Work rights for Student Visa Holders

What is a Student Visa?

Student visas are designed to allow international students to complete studies in Australia.

A student visa can be granted to allow studies in various different sectors such as:

  • Higher Education – undertaken at Universities or private colleges. Examples include Bachelor Degrees, Graduate Diplomas and Masters Degrees
  • Research Studies – undertaken at Universities for example PhD and Masters by Research
  • Vocational Education – generally undertaken at TAFE or private colleges for example Certificate I, II, III, IV, Diploma or Advanced Diploma
  • English Language Courses
  • Foundation Studies – for example for entry into a university course
  • School Studies

Since June 2017, all student visas are  issued under Subclass 500. However, you may see older student visas issued under subclasses 570, 571, 572, 573, 574 and 575. Work rights are similar to Subclass 500 for these older visas.

Student Guardian Subclass 590 visas allow parents to accompany students aged under 18 to Australia.

How Many Student Visa Holders Are There in Australia?

As of 31 May 2023, there were 610,065 student visa holders in Australia. This includes both primary visa holders (ie the person studying the course) as well as secondary visa holders (dependents such as a spouse or children).

How Long Does a Student Visa Last?

A student visa will generally be valid for the duration of the student’s studies in Australia. They will generally be able to arrive in Australia a few months before their studies commence, and remain in Australia for a few months after completion of their studies.

For example, if a student completes their course in December, the student visa is generally valid until March the next year.

Work Rights – Primary (Main) Visa Holder – Condition 8105

In most cases, the main student visa holder is subject to condition 8105. This condition allows the student to work for 48 hours per fortnight during semester (from July 1, 2023), and full time in semester break.

It is only when the student commences study that they are allowed to work.

After completion of studies, the student can work full time. This is also the case in between semesters.

However, if the student is studying a Masters by Research or a PhD, they can work unlimited hours.

The 8105 condition carries the following recommendation from the Department of Home Affairs:

Important: If you are an employer seeking to hire a student visa holder you should request evidence that they have commenced their course, such as a confirmation or enrolment or a letter from the relevant education provider.”

The vSure self-onboarding solution streamlines the collection of the Confirmation of Enrolment document during the simple SMS or email workflow.

Work Rights – Secondary (Dependent) Visa Holder – Condition 8104

Spouses and children of students can generally work for 48 hours per fortnight under the 8104 condition (from July 1, 2023). The work rights for secondary visa holders come into effect when the main student commences studies. The dependent can only work 48 hours per fortnight – whether it is during semester or during semester break.

If the student is studying a Masters or PhD, dependents can work full time.

The 8104 condition carries the following recommendation from the Department of Home Affairs:

“Important: Employers seeking to hire the family member of a primary student visa holder are advised to request evidence:

  • of the relationship (such as a visa grant letter, marriage or birth certificate) and
  • that the primary student visa holder has commenced their course, such as a Confirmation of Enrolment or a letter from the relevant education provider”

The vSure self-onboarding solution streamlines the collection of the Primary visa holder’s Confirmation of Enrolment document AND the proof of relationship documents during the simple SMS or email workflow.

Risk of Cancellation

Student visas are cancelled relatively frequently. Possible reasons for cancellation include:

  • Not attending classes
  • Working in breach of visa conditions
  • Changing to an ineligible course
  • Completing their course early

There were close to 18,000 student visas cancelled in Australia in 2019.

Unless employers check visa status regularly, they will not be aware that a student’s visa has been cancelled.

Further Visa Options for Student Visa Holders

Many students seek to remain in Australia after completion of their course in Australia, or change visas during their studies.

Examples of visas students often apply for after being in Australia for some time include:

  • Graduate Temporary Subclass 485 visas
  • General Skilled Migration
  • Employer sponsored (Temporary Skills Shortage Subclass 482 visa)
  • Partner Visas
  • Working Holiday Visas
  • Occupational Trainee Visas
  • Further student visas

These visas may not have work rights as beneficial as the original visa held by the employee. Unless visa status is checked regularly, these issues will not be picked up by employers.

A good example of this is where a student is working casually for Employer A whilst on a student visa. If they then transition onto an employer sponsored TSS visa with a different employer (Employer B), they will no longer be able to work for Employer A as this would be a breach of visa conditions.

How Often Should I Check Work Rights for Student Visa Holders

At the very least, all employers should check visa status for staff before employment, and also at the time the visa is due to expire.

Because student visas are regularly cancelled and students often change visa status whilst in Australia, it is good practice to check regularly during employment as well.

We would recommend checking visa status for student visa holders once a month.

Summary – Employing Staff on a Student Visa

Student visa holders are a large and skilled workforce which can be attractive for employers.

However, student visa holders are generally subject to work restrictions. They are  relatively high risk in terms of possible cancellation. They often change status to another visa type which may not have work rights as beneficial as their original student visa.

We would recommend checking visa status for student visa holders before employment and once a month during employment.

How vSure Can Help

If you only have a few foreign workers, use vSure Instant Check to confirm your employee’s work rights.

The vSure Work Rights app has been built to ensure medium to large employers are compliant with the obligations to take “reasonable steps at reasonable times” to check employee work rights.

Rather than having to manually check individuals, vSure has been built specifically for employers with more than 10 foreign workers to check and automatically keep checking work rights. The app will email or SMS you each time it checks (generally monthly), ensuring you maintain your compliance, without the manual effort.

If you want the easiest and most effective way to ensure work rights compliance, please click here to request a demonstration today.