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A Guide To Student Visas

Applying to Australian institutions as an international student is easy, although it will take some time and careful planning. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered in this article.

There are several types of visa that might be suitable to you, but the Student Visa (Subclass 500) is usually the one students apply for and will be the focus of this article. For a comprehensive information please refer to the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs

What are the key requirements for a student visa?

So after much debate over whether to study at friendly Adelaide, sunny Brisbane, city living in Melbourne or where coast meets the city in Sydney, you’ve finally figured out which Australian city you want to study. The next step now is to get a student visa organised so you can actually make your way to Australia for your studies.

Now what are the key requirements for a Subclass 500 Student Visa? Here’s the main eligibility criteria you must fulfil when applying for a student visa.

  • Be enrolled in a course of study
  • Meet the Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirement
  • Meet the English language requirements
  • Meet the health and character requirements
  • Have enough money for the duration of your stay
  • Have Overseas Student Health Cover 
  • ​Make welfare arrangements if you are under 18 years

The student visa application time varies but the rule of thumb is to apply at least 6 weeks before your course starts if you’re outside of Australia. This also applies if you’re in Australia already as you never know what delays might happen. Better get it done sooner rather than later.

You will need several documents for your student visa application. We recommend you visit the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs for a tailored checklist on what documents you will need.

Let’s dive deeper into each of those aforementioned student visa requirements so you’ll know exactly what is needed and what to do.

​​Be enrolled in a course of study

​​Before applying, check the academic and English language entry requirements to ensure you are eligible. If you do not meet the entry requirements, you may need to consider a different course or applying for a bridging course or foundation program, which may increase your chances. Contact your education provider and ask about their application requirements and deadlines, as these will differ for each provider. And make a note of important deadlines to ensure you meet them.

International students usually apply directly to Australian institutions, either online or by post. You can usually find application forms to download from the institutions’ websites, or you may request the forms to be posted to you. Another option is to contact an education agent in your country or an overseas representative of the institution to which you are applying. Your application form will ask you which course(s) you are applying for and give you details of the documentation you need supply. 

The most common requirements are: 

  • your personal details 
  • certified proof of your level of English language proficiency
  • details of your previous academic qualifications, such as academic transcripts
  • your course preferences — the course(s) you are applying for
  • a summary of your employment experience (if applicable). 

If you are still completing your education, you can usually provide evidence of your most recent marks until it is possible to provide your final results. If the documents you supply are not in English, you must provide an official certified translation.  

Most institutions charge a non-refundable application fee that must be included with your application. And some institutions waive this fee when you apply online. 

Whether you are choosing to study at uni, or to learn English, make sure you check out the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS), to help make the right decision for your future. 

Meet the Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirement

The GTE requirement basically means all student visa applicants must show that their main reason for coming over to Australia temporarily is to gain a quality education and not to maintain ongoing residency here.

A number of factors are considered during the assessment of the GTE requirement and include:

  • Your personal circumstances in your home country
  • The potential circumstances of coming to Australia
  • The value of your studies to your future
  • Your immigration history

Applicants will also be required to write a personal statement in English addressing the GTE requirement and explaining why you should be be allowed to study in Australia. If you’re not comfortable writing it in English, you can write it in your own language and submit a translated version with your application.

When writing your personal statement, make sure you present your case precisely and honestly with plenty of evidence to back your reasoning. Here are some suggestions to help strengthen your personal statement:

  • How will the program you’ve enrolled in benefit your future?
  • How is the program you’ve enrolled in related to your previous studies?
  • What do you know about your enrolled program and your education provider?
  • If there was a gap in your studies, explain the reasons why you couldn’t maintain your enrolment.
  • How will studying in Australia benefit your future?
  • Why have you chosen Australia as your study destination?

For a detailed breakdown about the GTE requirement, check out the Department of Home Affairs website.

Meet the English language requirements

Most students will be required to meet English language requirements in order to gain entry into their course. Perhaps not too surprising as almost all uni courses in Australia are in English.

So how do you meet this English language requirement?

You will have to provide evidence of English language proficiency in the form of English language test scores. There are 5 English language test scores that are accepted in Australia for student visa applications:

  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) internet-based test
  • Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic
  • Occupational English Test (OET)

Each test has a minimum score you must achieve in order meet the student visa English language requirement and you must have taken a test within 2 years before applying for a student visa.

