It’s not hard to imagine what makes studying in Australia such an attractive option for international students. From its state-of-the-art technology and forward-thinking leaders to its world class universities and English-based medium of instruction, international students find a gem of a study abroad destination in the land down under. And those perks can be enjoyed without ever leaving your four walled classroom!
Outside and beyond, there’s plenty of activities to keep even the busiest of bodies enthralled. Pristine beaches, furry funny creatures, incredible landscapes, enthusiastic (is putting it nicely!) sports maniacs, and beautiful, friendly locals all await those in need of a break from the books.
I know what you’re thinking - “Yeah, we get it, Australia’s awesome. But how can I change my dreams of studying in ‘Oz’ into a reality?” Well kid, first things first - we’ve gotta get your visa squared away (you can go ahead and assume you’ll need a passport before crossing any international borders). Read on for Australian student visas, explained.
1. Your home country
Applying for a visa can seem like a daunting and confusing ordeal, but being organized and prepared will help streamline the process. Your first step will be to familiarize yourself with your home country’s travel policies and your eligibility for international travel. A quick visit to your home country's state department website should do the trick.
The rules regarding something as seemingly-minor as the number of blank pages required in your passport prior to travel can vary significantly from country to country. Further, your homeland may require your passport expiration date to be significantly in the future. The list goes on and on! No matter what the situation, avoid unnecessary troubles by getting a handle on the laws now, not later.
2. What Australia expects
Since you’re heading to the Sunburnt Country, you’ve gotta play by their rules. When in Rome, and all that jazz. Australia offers a number of different student visas catering to diverse international students with a variety of academic goals and expectations. It is your responsibility, as a visitor to Australia, to figure out which student visa is appropriate for your course of study. Are you planning on attending an English language program? Are you wanting to earn a 4 year degree, or study for 6 months or 1 year? All of these questions are pertinent and make a difference in which visa you ultimately apply for.
Below is a list of the Australian government’s current visa offerings (as of November 2014). For more details on each visa, visit the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s website here.
- Independent ELICOS (Subclass 570)
- Schools (Subclass 571)
- Vocational Education and Training (Subclass 572)
- Higher Education (Subclass 573)
- Postgraduate Research (Subclass 574)
- Non-award (Subclass 575)
- Foreign Affairs or Defence (Subclass 576)
No matter which visa you end up applying for, you can expect to fork out around $540 AUD for your application.
The only folks who can distribute Australian student visas is the Department of Immigration and Border Control (DIBP). Most students will be eligible to apply online. However, if for whatever reason you cannot, you will need to take your application materials directly to the Australian embassy or consulate in your home country. For all of your eager beavers out there, you’re in luck - you can apply for your visa up to 124 days in advance of your course start date.
Visas will take between 14-21 days to process typically, but it is recommended to not wait until the last minute! A safer bet is to allow 1-2 months for the processing and returning your documents. Then you can avoid breaking a sweat or re-booking your flight at the last minute!
3. Australian student visa requirements
In addition to your legal passport, international students will need to have proof of access to sufficient funds to cover the duration of your studies in Australia. This financial stability can be demonstrated in a variety of ways, though most typically send in a copy of a bank statement as part of their application. You will also need to include proof of sound mind and body, advanced English skills, and good character (which shouldn't be too hard, you rockstar, you!).
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, all Australian student applications must include a Confirmation of Enrollment (COE) confirming your acceptance into a course of study in country. This requirement may also be fulfilled with a Letter of Offer; it will ultimately depend on which program you choose and where. Most students receive this piece of paper from the tertiary institution where their course will be held. This document is often given in conjunction with a specific code, fit to be entered in your online visa application.
If you are still unsure of your student visa conditions or expectations, it is highly recommended that you contact the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenry (DIAC) by phone on 13 18 81 or their website www.immi.gov.au.
4. A few more bits and bobs
Oh happy day! Receiving your valid visa is a great milestone in your pre-trip planning. However, there remains a few important items of note.
a. Entries and exits
Be conscious of the number of times you are legally allowed to enter and leave Australia. You may have to forego your holiday trip home this year - it'd be rough to land in an Aussie airport just to be denied entry and turned right around!
You can find this important detail in your visa itself.
b. Duration of stay
You'll also want to have a sharp understanding of how long you can legally be in Australia. Overstaying your welcome is not greeted with high fives or laughter at Border Patrol. If you don't want to be on Oz's black list, heed your required exit dates with caution.
c. Work laws
Don't even think about working on the side while on an Australian student visa. Should you opt to find work in addition to your studies, do the legal thing and apply for a work visa. It'll only take a week to process, and you'll avoid becoming an international criminal.
5. Australia's best universities for international students
Australia has no shortage of barbecues, sunshine, and internationally acclaimed universities. In fact, only the United States and the United Kingdom outrank Aussie uni's in QS's annual report on worldwide higher education.
According to this great website, the most sought-after Aussie universities for international students spread across the country from Australian National University in the capital to the University of Adelaide in the dry south to the University of Queensland in the rainy northeastern tropics. Thats before mentioning powerhouse institutions in Sydney or Melbourne! It's true, there's something for every student in the merry old land of Oz.
Not to be a broken record, but to reiterate: the visa application process does not have to be a headache. In fact, it can be one of many awesome hurdles that you overcame on your jouney south of the equator. Careful planning and organization are key to making the process a smooth one. Happy applying!