Student visas: COVID-19 FAQs

Frequently asked questions about how coronavirus (COVID-19) may affect student visas.

Last updated 24 August 2020

The Australian Government has recently updated its Student Visa advice, following a media release issued on 20 July 2020 which stated:

  • The Government will recommence granting student visas in all locations lodged outside Australia. This means when borders re-open, students will already have visas and be able to make arrangements to travel.
  • International students will be able to lodge a further student visa application free of charge, if they are unable to complete their studies within their original visa validity due to COVID-19. For more information see Can I extend my student visa if I haven’t finished my course? below.
  • Current student visa holders studying online outside Australia due to COVID-19 will be able to use that study to count towards the Australian study requirement for a post-study work visa.
  • Upon completion of your course, graduates who hold a student visa will be eligible to apply for a post-study work visa outside Australia if they are unable to return due to COVID-19. These changes are not yet available - for more information and eligibility, visit the Government's student visa page.
  • Additional time will be given for applicants to provide English language results where COVID-19 has disrupted access to these services.

You should check the Student Visa advice in addition to reading the below FAQs.

New students commencing mid-year 2020

  • Has the acceptance process changed for international students?

    The acceptance process for international students to commence in mid-year 2020 has not changed. You will still need to follow the instructions on your offer letter and the Get Started at Melbourne website.

  • Can I apply for my student visa even though I can’t travel to Australia yet?

    As per advice issued by on 20 July 2020, the Australian Government will recommence granting student visas in all locations lodged outside Australia. This means when borders re-open, students will already have visas and be able to make arrangements to travel.

  • Do I need a student visa to commence my study online?

    Undergraduate and graduate coursework students

    No, whilst you are studying online and travel restrictions remain in place, you will not need a student visa.

    A student visa is required to enter Australia and to participate in an eligible course of study. You will need to apply for your student visa once the travel restrictions are lifted, or a date for the restrictions to be lifted is confirmed by the Australian Government, and you wish to travel to Melbourne to continue your studies.

    Current student visa holders studying online outside Australia due to COVID-19 will be able to use that study to count towards the Australian study requirement for a post-study work visa.

    Graduate researchers

    You will need the approval of your Faculty and a valid visa to commence your graduate research degree online unless you are enrolled in an international joint PhD and are commencing at the international partner’s institution.

  • Accepting your offer

    Whether you need a student visa to commence studies or not, you will still need a Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) to commence your studies.

    Your CoE will be issued as part of the acceptance process. In order to complete your acceptance and receive your Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) you will need to:

    • Pay your tuition fee deposit
    • Provide evidence of your Overseas Student Health Cover for the duration of your course
      • If you choose to use the University’s preferred OSHC provider, BUPA, once you arrive in Australia the University will be able to assist you with a refund for the period of cover prior to your arrival into Australia. If you choose another OHSC provider, you will need to make contact with that provider to seek this advice.

    Once the travel restrictions are lifted, or a date for the restrictions to be lifted is confirmed by the Australian Government, and you wish to travel to Melbourne to continue your studies you will then be able to apply for your student visa.

  • How long will it take to get my student visa?

    We are seeking advice from the Australian Government on likely visa processing times so that you are able to have your visa processed in time to start on campus studies, whether it be during the course of Semester 2, 2020 or for the commencement of 2021.

    Please refer to the Department of Home Affairs student visa page for all up to date information.

  • What information do I need to apply for my student visa?
  • Am I eligible for a refund of OSHC for the period I was studying online offshore?

    If you choose to use the University’s preferred OSHC provider, BUPA, once you arrive in Australia you will be able to apply for a refund for the period of cover prior to your arrival into Australia.

    If you choose another OSHC provider, you will need to make contact with that provider to seek this advice.

  • Updating your start date and requesting a refund with BUPA OSHC

    Once you have booked your airline tickets to Australia you will need to email the BUPA team at bupaoshcpartnership@bupa.com.au with the following information:

    1. Student name
    2. Bupa membership number or student ID
    3. Airline ticket showing date of arrival
    4. Copy of student visa
    5. Bank account details for any refund due (the refund will then be calculated based on the end date of the student visa).

