Student Visas

Student Visas


The federal governments student visa program enables overseas students to come to Australia to undertake full-time study in registered courses.

Overseas students can only study at Australian institutions that are accredited and registered by the relevant State and Territory Education Departments and registered with the federal government.

All courses for overseas students must be full-time registered courses. The Migration Act and Regulations, the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (the ESOS Act), and the National Code 2007 all act together to regulate the overseas student program.

All student visas are temporary visas.


There are eight types of student visa:

English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) (subclass 570) visa. This visa is for international students undertaking a stand-alone English language course that leads to a certificate level award or non-formal award.

Schools (subclass 571) visa. This visa is designed for international students applying to study in Australia in a primary, junior secondary or senior secondary school course or an approved secondary school exchange program.

Vocational Education and Training (subclass 572) visa. This visa is designed for international students applying to study in Australia and whose main course of study is a certificate, vocational education and training diploma, vocational education and training advanced diploma, vocational graduate certificate or vocational graduate diploma.

Higher Education (subclass 573) visa. This visa is designed for international students applying to study in Australia and whose main course of study is a bachelor degree, associate degree, higher education diploma, higher education advanced diploma, graduate certificate, graduate diploma or Masters by coursework.

Postgraduate Research (subclass 574) visa. This visa is designed for international students who want to study a Master’s degree by research or a Doctoral degree in Australia.

Non Award (subclass 575) visa. This visa is designed for international students who want to study non award foundation studies or other full time courses not leading to an Australian award.

AusAID or Defence (subclass 576) visa. This visa is designed for international students who are sponsored by AusAID (under the Australia Awards) or Defence to study a full-time course of any type in Australia.

Student Guardian (subclass 580) visa. This visa is designed for a parent or close relative to accompany an underage student to Australia.


 Family members

Students can apply to have partners and dependant children under the age of eighteen accompany them to Australia.

These family members are known as secondary visa holders and are counted in student visa numbers. A parent or guardian seeking to accompany an international student to Australia may be eligible for a Student Guardian (subclass 580) visa.


Assessment Levels

There are five Assessment Levels in the student visa program. They serve to align student visa evidentiary requirements to the immigration risk posed by applicants from a particular country applying for a particular student visa.


Assessment Level 1 represents the lowest immigration risk and Assessment Level 5 the highest. The higher the Assessment Level, the greater the evidence an applicant is required to demonstrate to support their claims for the grant of a student visa.


How are Assessment Levels determined?

Each country, across each education sector, is assigned an Assessment Level which is based on the calculated immigration risk posed by students from that country studying in that education sector.

To determine the Assessment Level of a particular country and education sector, the department examines that group’s compliance with their visa conditions and other indicators of their immigration risk in the previous year.

Where these statistical indicators show that a group has a higher level of immigration risk over a sustained period, the department responds to this trend by raising the Assessment Level of that group. In effect, this requires applicants to submit a higher level of evidence to support their claims that they wish to study in Australia.

Where a group’s indicators demonstrate that they tend to abide by their visa conditions, these lower immigration risk groups have their Assessment Level lowered. This streamlines the visa process by reducing the level of evidence that these applicants need to submit to support their claims for a student visa.

The department regularly undertakes a comprehensive risk assessment of the entire student visa caseload and reviews the Assessment Levels to ensure that they align to the immigration risk of groups.


Genuine temporary entrant (GTE) requirement

The GTE requirement was introduced on 5 November 2011 to enhance the integrity of the student visa program.

The GTE requirement explicitly addresses whether the individual circumstances of an applicant indicate that their intention is for a temporary stay in Australia.

Factors that the department may consider as part of the GTE requirement are;

  • circumstances in the applicant’s home country;
  • the applicant’s potential circumstances in Australia;
  • the applicant’s immigration history;
  • the value of the course to the applicant’s future; and/or
  • any other matter relevant to the applicant’s intention to stay temporarily.


Processing time service standards

The department gives priority to offshore applications to ensure that prospective students receive their visas in time to travel to Australia to commence their courses. Onshore students are granted bridging visas pending finalisation of their new student visa applications and can still commence their courses.

Depending on the relevant assessment level the service standards are that 75% of offshore applications are finalized within 14 to 90 days and 75% of onshore applications are finalised within 14 to 30 days. It should be noted that approximately 80% of onshore applications are incomplete when lodged and this adds to processing times as officer’s request and then wait for applicants to provide required information.

The table below shows the processing time service standards for student visa applications.


Visa application

Lodged in Australia

Lodged outside Australia

Assessment Level

Level 1 or 2

Level 3 or 4

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3 or 4

(subclass 570, 571, 572, 573, 574, 575, 576, 580)

14 days

1 month

14 days

21 days

3 months

Students: permission to work

7 days

7 days



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