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Covid-19 and international student visas

Update: New visa arrangements for students impacted by COVID-19

On 20 July 2020 the Australian government announced that arrangements will be made for student visa holders and applicants who have been impacted by the COVID-19 travel restrictions.

These arrangements will require legislative changes so the exact details are currently unknown, but they will allow for these 5 changes:

  1. Processing of applications lodged outside of Australia will recommence so that students will be able to travel as soon as the Australian border reopens.
  2. International students who were unable to complete their studies within their original visa validity due to COVID-19 will be able to lodge further student visa applications free of charge.
  3. Current student visa holders who are studying online outside of Australia due to COVID-19 will be able to use that study to count towards the Australian study requirement for a 485 post-study work visa.
  4. Graduates who held a student visa will be eligible to apply for a 485 post-study work visa from outside Australia, if they are unable to return due to COVID-19.
  5. Applicants who are unable to provide English language results because COVID-19 has disrupted access to these services, will be given extra time to meet this requirement.

SUPRA will keep you updated with all changes as they’re released.

Updated: 21 July 2020


International students currently working in supermarkets, in aged care, and as nurses are temporarily able to extend their working hours beyond the maximum of 40 hours a fortnight during session to help support these sectors.

If you work in a supermarket your permitted working hours will return to a maximum 40 hours a fortnight during session on 1 May 2020. No expiry date on extended working hours has yet been set for international students working in aged care and as nurses.

Accessing superannuation

International students in financial hardship who have been in Australia longer than 12 months will be able to access up to $10,000 of their Australian superannuation this financial year (before 30 June 2020).

International students in their first 12 months will not be eligible on the basis of their visa application commitment that they had sufficient funds to support their stay in Australia for this period.

Find out more about eligibility and how to apply.

Travel restrictions

From 9pm Friday 20 March 2020, only Australian citizens, residents and immediate family members can travel to Australia.

In addition, from 9pm Friday 28 March 2020, all travellers arriving in Australia are required to undertake a mandatory 14-day quarantine at designated facilities (for example, a hotel), in their port of arrival.

Travel restrictions are subject to change. Please check the Department of Home Affairs website for updates.


My student visa is expiring soon and I’m in Australia

You must apply for a new visa before your current visa expires. If your current visa expires and your new visa application hasn’t been processed yet, you may be granted a bridging visa that will keep you lawful until a decision is made on your visa application.

My student visa is expiring soon and I’m not in Australia

You’ll need to apply for a new visa once the travel restrictions are lifted.

I’m outside Australia on a bridging visa. What should I do?

If you’re overseas on a bridging visa do not attempt to travel to Australia. If your bridging visa expires you’ll need to apply for another visa when the travel restrictions are lifted to allow you to enter Australia. Bridging visas can’t be granted if you’re outside Australia.

I’m outside Australia and I want to apply/have applied for the 485 Post-Study Work visa

This visa is popular among international students as it allows you to stay in Australia and work for a few years. More information on the 485 visa can be found on the Department of Home Affairs website.

Travel restrictions may impact some students’ eligibility for this visa by affecting their ability to meet Australian Study Requirements, or make the application within 6 months of course completion. The Department of Home Affairs have said that they will consider possible future concessions, on a case-by-case basis.

Some important points:

  • You must be in Australia to apply for the 485 visa and you must also be in Australia when it is granted. You also need to apply within 6 months of course completion.
  • If your current visa expires whilst you are outside Australia and you want to apply for, or have already applied for, the 485 visa you’ll need to apply for another visa when the travel restrictions are lifted to allow you to enter Australia.


Studying online as an international student

From Monday 23 March teaching and learning is being delivered online, with a few exceptions for some clinical placements and workshops.

Will the change to studying online breach my visa?

No. The change in course delivery from face-to-face to online will not affect compliance with your visa conditions. 

Do I have to stay in Australia to study online?

No. You will be able to study online for the rest of Semester 1, 2020 without being in Australia. BUT, if you do return home you might find that further travel bans will impact your future study for the remainder of 2020. You may also find that it impacts your ability to meet the Australian Study Requirements for a Post-Study Work visa. Before you make this decision, contact our Legal Service for advice.

I reduced my study load this semester but my student visa will now expire before I can finish. What should I do?

If reducing your study load has impacted your completion time you’ll need to apply for another student visa before your current student visa expires so you can stay in Australia longer and finish your course.

I suspended my studies but have remained in Australia. What will happen to my student visa?

If you suspended your studies, and it wasn’t on compelling and compassionate reasons, and you remain in Australia, then the Department of Home Affairs may cancel your student visa. Contact our Legal Service for advice.

I didn’t want to study online so I suspended. Will it affect my ability to come back and finish my course?

The University advises that students who suspended or deferred due to the current situation will not have any adverse inference attached by the Australian government when they apply for another student visa to return and complete their course.

Will my qualification be recognised by the Chinese Government if I study online?

The University has advised that they have obtained confirmation from Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange (CSCSE) officials that qualifications will be recognised for online studies provided students have proof that they were enrolled and affected by Covid-19. The University recommends that you maintain records of your communication with the University to provide to CSCSE to show that you were enrolled and which verifies that you were impacted by the Covid-19 situation.

Will online study during the Covid-19 pandemic affect my eligibility for United States Federal Student Aid (FAFSA funding)?

No, the United States Government has amended the law in relation to online study for students enrolled at foreign institutions who are in receipt of US Federal Student Aid. The law allows an otherwise eligible program to be taught via online methods from 1 March 2020 for the duration of the qualifying emergency and the following semester. You’re still required to meet all other eligibility requirements.


Other information

The University has a list of FAQs (frequently asked questions) regarding COVID-19 and the travel restrictions.

An Australian government hotline has been established to assist international students with questions or concerns relating to their study and novel coronavirus:

Our Legal Service has registered migration agents (MARNs: 1911813 & 1912229) who can help you if you need migration law advice. We can also help you with any other legal issues you may have. We are currently offering legal/migration appointments by phone or Zoom (English: Monday to Friday; Mandarin: Mondays & Thursdays; Cantonese: Thursdays).

How to get initial advice?

If you are not already a member, first join SUPRA

Fill in the form on our contact page, or email Please attach any documents relevant to your enquiry in your email.

SUPRA administration will contact you if we need any further details. Your email will be forwarded to a Solicitor/Registered Migration Agent who will respond to you within 24 hours.

Disclaimer: This information is current as at 4 April 2020 and is intended as a guide to the law as it applies to people who live in or are affected by the law as it applies in NSW. It does not constitute legal advice.

Updated: 4 April 2020

The SUPRA office is closed – but you can still get help!

To help protect the health of our community during COVID-19 SUPRA's Student Advice and Advocacy Service, Legal Service and council are working from home. We are working to full capacity and are providing timely and accurate information, advice and support.