      Australian bank accounts
      Account name:
      BSB:
      Account number:

      International refunds
      Country:
      Bank name:
      Branch address:
      Account name:
      Account number:
      Beneficiary's address:
      Swift code:
      Branch identifier [IBAN or IFSC code]:

    You can make contact with BUPA either prior to arrival or once you have arrived for BUPA to process this change.  You will then receive an email confirmation of the change along with a new verification letter.

  • I am an under 18 international student. Do I need to apply for a CAAW (Confirmation of Appropriate Accommodation and Welfare) if I cannot commence my studies in Australia?

    If you are under the age of 18 and wish to commence your studies from your home country while there are travel restrictions in place due to COVID-19, you do not need to apply for a CAAW. This is a temporary arrangement. Once travel restrictions are lifted and you wish to enter Australia, you will need to have your accommodation and welfare arrangements approved for a CAAW to be issued.

  • Do I need to apply for a student visa if I am under 18 and commencing my studies in my home country?

    If you commence your studies in your home country during travel restrictions and you are under the age of 18, you do not need to apply for a student visa. This is a temporary arrangement. Once you are ready to apply for a visa, you need your accommodation and welfare arrangements approved to be issued with a CAAW (Confirmation of Appropriate Accommodation and Welfare).

Current students

  • Can I extend my student visa if I haven’t finished my course?

    Under Australian migration law, it is not possible to extend a Student visa, however you can apply for a new student visa if your course duration has been extended due to a valid reason. Please see our renewing your student visa page for more information.

    Students in Australia

    If you are in Australia, have been unable to complete your course within your course duration, and have a valid reason to renew your visa, you must apply before your current visa expiry.

    Students outside Australia and studying online

    If you are completing your course

    You do not need a new visa if you will complete your studies offshore and do not plan on returning to Australia.

    If you are planning on applying for a Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa upon completion, it is recommended you renew your Student visa while offshore to be eligible for a Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa.

    If you are continuing the same course

    You do not need a visa while studying online, however if you wish to return to Australia when travel restrictions are lifted, you can apply for a new student visa. Once you have completed your course you can then choose to apply for a Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa.

    Student visa fee

    You can request a visa application fee waiver if you meet the following criteria:

    1. You held a student visa on or after 1 February 2020, and
    2. You have not been able to complete your course within your original visa validity only due to the impacts of COVID-19.

    For more information and eligibility, visit the Government's student visa page.

    When you are approaching your visa expiry date (no earlier than two months) you can request a CoE. As part of the CoE request form you will be able to request a visa application fee waiver. If you have already requested an extended CoE, please contact student-visa@unimelb.edu.au to separately request assessment for a visa application fee waiver.

    Please see our renewing your student visa page for instructions to renew your visa.

  • What do I do if I’m finishing my course but want to stay in Australia?

    If you are Student visa holder completing your studies in Australia, you can apply for a Visitor visa (subclass 600). You will need to apply for this before your Student visa expires. For more information visit the visit the Department of Home Affair’s page on the visitor visa.

    Graduates affected by COVID-19 travel restrictions may be able to apply for and be granted a Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa outside Australia (where they have met all the requirements). Find out more on the Student visa page under 'Temporary Graduate (Subclass 485) visa eligibility'.

  • What do I do if I can’t return to my home country but I can’t extend my student visa?

    International students in Australia will be able to lodge a further student visa application free of charge, if you are unable to complete your studies within your original visa validity due to COVID-19. You need to do this before your student visa expires.

    If your current student visa is expiring, you currently cannot return to your country and you are ineligible for another student or visitor visa, you may need to apply for a ‘COVID-19 pandemic event visa’. Find out more on the Student visa page under 'Other visa options'.

  • Can I return overseas to study or take a leave of absence?

    International students who wish to return to their home country can continue their studies remotely. You will need to stay enrolled to maintain a current CoE. If you choose to return home to study, you must ensure you:

    • Can continue to actively participate in required learning activities and assessments, noting this may include classes scheduled in at AEST times which require virtual attendance.
    • Enrol in subjects that don’t have mandatory in-person requirements. A list of Semester 2 2020 subjects with at least some in-person teaching and learning is available here.

    International students should also be aware of any possible restrictions or risks with returning to home countries, as well as the Australian Government’s travel advice and restrictions, which may prevent you from returning to campus. The University will continue to monitor this situation and how it might impact students’ ongoing enrolment. For any visa enquiries, you should contact the Department of Home Affairs.