Can I study in Australia on my Working Holiday Visa, how to apply & what are the new student visa rules of Australia? 

A Working Holiday Visa (WHV) to Australia is designed for applicants who are seeking to travel to Australia for a holiday for an extended period, with the option to work (subject to limitations in certain circumstances).

As a WHV holder, you would also be permitted to undertake study or training for up to four months on each WHV that you hold (that is, up to four months study in the first year, and an additional four months during the term of your second year WHV). Although study is permitted on a WHV, it must be incidental to the principal purpose (being to spend a holiday in Australia) and not your primary intention in seeking to visit Australia. If your primary purpose is to engage in study in Australia, a Subclass 500 Student Visa would be a more appropriate option for you to consider applying for.

A Student Visa is designed specifically for applicants intending to study in Australia as their primary purpose. A Student visa is a temporary visa that can be granted for up to a maximum period of five years (the actual visa term will depend on the duration of the course/s selected). You can choose from a wide range of courses and subject areas from several course providers and education sectors including vocational, higher education and postgraduate research, as well as non-award and English courses. The student visa programme is also open to school-age children. You can also package two or more courses on a single student visa where there is a progression from one course to another.

Eligible family members can accompany you to Australia as visa dependents. They can apply either by making a combined application with you, or later apply separately as subsequent applicants once you already hold a Student Visa.

As a Student Visa holder, you can work on a restricted basis, with up to 40 hours per fortnight permitted once the course commences (this limitation does not apply when the course is out of session, e.g. during scheduled course breaks). If the course of study is a Masters by Research or a Doctorate course, you may work unlimited hours once your course has commenced. Work that is a registered component of the course is not subject to the work limitation.

You can also travel to and from Australia on an unrestricted basis during the term of your Student Visa.

Student Visa changes in July 2016

The Student Visa programme underwent significant changes commencing from 1 July 2016, when the Government introduced the Simplified Student Visa Framework (SSVF). The aim was to simplify the process for genuine students, reduce regulation and introduce a more targeted risk-based approach to ensure that the integrity of the immigration system is maintained.

The two key changes introduced under the SSVF were:

  • Reducing the number of student visa subclasses from eight to two. This was facilitated by the introduction of a new Subclass 500 Student Visa for students and a Subclass 590 Student Guardian Visa for student guardians; and
  • establishing a single immigration risk framework for all student visa applications.

Under this new system, overseas students who seek to study in Australia can apply for a Subclass 500 Student Visa, regardless of the education sector (before the changes came into effect, there were separate visa subclasses for each education sector, e.g. vocational education and training, higher education and postgraduate research were all separate visas).

To be eligible for a student visa, you must demonstrate that you are seeking to enter Australia for the purpose of study and that you will abide by the conditions of your student visa.

How can you apply for a Student Visa?

Before you apply for a Student Visa, you should assess your eligibility to ensure that you meet valid visa lodgement and grant requirements. Some types of evidence that needs to be provided with the application are determined according to the country and provider immigration risk model. Under the SSVF, the combined immigration risk outcomes of the applicant’s education provider and country of citizenship are used to guide the level of financial and English language evidence that each student visa applicant needs to provide with their visa application.

The following indicators are used by the Department to determine the risk ratings (and therefore level of evidence required) that are allocated to each education provider and country:

  • rate of visa cancellations (25% weighting);
  • rate of refusals due to a fraud reason (40% weighting);
  • rate of refusals (excluding fraud) (10% weighting);
  • rate of student visa holders becoming unlawful non-citizens (15% weighting); and
  • rate of Subsequent Protection Visa applications (10% weighting).

Under policy, country and provider immigration risk ratings are intended to be updated approximately every six months (in March and September each year).

Streamlined evidentiary requirements apply to students identified as being at a lower immigration risk and are generally able to meet financial capacity requirements via a declaration in their application. English language proficiency requirements are also taken as having been met if they have satisfied their education provider as part of enrolling in the course.

Students who are identified as having a higher immigration risk outcome are required to provide additional documentary evidence of their financial and English language capacity with their visa application; these are referred to as regular evidentiary requirements.

Be aware that the immigration risk ratings for education providers and countries are not publicly disclosed. As a guide to the likely financial capacity and English language proficiency requirements that will apply, you can enter your details (intended education provider and country of citizenship) into the online Document Checklist Tool which is available on the Department of Home Affairs website.

