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How to Get a Visa to Study in Australia

You will need an Australian student visa if you want to go to school there. You must be able to show the Department of Home Affairs that you meet the most important requirements for an Australian student visa:

  • Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirement
  • Financial requirements
  • What you need to know about English
  • Needs for health and character

You’ll also need to fill out an application form for an Australian student visa, pay the visa application fee, and maybe go to an interview. Seem like a lot to keep in mind? Here’s all the information you need.

What is a GTE, or a Genuine Temporary Entrant?

The Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirement was put in place in November 2011. It says that the person applying for a visa must be able to show that they really want to stay in Australia temporarily to study or to stay with a student as a dependent (like a spouse or child) or as a guardian. The following things will be taken into account by the people who make decisions at the Department of Home Affairs:

  • What’s going on in your home country?
  • Things that could happen to you in Australia
  • How important your course is to your future
  • Your past as an immigrant
  • You may be asked to go to an interview at the Australian embassy or consulate near you so that they can figure out if you meet the GTE requirement. Some people who want a visa will only have to fill out a form.

Filling out an application form for an Australian student visa

All international students apply for the same visa, the Student Visa (Subclass 500), which you must do online.

Before you apply for a visa, you’ll need a Confirmation of Enrolment (COE) or a Letter of Offer that says you’ve been accepted into a course on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions of Courses (CRICOS). The COE will be an online code that you will need to enter in the right place on the online visa application. You might also have to pay a down payment on your tuition.

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After that, you can change your course to study at the same or a higher level in Australia, but you’ll need to get a new visa if you change to a lower level on the Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) or a non-AQF level course (unless you’re switching from a PhD to a master’s). You can also combine your studies by taking two or more courses at the same time on your Student Visa (Subclass 500), as long as they build on each other.

Australian student visa requirements

The Australian student visa requirements say that you need to show proof of the following when you fill out your online visa application form:

Financial requirements: Proof that you have enough money to pay for school, travel, and living expenses. From February 2018, the amount you need to show you have for living costs (not including tuition and travel) is set at AU$21,041 (about US$14,185) for a year. If you have a spouse or children who depend on you, you will also need to show proof that you can pay for their living costs, such as school fees. You can also show proof that your spouse or parents are willing to support you and make at least AU$62,222 (about US$41,949) a year.

English proficiency requirement: If you’re not from an English-speaking country and haven’t studied for at least five years in an English-speaking country, you’ll need to show that you can speak English at the required level. The IELTS, TOEFL iBT, Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic, and Cambridge Advanced English are all tests that can be used (CAE). Whether you want to start a full degree, take a foundation course, or sign up for a preliminary English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students will determine what score you need (ELICOS).

Health requirements: Some students may have to take a medical and/or a radiological check-up to prove they are healthy (this applies, for example, to those who intend to train as a doctor, dentist or nurse). If the Australian immigration department tells you to, you must go to an appointment with a doctor who has been approved.

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All students are required to buy Overseas Student Health Cover, except those from Sweden, Belgium, or Norway (OSHC). You can buy this coverage 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 price of this health insurance will depend on who you buy it from and how long you buy it for.

Students from Sweden who have health insurance through Kammarkollegiet will not need to buy OSHC. Students from Belgium and Norway do not have to buy OSHC as part of their visa requirements, either.

Character requirements: In order to get an Australian student visa, you have to have a good reputation. This includes a check of your criminal record to make sure you don’t have a long list of crimes. You might also need to get a police certificate or a police statement, and you might be asked to fill out a Character Statutory Declaration Form.

Australian student visa documents

On the Department of Home Affairs website, there is a “document checklist” that will tell you what documents you need based on your situation. Students usually have to hand in the following:

  • Form for an Australian student visa has been filled out (157A)
  • Paid the visa application fee, which is AU$650 (about US$438) in most cases at the moment.
  • Copy of the biodata page of a passport (some students may be asked to physically provide their passport)
  • Letter of Offer or Certificate of Enrollment
  • Proof that there are enough funds
  • Proof that you have health insurance
  • The results of the English test
  • Results of a criminal record check
  • Four recent photos the size of a passport

After you have gathered your supporting documents and scanned them, you will need to create an account and apply using the online ImmiAccount system.

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For half of visa applications, the process takes four weeks. If you study in Australia for more than 10 months and finish at the end of an Australian academic year (usually mid-December), your visa will usually be good until March 15 of the following year. If your course lasts longer than 10 months and ends between January and October, your visa will usually be good for another two months.

In some cases, you may be able to apply for another visa when your course is over (consult the Department of Home Affairs website for more details)

Using your student visa

You can use your student visa to enter Australia up to 90 days before the start of your course. You must tell your education provider where you will be living within seven days of your arrival. You must also let them know within seven days if your address changes.

To make up for a lack of workers, work hours for student visas have been temporarily cut back. Students can work more than 40 hours every two weeks in any field, and they can start working before the start of their course of study.

When getting a master’s by research or a PhD, you can work as much as you want. Keep in mind that the limit does not include any work you have to do for your course. Volunteer or unpaid work doesn’t count toward the 40-hour limit either, as long as it’s for a non-profit organization and helps the community.

While you have a student visa, you have to do certain things: stay enrolled in a CRICOS-registered course, go to class regularly, make good progress in your course, and keep your OSHC health insurance. There are also rules about your visa that you and your dependents must follow. If you break a rule, your visa could be taken away.

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