Working on an Australian Student Visa – What are the Rules?

Australian Student Visa

Each year thousands of students arrive in Australia on Australian student visas. This visa allows students to stay in Australia while they are studying a course that is registered under the Commonwealth Register of Institutions of Courses. Before a student visa is granted, the applicant must be accepted to a course and meet certain criteria, including financial requirements, English proficiency requirements, health requirements, and be of good character.

If a student visa is granted, the primary visa holder, their spouse and dependants can stay and work subject to certain conditions in Australia as long as the primary student visa holder is undertaking a course on a valid student visa. With study being the primary purpose of this visa the Australian government enforces strict rules and restrictions on work for international students. Below you’ll find common questions and answers for those working on a student visa.

When can a student visa holder begin work?

While a student may enter Australia up to 90 days before their course begins, they can only begin paid work when their course commences.

How many hours can a student visa holder work?

While studying, a student is generally limited to working a maximum of 40 hours per fortnight. Outside of term time when the course is not in session a student is entitled to work unlimited hours.

Are there exceptions to these rules?

Exceptions apply where work is undertaken as part of study or it is voluntary/unpaid work. In both cases any work will not contribute to the 40 hour work allowance. However if unpaid work could have been performed by an Australian resident who would have received a wage for the work, then any hours worked by the student visa holder will contribute to their 40 hours. There are further exceptions depending on what course is being undertaken by the primary visa holder.

Does the type of study being undertaken affect these rules?

Work conditions apply equally to all student visa holders, regardless of what they are studying. Exceptions apply to those who have commenced a masters by research or doctoral degree. There is no limit on the number of hours the primary visa holder may work in such cases.

Are there restrictions on the type of paid work a student visa holder can undertake?

There are no restrictions (outside of ordinary qualification requirements) as to the type of work that can be undertaken by those on a student visa.

Do the same rules apply for visa holder family members?

Yes except for family members of those primary visa holders studying masters degrees by coursework who are not limited to any number of working hours. In such cases, the primary visa holders are still subject to the limit of 40 hours per fortnight when the course is in session. In most other cases, the same rules and exceptions including working hours and timing generally apply to family members who have been granted permission to work.

What entitlements and responsibilities do international student workers have in the workplace?

Student visa holders have the same rights and responsibilities as Australian workers under Australian workplace laws. These include pay rates, shift calculations, leave arrangements, unfair dismissal and redundancy entitlements. They are also entitled to seek help and assistance through the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Unfortunately many employers can take advantage of those working in Australia on a student visa, playing on their limited knowledge and vulnerable position. It is important that all those on a student visa are aware of the rules surrounding work in Australia.

If you, or someone you know has been exploited while working in Australia on a student work visa, or you would like to know more about working in Australia on a student visa, contact Taylor & Scott Lawyers using the online contact form or call 1800 600 664.

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