To qualify for a Student Visa, the following are the key requirements that must be satisfied:

Course enrolment

You must enrol in a full-time registered course and submit a Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) as part of your student visa application. If you are applying from within Australia, you can supply a Letter of Offer (LOE) at time of lodgement but the CoE must be provided for the visa to be granted.

To enrol in a course, you must meet the entry requirements as set by the education provider for your selected course.  This can include having completed pre-requisite subjects or a qualification, work experience and/or an English language test.

Financial capacity

You must have genuine access to sufficient funds to cover costs and expenses for yourself and for any accompanying family applicants for the duration of your intended stay in Australia, and you must declare in your application that you have sufficient funds available for the duration of your entire stay in Australia.

You may be required to demonstrate that you have genuine access to sufficient funds to cover your living costs for the first 12 months of your stay in Australia, your first annual course fee and your travel costs (course fees and living expenses are pro-rated where the stay is for less than 12 months). If family members are included, higher minimum thresholds apply.

The current minimum financial thresholds for living costs are as follows:

  • Student (primary visa applicant): $21,041
  • Partner/Spouse: $7,362
  • Child: $3,152

Acceptable sources of funds include money deposit(s) with a financial institution, a loan from a financial institution, a government loan or a scholarship. The funds do not need to belong to you or be in your name, but you must have genuine access to these funds for them to be included in meeting the financial capacity requirement. The relationship of the individual or organisation providing the funds to you will be considered by the Department in assessing whether you have genuine access to them. If required, you will need to provide evidence of your relationship with the person providing the funds, their identity documents and evidence of any financial support they have provided to you or to another student visa holder in the past. If a business entity is providing you with financial support, supply evidence that the business is operating.

You can also meet this requirement by demonstrating that the annual personal income of your spouse, de facto partner or parents meets the prescribed threshold, which is currently set at $62,222. If your spouse or de facto partner is included in the application, the annual income threshold is $72,592. As evidence, you will need to provide official government documentation (e.g. a tax assessment) which has been issued within the 12 months before the application is made. Bank statements or direct evidence from an employer will not be accepted as evidence for this purpose.

Travel costs are set at $2,000 if you are applying from outside Australia, or $1,000 if the application is lodged onshore. Additional amounts apply to certain countries where travel costs are significantly higher. You should allow $2,500 for travel costs if you are applying from East or Southern Africa, and $3,000 if you are applying from West Africa.

If family members are included, you must include the travel costs for each member of your family unit included in the application.

You must also demonstrate that you have genuine access to funds to cover school fees for school-age dependants for the first 12 months, totalling $8,296 per child (pro-rated where the stay is for less than 12 months). If you are a PhD student, you are not required to demonstrate capacity to meet school costs if you provide evidence of any dependent children having been enrolled in an Australian government school (as Australian government schools exempt children of PhD students from paying school fees).

If you have received an Australian Commonwealth Government scholarship, including as a Foreign Affairs and Defence sponsored students, and have enrolled your child in an Australian government school where the fees have been waived, the financial requirement regarding school fees also does not apply (provided you supply documents evidencing enrolment).

English language

You must provide evidence to demonstrate that you meet the English language requirement if you are subject to regular evidentiary requirements. If streamlined evidentiary requirements apply to you, evidence must only be provided if requested to do so by the Department.

To meet the English language requirement, applicants must provide evidence of having completed one of the following prescribed English language tests and achieve the prescribed minimum test score:

The test must have been taken within two years of lodgement of the visa application (or two years before visa grant, where applicable).

An exemption applies if you are a citizen and passport holder from the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand or the Republic of Ireland. If you have completed at least five years’ study in one of these countries, in addition to Australia and South Africa, you will also be exempt.

Other exemptions include the successful completion of requirements for a Senior Secondary Certificate of Education in a course that was conducted in Australia and in English within two years of lodgement; enrolment in a registered post-graduate research course (as the principal course); or if you are a Foreign Affairs, Defence Student or a Secondary exchange student.

Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE)

One of the most important aspects of a student visa application is the GTE requirement. You must demonstrate that your intention as a student visa holder is to reside temporarily in Australia and to comply with your Student Visa conditions, having regard to:

  • the circumstances in your home country;
  • your potential circumstances in Australia;
  • the value of the course to your future;
  • your immigration history; and
  • other relevant matters.

The aim of the GTE requirement is to ensure that the student visa programme is used as intended, that is, to grant a visa only to genuine applicants who are seeking to study in Australia temporarily. It is not designed for international students to maintain ongoing residency in Australia. The GTE requirement is one way to help identify applicants who may be using the programme for reasons other than to gain an education in Australia.