English Language Test providerMinimum scoreMinimum score and at least 10 weeks English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS)Minimum score and at least 20 weeks ELICOS
International English Language Testing System (IELTS)5.554.5
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) internet-based test463532
Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)162154147
Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic423630
Occupational English Test (OET)B for each componentN/AN/A

There are exceptions to the student visa English language requirement and you won’t need to provide evidence of English language proficiency if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • Students who have completed at least 5 years of study in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa or the Republic of Ireland
  • Citizens and passport holders of the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand or the Republic of Ireland
  • Students who have successfully completed the Senior Secondary Certificate of Education or study at Certificate IV level or higher in Australia within 2 years of applying for a student visa
  • Students enrolled full time in school studies as a principal course (including secondary exchange programs), postgraduate research or a standalone ELICOS program
  • Foreign Affairs or Defence sponsored students.

Meet the health and character requirements

Australia is pretty strict when it comes to health and character standards so you’ll have to meet strict minimum requirements before being granted a student visa.

To meet the health requirement, you must not have any disease or condition that is:

You may be required to undergo health examinations in order to meet the health requirement and your results will be assessed by a Medical Officer of the Commonwealth (MOC). As for what health examinations you will need, check out the Department of Home Affairs website.

As for the character requirement, this is basically a test to make sure you’re a good person before being granted a student visa. Pretty straightforward.

Having said that, you may not pass the character requirement if:

  • You have a substantial criminal record;
  • You have been associated with people or groups that the Department suspects of being involved in criminal activities;
  • Your past or present criminal or general conduct is of concern to the Department; or
  • The Department is concerned that while you are in Australia, there is a significant risk that you may:
    • Be involved in criminal conduct,
    • Harass, molest, intimidate or stalk another person,
    • Vilify part of the Australian community,
    • Incite discord in the Australian community, or
    • Represent a danger to the Australian community.

For more character requirement info, check out the Department of Home Affairs website.

Have enough money for the duration of your stay

As it says on the tin, ​you need to have enough money to cover your tuition, travel, and living costs for the duration of your stay. There are a few ways to show that you have enough money for your stay.

  • You can show deposits of money from a financial institution, loans from the government or a financial institution, or scholarships.
  • You can provide evidence that your parents or partner had a personal income of at least AUD$62,222 in the 12 months before applying for your student visa.

As for how much money you would need, you need enough to cover:

  • Your travel
  • 12 months of your course fees (or pro rata fees, if your course is less than 12 months)
  • 12 months of living costs for you and any family members who come with you to Australia (or pro rata fees, if you are staying less than 12 months)
  • school fees for any school-age children who accompany you (or pro rata fees, if the child will be at school for less than 12 months)

The Department of Home Affairs website has a good little guide that goes over how much money you will need.

Have Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)

When you apply for a visa as an international student, you’ll be required to take out OSHC, which is an insurance designed to help you cover the cost of medical bills in the case you become unwell or injured during your stay.

OSHC is offered by certain insurers under a Deed of Agreement with the Department of Health to provide adequate health insurance to students at a reasonable cost. Only a small number of registered health insurers offer OSHC: 

Health Insurer Insurers website 
ahm OSHC ahmoshc.com 
Allianz Global Assistance (Peoplecare Health) allianzassistancehealth.com.au/en/student-visa-oshc/  
BUPA Australiabupa.com.au/health-insurance/oshc 
CBHS International Health cbhsinternationalhealth.com.au/overseas-students-oshc 
Medibank Private medibank.com.au 
NIB OSHC nib.com.au 

​We actually have an entire FAQ dedicated to all things OSHC, so check it out over here for all your OSHC questions.

Make welfare arrangements if you are under 18 years

​​If you are applying for a student visa and you are under 18 years of age, you must have adequate welfare arrangements in place while you are in Australia. If you will be 18 years of age when you arrive in Australia, you must tell us as you might not need to provide some of this information.

Check out the Department of Home Affairs website for an in-depth explanation into what you need if you’re under 18 years old and want to apply for a student visa.

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