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Australia Student Visa (Subclass 500) Important Information

As a popular destination of international students, Australia merged several student visa subclasses into one. With the simplified structure, apply for a Subclass 500 Visa if you want to study full-time in an education institution.

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Australia Student Visa (Subclass 500) Important Information
Updated February 7, 2018 | Australia

We're glad you're considering Australia as an education destination! Was it the fact that there are 22,000 duly registered courses offered in 1,100 institutions?  Or was it because 5 Australian cities ranked in the top 30 of the QS Best Student Cities 2016?  Or was it perhaps because in the University System Ranking, Australia ranked 9th in the world, ahead of Germany, New Zealand and Japan?

Whatever your reason for studying in Australia is, you'll be happy to know that the application procedure has never been as simple as it is now.

By consolidating various subclasses of visas for international students into one (Subclass 500), the government of Australia has made it easier for people to study in the country.  While protocol may have been modified, the general procedure has remained the same and there are three main requirements for international students:

  • You should have been accepted for full-time study in a course of study registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students or CRICOS;
  • You must be at least 6 years old.  If you are YOUNGER than 18, you and your parents or sponsor must have made appropriate accommodation and welfare arrangements (or how you will be taken care of) for your entire length of stay in Australia;
  • You must have health insurance.

Be sure you know what Secure English Language Test to apply for.  Read up on the English language proficiency requirement for Australian international students.

What is considered a "Full Time Program" of Study?

As an international student, you must maintain full time enrollment. You will be considered in breach of your student visa conditions if you don't. 

There may be some extenuating circumstances and you will be permitted to enroll with a reduced study load but requests will have to be approved for every semester.  And you should be careful in applying to take fewer academic subjects.  If you do not complete your course within the expected course or visa duration, you may have to apply for another student visa.

Do you intend to work while studying in Australia as an international student?  Be sure that you know the regulations concerning the work you intend to do.

In addition to enrolling in a full-time study program, you must maintain satisfactory course progress for each study period for the duration of the course (Visa condition 8202).   Your academic status will be determined at the end of each semester.  If your status is terminated, this will be taken as not achieving satisfactory course progress and your case will be reported to DIBP for breach of student visa conditions. This can lead to visa cancellation.

Get to know the student visa conditions applicable to Australian international students before making plans to stay on in Australia.

Validity of the visa

A student visa may be granted for up to five years, but it could be longer or shorter under some circumstances. It may be shorter for primary school-aged students with a maximum visa validity of two years. The visa grant could be longer if:

  • You are enrolled in a course that can take up to 6 years to finish, such an architectural degree;
  • There is a reasonable course progression. This is very clear in course packages when one program is the pre-requisite for the next one.

Check the migration options for international students before you commit to a course of action after you graduate.

To help you plan what you may do post-course completion, just use the following guidelines:

  • If your course is longer than 10 months and finishes at the end of the Australian academic year (November – December), your SC500 visa will usually be granted to March 15 of the following year;
  • If your course is longer than 10 months but finishes at the end of a January - October term, your SC500 visa will usually be granted for two months longer than the duration of your course.
  • If you enrolled in a course with a length of study that is ‚Äč10 months or less, the duration of your SC500 visa is usually for one month longer than the length of your program.

Visa Application Fee

As of January 1 2018, fees for student visa applicants (in Australian Dollars) for Subclass 500 are:

Base application charge  from $560
Additional applicant charge 18 and over $420
Additional applicant charge under 18 $140

You must be enrolled in a course of study that is CRICOS-registered.  From the table above, you can see that you will need an Overseas Student Confirmation of Enrollment for each intended course of study with your visa application.  You may not need the confirmation though if you are:

  • Sponsored by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  You must however, provide a letter of support;
  • Sponsored by the Australian Department of Defence.  You will have to provide a letter of support instead;
  • A secondary exchange student.  You will be asked to provide an Acceptance Advice of Secondary Exchange Student (AASES) form;
  • A postgraduate research student required to remain in Australia for marking of your thesis.  In this situation, you must provide a letter from your education provider.