You must provide a personal statement addressing the GTE requirement and accompanying supporting evidence. Statements should not be generic; they need to be personalised and explain your individual circumstances. The Department will assess whether you meet the GTE requirement based on a number of specified factors identified in Ministerial Direction 69.

In making its assessment, the Department will consider the following:

Your circumstances

  • circumstances in your home country and your potential circumstances in Australia;
  • the value of the course to your future; and
  • circumstances indicating that the Student Visa is primarily sought to maintain residence in Australia.

Situation in your home country (or country of residence)

  • reason/s for not studying in your home country or region if a similar course is available there;
  • ties to your home country that support an intention to return after study is completed;
  • your economic situation;
  • any military service commitments; and
  • political and civil unrest.

Your potential situation in Australia

  • ties to Australia that act as a strong incentive to stay in Australia (e.g. family and community ties);
  • level of knowledge of the proposed course and education provider;
  • previous study and qualifications;
  • planned living arrangements; and
  • financial stability.

Value of the course to your future

  • if the course is consistent with your current level of education;
  • if the course is relevant to past or proposed future employment in your home country or a third country; and
  • expected salary and other benefits in your home country or a third country obtained with your qualifications from the proposed course of study.

Your immigration history

  • previous visa applications to Australia or other countries;
  • visa refusals or cancellations; and
  • if you are a minor, the Department will consider the intentions of your parent, legal guardian or spouse.

As a guide, the following information and supporting documents should be provided to demonstrate that you meet the GTE requirement (keep in mind that your statement and evidence will be based on your own personal circumstances):

Previous study

  • academic transcripts to demonstrate your qualifications;
  • where you studied (provide name/s of education provider/s);
  • duration of study; and
  • Certificate/Degrees/Diplomas issued to you as evidence of completion of qualifications and/or subjects.

Gap in previous study

If there are gaps in your education history, provide reasons and/or evidence to explain why this is the case.

Current employment

Provide details and evidence in relation to:

  • your current employer, including their business address and the name and contact details for a person whom the Department can contact to confirm the circumstances of your employment;
  • the period of your employment; and
  • details of your position.

Ties to your home country or country of residence

Provide evidence of financial, family or social ties. You need to demonstrate that you have significant incentives to return home by the conclusion of your student visa period.

Economic situation in home country or country of residence

Provide the following:

  • documents that demonstrate your employment and/or business activities in the 12-month period before lodgement of your application;
  • potential employment offers (including salary and other benefits) as a result of completing the intended course/s in Australia; and
  • income tax return/s and/or bank statements.

Employment in a third country

Provide information and/or evidence pertaining to potential employment offers (including salary and other benefits) that may be available to you as a result of completing the intended course/s in Australia.

Make your statement as comprehensive and detailed as possible and always provide strong supporting evidence to back-up your claims. Provide this information upfront at the time of lodgement of your application to prevent the Department having to follow-up with you and thus delaying the processing of your application. Failure to provide all required information can also result in your application being refused (i.e. the Department is not obligated to follow up on any missing information and/or documents; they can simply refuse your application).

Health insurance

You must arrange for adequate health insurance to cover you and all your accompanying family members for the duration of your stay in Australia (unless an exemption applies). Overseas Student Health Insurance (OSHC) is accepted for this purpose.

Health and Character

Health examinations for you and all your visa dependants are required. Police clearances must also be provided for all applicants aged 16 years and over.

What is the application process for a student visa?

Once you have determined that you meet all relevant visa application lodgement and grant requirements, you can then proceed to lodge your student visa application. You can apply either from within Australia or offshore (applications made in Australia are subject to additional requirements regarding the visa held at that time).

The application is to be lodged online (except in certain circumstances where a paper form is permitted), together with all required documents.

Australia’s migrations laws are complex, and each case is different. There are also several terms which are defined in the migration provisions (and whose meanings may differ from their ordinary usage). We recommend that you seek professional advice if you are considering applying for a visa to Australia, as being fully informed will give you the best chance of achieving a successful outcome to your case. A migration professional can help you to do this.

For up to date advice on Student Visas and to explore other potential visa options to meet your purpose and needs in seeking to travel to Australia, book your confidential consultation with a migration agent in Adelaide. PAX Migration Australia is a leading immigration advice service based in Adelaide.

Student Visa Australia



Australian Government, Department of Home Affairs, Immigration and Citizenship – Education Program – Evidence Levels

Australian Government, Department of Home Affairs, Immigration and Citizenship – Student visa (subclass 500) – Genuine temporary entrant requirement