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Student Visas

A Student Visa Subclass 500 allows a person to study in Australia for up to 5 years, with the length of stay dependent on the length of the course. The visa allows the holder travel in and out of the country, and work up to 40 hours a fortnight after the course starts. A family member can be included in the application if the member is the applicant’s partner, or a child of the applicant or their partner, if the child is unmarried and aged under 18.

Visa criteria

An applicant for a student visa must:

  • be aged 6 or older;
  • be enrolled in a course of study and provide confirmation of enrolment;
  • if aged under 18, have adequate welfare arrangements in place in Australia;
  • meet English language requirements;
  • meet the department’s GTE requirement;
  • have adequate health insurance;
  • have adequate funds for the stay;
  • pass the department’s character test;
  • meet the department’s health requirement;
  • sign an Australian Values Statement;
  • have paid any debt owing to the Federal Government;
  • have not had a visa cancelled or visa application refused;
  • show granting of the visa is in the best interests of a child. 

English language requirement

Applicants for student visas are required to have their English language proficiency tested. Testing is carried out by the Department of Home Affairs under the Migration Act 1958 and is regulated by the Migration Regulations 1994. The required level of English language proficiency will vary depending on the level of study and the institution.

A person who holds a passport from the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, New Zealand or the Republic of Ireland is automatically deemed to be competent in English and is not subject to an English test.

GTE requirement

A Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirement is an integrity test to ensure that a student visa is to be used for education and not as a way to gain permanent residence in Australia. The department requires a GTE statement as part of any student visa application.

The department must consider six factors in determining whether a student visa applicant is a genuine temporary applicant. These are:

  • the applicant’s circumstances in their home country;
  • the applicant’s potential circumstances in Australia;
  • the value of the course to the applicant’s future;
  • the applicant’s immigration history;
  • if the applicant is a minor, the intent of the parent or guardian;
  • any other relevant matters.

Adequate funds

An applicant may be required to provide evidence of financial capacity if this is not attached to an application. There must be evidence the applicant has funds to pay for travel, 12 months of course fees, 12 months of living costs for themselves and any family members, and school fees for any accompanying children. Evidence can include documents which show bank deposits, government or private loans, scholarships or other financial support.

Alternatively, the applicant can provide evidence their parents or partner had a personal annual income of at least $62,222 in the 12 months before the application.

The department provides set amounts for some costs. For example it sets living costs for 12 months at $21,041 for a student or guardian, $7362 for a partner, and $3152 for a child.

Character test

The character requirements are set out under the Migration Act 1958. These include that a person must not:

  • have a substantial criminal record;
  • have been convicted of an offence related to immigration detention;
  • have been a member of a criminal organisation;
  • have never been involved in crimes such as people trafficking, a crime against humanity or a war crime;
  • be considered someone who might become involved in criminal conduct or provoke discord in the community, or present a danger to the community;
  • have been convicted of sexual offending involving a child;
  • have been subject to a negative security assessment by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO);
  • have been subject to an Interpol notice when they were suspected to be a direct or indirect danger to the Australian community.

Health requirement

To meet the health requirement for a student visa, the applicant must be free from any disease or condition that will incur a significant healthcare and community service cost to Australia, or which is likely to limit access of Australian citizens and residents to services in short supply by placing demand on those services. The department considers costs of $49,000 or more to be significant. A Medical Officer of the Commonwealth is responsible for deciding whether the health requirement is met.


The student visa can have conditions attached to it, such as the holder must:

  • maintain satisfactory attendance in the course;
  • maintain adequate arrangements to educate school-aged dependants;
  • inform the education provider of a change of address within 7 days;
  • not be involved in activities that are disruptive or violent to the community or a group in the community;
  • not change a graduate course without permission from the department.

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Sally Crosswell

This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

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