Migration & Visas

Please note: the Federal Government has recently announced a number of important changes to immigration laws which will commence in 2024. This page will updated regularly as those changes come into place. Please always refer to the Department of Home Affairs website for the very latest information. 

Navigating visas can be challenging. We have compiled our top tips for international students so that you can live, study and work in Australia legally and safely.

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 48 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. 

Address the Genuine Student Test in your application. You must be able to show that studying in Australia is the principal reason for your visa application. 

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). 

Currently the annual minimum amount you need to show for living costs is $24505 for singles and $8574 for a partner or spouse. These can be in the form of savings, grants or a payment 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 48 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 48 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 - 30 hours work
  • Week 3 - 30 hours work
  • Week 4 - 10 hours work.

In the fortnight comprising weeks 1 and 2 above (45 hours worked in that 14 day period) or in the fortnight comprising weeks 3 and 4 above (40 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 (60 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 48 hours per fortnight that I am allowed to work?

Yes you can volunteer and the hours will not count towards your 48 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 is the 'character test' in migration law?

To be granted an Australian visa, and to remain in Australia on that visa, a person needs to pass the 'character test' and be of good character while in Australia. 

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 notice from the University that their enrolment may be cancelled. If this happens, you need to contact the Department of Home Affairs as soon as possible to explain what has happened and explore your options, or leave Australia while your visa is still valid. 

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 your visa is cancelled. 

If you think that you will have difficulties paying your fees, you should contact the UNSW Fees Office. 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 contact us for advice. 

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 multiple '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

For most students the Temporary Graduate visa is granted for two years for graduates with a bachelors degree, three years with a coursework or research masters degree and four years with a PhD or other doctoral degree. However, graduates with certain degrees in areas of skill shortage are eligible for a two year extension of their visa grant from 1 July 2023. To see if your degree is eligible, visit this website

The 485 Temporary Graduate visa 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 if you applying with multiple courses. 

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. 

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. When you apply for your AFP check, make sure you select 'Commonwealth purpose' and Option 33 - Immigration as the reason for your application. 

- 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 year old when you apply UNLESS you hold a passport from the USA, UK, Republic of Ireland, Canada or New Zealand.

- Identity documents, travel documents and proof of address documents (such as a tenancy agreement). These should be originals or certified copies and scanned in colour if the originals are colour documents

- Some countries have a National Identity card system. If you have a passport from a country which has this, you will need to upload a copy of your national ID card. Your IMMI account will identify if you need to provide details of your national ID card.  

- 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. NOTE: You will be asked if there are 'members of your family unit' being included with your visa, or non-accompanying (i.e. they are not joining you in Australia). This does NOT mean your parents, brothers, sisters or other relatives. It means your de facto partner or spouse and children. 

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. 

Don't apply for this visa before you officially complete your university course and have been advised by the university that you have completed all course requirements. 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. 

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.

Who can give me migration and visa advice?

You should always check that the person you are dealing with is a registered migration agent or Australian lawyer. It is illegal for unregistered or unqualified persons to give migration advice. Ask to see their certificate of registration or check that they are listed on the Register of Agents or hold a current lawyer's practicing certificate in the Australian state you live in.

Once you have decided on an advisor 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 they will do for you and how they charge fees. 

For more information, contact the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority or the relevant law society in your state.


UNSW International
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

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