Student visas: COVID-19 FAQs

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

Last updated 12 November 2020

The Australian Government has updated its student visa advice. Please refer to the Department of Home Affairs website for the latest advice.

  • 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 plan travel.
  • Students who held a student visa on or after 1 February 2020 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, refer to 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.
  • After course completion, recent 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. 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 Department of Home Affairs student visa page in addition to reading the below FAQs.

FAQs

New students commencing start-year 2021

  • Has the acceptance process changed for international students?

    The acceptance process for international students to commence in start-year 2021 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?

    Yes, as per advice issued by the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Government has recommenced issuing student visas in all locations. This means that students can travel as soon as borders re-open and it is safe to do so.

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

    Undergraduate and graduate coursework students

    No, whilst you are studying online outside of Australia and travel restrictions remain in place, you will not need a student visa to commence your studies.

    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 faculty approval 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

    You will need a Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) to commence your studies, irrespective of whether you’re applying for a visa or not.

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

    • Pay your tuition fee deposit
    • Provide evidence of your Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) 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 OSHC provider, you will need to contact that provider to seek 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?

    Processing times will be regularly updated on the Department of Home Affairs student visa page.

  • 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?

    Yes. If you choose to use the University’s preferred OSHC provider, Bupa, you will be able to apply for a refund for the period of cover prior to your arrival.

    If you choose another OSHC provider, you will need to contact that provider to seek 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 contact 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 Confirmation of Appropriate Accommodation and Welfare (CAAW) if I cannot commence my studies in-person in Australia?

    If you are under the age of 18 and wish to commence your studies online 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 online in your home country due to 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 able to travel to Australia to resume your studies in person, you will need to apply for a visa and have your accommodation and welfare arrangements approved to be issued with a Confirmation of Appropriate Accommodation and Welfare (CAAW).

Current students

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

    Visas cannot be 'extended' beyond their initial expiry date. So if you need to remain in Australia to complete your course, you should apply for a new student visa if your course duration has been extended due to a valid reason. Please see the renewing your student visa page for more information.

    Students in Australia

    If you are in Australia and have been unable to complete your course in time due to valid reasons, you must apply for a new student visa before your current visa expiry date. Please see the renewing your student visa page for more information.

    Students outside Australia and studying online

    If you are completing your course

    If you’re planning on completing your course from overseas, you don’t need a current visa to complete your studies with us.

    However, if you intend to apply for a Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa after completing your course, please check the Department of Home Affairs website regarding eligibility to ensure you maintain your entitlements.

    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 will need a current student visa.

    Student visa fee

    You might be eligible to request a student visa application fee waiver due to the impacts of COVID-19. For more information and eligibility visit renewing your student visa.

    When you are approaching your visa expiry date (no earlier than two months before) 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 the renewing your student visa page for instructions on how to reapply for a student visa.

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

    Visit the Department of Home Affair’s page on visa options.

    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 Department of Home Affairs website.

  • What do I do if I can’t return to my home country, but I can’t apply for a new student visa?

    If your current student visa is expiring and you're ineligible for another student or visitor visa, you may need to apply for a COVID-19 pandemic event visa. Find out more on Department of Home Affairs website.

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

    You can choose to go back home and continue your studies online, but check that you can:

    • Continue to actively participate in required learning activities and assessments, noting this may include classes scheduled at Australian Eastern Standard Times (AEST) which require virtual attendance.
    • Enrol in subjects that don’t have mandatory in-person requirements. The 2021 Handbook entries for subjects in First Half Year 2021 – including Summer Term and Semester 1 – provide information on the delivery mode. On-campus (in-person) subjects have mandatory in-person requirements and so can’t be taken by students unable to return to Melbourne for the commencement of classes.

    Be aware of any possible restrictions or risks with returning overseas, 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, contact the Department of Home Affairs.

Course duration and study load for student visa holders

While studying on a student visa, you  are required to complete your course by your visa expiration date, unless you have been approved for a Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) extension for a valid reason.

In 2020, we automatically approved reduced study loads due to the impacts of COVID-19. If you were on a part-time study load in 2020 and are no longer on track to complete by your visa end date, please book an appointment with a course planner as soon as possible to map out your remaining subjects.

In 2021, you need to maintain your full time enrolment load of 50 credit points in each half-year period unless you have a valid reason and have been approved to take a reduced study load and can provide supporting evidence.

Study mode requirements for student visa holders

While COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place, all student visa holders will be exempt from the following conditions that require them to:

  • Enrol in at least one on-campus subject every half-year period unless it is their final semester of study, and
  • Limit the number of subjects that are undertaken online (no more than 1/3 of the course).

Once travel restrictions are lifted student visa holders may no longer be exempt from the above conditions. This will be confirmed in due course.