


Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa

Brief fact sheets about this visa are available at the following links in Chinese and Hindi

This is a very popular visa option for students looking to stay in Australia after graduation to gain professional work experience. 

There are two 'streams' in this visa class. The majority of university students graduating with a bachelor, masters or higher degree will apply in the Post Study Work Stream. 

The Temporary Graduate visa is granted for two years for graduates with a bachelors or coursework masters degree, three years with a research masters degree and four years with a PhD or other doctoral degree. It gives you full working rights while in Australia.

How to apply for this visa

Apply through your online IMMI account. You can set an account up through this website: https://online.immi.gov.au/lus...

What are the academic requirements for this visa? 

You need to meet the Australian Study Requirement. This means that when you apply for the visa, you have completed a course or courses which have a total registered duration on CRICOS of at least 92 weeks (two academic years). This is the official duration of the degree. It usually isn’t the actual calendar time spent in classes and it is not the same as the number of units of credit in your degree. 

You can meet the Australian Study Requirement with more than one course but you should get advice first before you apply for the visa. 

You also need to have spent at least 16 calendar months physically studying in Australia, not including orientation. The 16 months starts from the first day of classes and ends when your course is officially completed - meaning when your exam and assessment results are released and the university has confirmed you have met the requirements for your degree. 

Online study completed outside of Australia can be counted toward the 16 month requirement currently due to the COVID-19 pandemic as long as you complete the study while you hold a valid student visa. You should also ask the university to provide you with Form 1545 so your overseas online study is counted.

What are the other requirements for this visa? 

When you apply for the visa you must have:

-        A letter of completion or Award Statement from the university and academic transcript

-        An Australian Federal Police Check for yourself and any member of your family (spouse, partner and children) who is included in your visa application who is 16 years or older. These police checks must be less than 12 months old when you apply for the visa. Don’t use any other criminal records check. It must be from the AFP. You can get your AFP check/s directly by applying through the AFP website above. You don't need to pay anyone else to do this for you. 

-        A letter and contract from a health insurance provider confirming you (and members of your family unit who will join you in Australia) have adequate arrangements for health insurance for this visa. This is different to your OSHC insurance. You need a new policy. This can be from your current insurer or a new one. 

We recommend you use the official government private health insurance comparison website - https://www.privatehealth.gov.... to compare health insurance options. Remember that some very low cost policies won't cover you or your family members for visits to a general practitioner, so it is worth comparing policies before signing a contract. 

You won't need to pay upfront for the whole policy. You'll pay either fortnightly or monthly.

-        An English language test which is less than 3 years old when you apply UNLESS you hold a passport from the USA, UK, Republic of Ireland, Canada or New Zealand.

-        Identity documents and travel documents. These should be originals or certified copies and in colour.

- Complete Form 80 (the detailed character assessment). You can also get this from the Home Affairs website. All applicants over 16 years old should complete this form. 

-        If you are adding family members, proof of your relationship such as a marriage certificate. Family members 16 years or older also need a police check, and all family must have health insurance coverage

When should I apply for this visa? 

You can apply for the visa once you have officially completed your studies and you have all the necessary documents and evidence ready so you meet the visa requirements. 

Please don't apply for this visa before you officially complete your university course. If you do that your application will be rejected and you will lose your application fee. 

Very important: 

You must hold a valid substantive visa (for example, a valid student visa) when you apply for the temporary graduate visa. We recommend that you must apply for this visa before your student visa expires. 

If you are interested in applying for the Temporary Graduate visa after you complete your studies and would like more detailed information, please watch this video presented by our staff. 


General visa advice including student visas, temporary visas and permanent residency

I need advice about my visa or getting permanent residency. Who can I talk to?

Arc can provide general advice about your visa options through our legal service. We can generally provide guidance with student visas, temporary work (476 and 485) visas, Global Talent visas and Skilled Independent or Skilled Nominated visas.

How do I find a registered migration agent?

You should always check that the person you are dealing with is a registered migration agent. It is illegal for unregistered persons to give migration advised. Ask to see their certificate of registration or check that they are listed on the Register of Agents.

Once you have decided on an agent, find out what costs are involved (you should get this in writing) and only sign an agreement with them once you understand all of the terms - it is very important that you know what will they do for you and what they expect from you.

For more information, contact the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority.

Arc's MARA migration agent registration: 1803474

MARA Code of Conduct for Registered Migration Agents:

https://www.mara.gov.au/media/...


Resources

UNSW International
www.international.unsw.edu.au/
Phone: 02 9385 4734
Email: international.student@unsw.edu.au

International Student Advisors from International Student Experience Unit (ISEU)
Book a consultation online (https://student.unsw.edu.au/co...) or by calling 02 9385 5333

Transport for NSW
Find out more about the Opal card here (https://transportnsw.info/tick...).

EM Assist
Contact Estate Management for your unique code for accessing international travel concessions
Phone: 02 9385 5111
Email: emassist@unsw.edu.au


Need more information?

If you are a UNSW student and Arc member, we can give you free legal advice. Send us an email or make an appointment through Arc Reception to come and see us!

Got Questions? We have answers!

Legal & Advocacy

P:(02) 9065 0900

E:advice@arc.unsw.edu.au

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