Your accompanying family members aged 18 years or older can study in Australia for up to three months. If they want to study for more than three months, they must apply for their own student visa.

Australian Packaged Courses

You can apply to enroll and complete two or more courses on your Student visa (subclass 500) where there is clear progression from one course to another, known as course packaging.

The final course that you will take as part of your package of courses is your main (or principal) course of study.  Regardless of how many courses there are in your enrolment package, the main course of study determines your financial and English language evidentiary requirements. In addition, you must be enrolled in all of the courses.

Genuine Temporary Entrant Criteria

To ensure that applicants for a student intend to study, continue to maintain their lawful status in Australia by adhering to the conditions of their visa, the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection (or DIBP) set some eligibility requirements for applicants to meet. 

These conditions were also developed to further assess the applicants' genuine intention to study and not:

  • Bypass the longer wait for a decision for skilled immigration or family sponsorship in an offshore application or;
  • Maintain ongoing residency in the country.

The Genuine Temporary Entrant (or GTE) criterion is used to validly rule out the risks to immigration law of student visa holders.  It was not designed to exclude students who may develop skills needed in Australia post-course completion and eventually apply for skilled immigration. 

As such, the GTE requirement applies to all applicants for a student visa and is the main consideration by a DIBP Officer for evaluating whether an applicant intends to live temporarily in Australia.

To ensure that you are a GTE, a Visa Officer will consider the following factors:

  • Your circumstances in your home country.  For example, are you likely to be better off financially in Australia even if you not in lawful status?
  • Your immigration history.  Any adverse immigration history (such as breaking a visa condition) may be taken against your application.
  • The value of the program you intend to take with regard to your career and future opportunities. 
  • Your potential circumstances in Australia.  Some of the important points include the following:
    • Is your intended programme useful in your career?
    • Is your intended programme related to your academic background or work history?
  • If you are younger than 18, the intention of your parent, legal guardian or partner.
  • Any other relevant matter.

And remember in Australia, the course/study program you enroll in and work opportunities are directly linked.   This is important because some programs offer direct pathways to onshore (in Australia) skilled visa options. 

Have you compiled the correct documents?  Review your student visa application to ensure you meet Australia's international student financial capacity requirements

Health Insurance

Students must have adequate health insurance while in Australia. This can be shown by obtaining Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) which provides medical and hospital insurance.  You should remember the policy number since this information must be included in the visa application,

Where the education provider arranges for OSHC coverage, the student will need to know the name of your health insurance provider, the date that the policy starts and finishes and should be aware of the terms and conditions of that health insurance policy. 

The current approved OSHC providers are:

  • Australian Health Management;
  • Peoplecare Health Limited (Allianz Global Assistance offers OSHC products and policies under an arrangement with Peoplecare);
  • BUPA Australia;
  • Nib Health Funds Limited;
  • Medibank Private.

Health and Character Checks

As part of the visa application process, applicants over the age of 16 need to submit to health examinations and character checks (NBI clearance as well as police clearance from the country or countries where the applicant has lived or resided for at least one (1) year in the last 10 years.

The certificate must cover the period of time from the issue date back to the age the applicant is considered an adult, or must cover the whole time the applicant was in a country or countries. For immigration purposes a police certificate is deemed to be valid for 12 months from the issue date.

You will be notified if a medical and/or x-ray examination is required. When you receive that, you will have to make arrangements with a panel doctor of your choice.  A panel doctor is a doctor or a radiologist who has been approved by the Australian Government as a member of the panel to perform medical examinations on visa applicants who have applied from outside Australia.

Because the health assessment process can take several weeks to complete it is recommended that the applicant choose to have the health examination with designated and authorized panel of physicians prior to lodging your visa application.

About the Authors

Crispin Aranda

Crispin Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda is an established International Visa Conselor and Immigrant Advocate. He is the president of IVC and is in several migration radio programs.

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer S. Aranda is the COO of IVC Immigrant Visa Center, Inc.

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