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8 Things Employers Must Know About Australia’s Student Visa

There are a number of important conditions employers must follow when employing workers with a student visa.


Many international students come to Australia to study abroad. Typically, these students need to work for living expenses during their time spent studying in the country. Australia’s student visa allows international students to work under certain conditions. For employers seeking ways to fill empty positions, the opportunity to hire international students can offer relief during an ongoing talent shortage. Yet, there are important conditions employers must follow when employing workers with a student visa. Here are eight things employers should know about Australia’s student visas before hiring.

1. Australia’s Student Visa Rules and Regulations Must be Followed

International students travelling on a student visa have to maintain certain requirements to be permitted to work in Australia. As an employer, you are responsible for ensuring your workers maintain a valid student visa. Students must follow these rules and regulations to work under a student visa:

  • Be enrolled in a course of study in Australia.
  • Hold Overseas Student Health Cover, or fall in one of the exemption categories.
  • Maintain satisfactory attendance and performance in their course, as required by the school.
  • Follow current working restrictions if any apply.

2. Working Hours for Visa Holders Have Been Temporarily Relaxed

In the past, international students were permitted to work 40 hours within a fortnight, and unlimited hours during recognised school vacations. Although they were allowed to travel to Australia before classes began, students were not allowed to begin work until after their courses began.

To address workforce shortages, student visa work hours have been temporarily relaxed. Students will be able to work more than 40 hours a fortnight in any sector of the economy. They will also be able to begin work before their course of study commences.

3. Students Must Continue to Balance Work and Study Requirements

Although they are allowed to work unlimited hours, students must still meet study requirements. Otherwise, they risk having their visa cancelled. Australia’s student visa requirements obligate students to maintain their course enrolment, including satisfactory course attendance. They must also ensure satisfactory course progress.

Students who cancel enrolment, stop attending classes, or fail to meet progress requirements could be found in breach of their visa conditions. In such a situation, the student may be required to leave the country. An employer who allows students with a cancelled student visa to continue working may be subject to hefty fines. As an employer, it is your responsibility to maintain up-to-date information about the eligibility of international students and their visa status.

4. Family Members of Student Visa Holders Have Work Rights

International students may stay in the country for up to five years. For this reason, it’s not uncommon for students to apply for visas that include their families. The spouses and children accompanying the international student under their student visa typically have the same work rights as the student. This includes the allowance of 40 hours per fortnight. However, family members may not exceed 20 hours per week, even during holidays. The only exception is when students are obtaining a graduate degree. In this case, family members can work unlimited hours.

5. Student Visas Can Be Cancelled

More than 13,000 student visas were cancelled in 2020-21. While these numbers are down by 7,000 from 2019-20, it’s important to consider the likelihood of less travel overall due to COVID-19 restrictions. Student visas can be cancelled for a variety of reasons. These might include a non-citizen providing incorrect information to enter Australia, engaging in criminal conduct, failure to start studies on time, changing to an ineligible course, completing a course early, or working in breach of visa conditions. Without checking routinely or investing in an automated alert system, employers are unlikely to know when a student visa has been cancelled.

6. Penalties for Employing Illegal Workers Are Significant

Companies that are found guilty of employing the services of an illegal worker can be fined up to $66,000 for every unlawful employee who is found to be working within the company. It is easy enough to ensure student visas are valid upon hiring new employees. However, it’s also essential to make sure you maintain up-to-date information. Illegal workers include employees whose visa has expired or has been cancelled due to breach of visa conditions.

7. Students Can Seek Additional Visa Options

It’s common for students to wish to remain in Australia after the completion of government-approved coursework. This can be achieved with the successful application of different visas. Visas that students may apply for after being in Australia for a period of time include:

  • Further student visas
  • Working holiday visas
  • Graduate temporary subclass 485 visas
  • Occupational trainee visas
  • General skilled migration
  • Partner visas
  • Employer-sponsored visas

8.  Covid-19 Restrictions May Still Apply

COVID-19 restrictions may apply to study-related travel. The Department understands travel restrictions exist and allow for such with flexible arrangements regarding coursework start dates. However, if students fail to follow certain requirements, they could be in breach of visa conditions. There are options to ensure workers don’t breach Australia’s student visa conditions due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, without following regulations, students who fail to start studies on time or do not hold a current or active CoE may have their visa cancelled.

Currently, all inbound travellers must report their vaccination status to enter Australia. Additionally, all foreign employees must complete a Digital Passenger Declaration before travelling to Australia. Employers are responsible for keeping up with the vaccination status and visa status of all international workers. Using an automated system, like CheckVax from CheckWorkRights, can streamline compliance with the proof of vaccination requirements of foreign workers. By implementing vaccination status management alongside student visa requirements, you can easily manage the requirements for all international employees.

Student visas offer international students the opportunity to study and work in Australia. They also provide employers with additional sources to find much-needed talent. However, if strict regulations aren’t followed, student visas can get cancelled. As an employer, you have a responsibility to ensure international workers are permitted to work under the conditions you provide. Failing to do so can lead to significant penalties.

This is why it’s essential to check work rights for student visa holders and their dependants. Because students frequently change visas and visas are often cancelled, it is good practice to check visas regularly, as often as once a month. To learn more about Australian student visas, and ways to streamline the long-term requirements of employing foreign workers, see all the features of CheckWorkRights, or book a demo today.