How to get an Australian student visa
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How to get an Australian student visa

How to get an Australian student visa

Overseas study in Australia is an incredibly attractive option for students around the world. From its state-of-the-art technology and forward-thinking leaders, to its world class universities and English-based instruction, international students find a real gem of a study abroad destination in the land down under. And those perks can be enjoyed without even leaving the classroom!

Outside and beyond, there’s plenty of activities to keep even the busiest of bodies enthralled. Pristine beaches, friendly (and the err…not so friendly) critters, incredible landscapes, enthusiastic (when we’re putting it nicely!) sports maniacs, and cheerful locals all await those in need of a break from the books.

We know what you’re thinking – “Yeah, we get it, Australia’s awesome. But study abroad in ‘Oz’ is just a silly dream, not a reality.” Well kid, first things first – make it your reality. If you really are passionate about it, what on Earth is stopping you?! Of course, the best (and only) place to start is the beginning, so we’ve gotta get your visa squared, right away (you can go ahead and assume you’ll need a passport before crossing any international borders)!  Read on to learn more about acquiring an Aussie student visa, and make your dream of study abroad down under a tangible reality. 

1. Your home country

Applying for a visa can seem like an ordeal, but being organised and prepared will help streamline the process. Your first step will be to familiarise yourself with your home country’s travel policies, as well as 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 considerably vary from country to country. Furthermore, your homeland may require your passport expiration date to be significantly in the future – and the list goes on and on! No matter what the situation, avoid unnecessary troubles by getting your head around the laws sooner rather than later. 

2. Types of Australian visa

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 candidates 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 to attend an English language programme? Are you wanting to earn a four-year degree, or study for six to twelve month period? All of these questions are pertinent and make a big difference in which visa you should apply for.

Below is a list of the Australian government’s current visa offerings (as of 2016). For more details on each visa, visit the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s website.

  • Higher Education Sector Visa (subclass 573) / Postgraduate Research Sector Visa (subclass 574) – for international students who wish to study in Australia at a university or tertiary level.
  • Non-Award Sector Visa (subclass 575) – for international students who wish to study a non-award foundation studies course or componants of a course that do not lead to an award. 
  • Independent ELICOS Sector Visa (subclass 570) – for international students who are travelling to Australia in order to undertake an English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS).
  • School Sector Visa (subclass 571) – for school-age international students, allowing them to enrol in primary or secondary school, or for participation in school exchange programmes.
  • Student Guardian Visa (subclass 580) – for guardians of an international student who is younger than 18, allowing them to remain in the country alongside the student.
  • Vocational Education and Training Sector Visa (subclass 572) – for international students who are interested in vocational education and training courses.
  • Training and Research Visa (subclass 402) – for international students seeking training and research opportunities, allowing them to take part in structured work-based training.
  • Foreign Affairs or Defence Sector Visa (subclass 567) – an international student visa that has been sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade or the Department of Defence.
  • Or check this website for Visiting Australia, or staying on a short-term study basis.

No matter what visa you apply for, you can expect to fork out around $540 AUD to submit your application.

The only folks who can distribute Australian student visas are those at the Department of Immigration and Border Control (DIBP). Most students will be eligible to apply online, but if – for whatever reason – you find that you can not, you’ll need to take your application materials directly to the Australian embassy or consulate in your home country. But all you eager beavers out there are in luck – you can apply for your visa up to 124 days in advance of your course start date.

Visas typically take between 14-21 days to process, but we highly recommended you don’t leave it until the last minute! A safer bet is to allow one-two months for the processing and returning of your documents, then you can avoid breaking a sweat or having to re-book your flight in an eleventh-hour panic!

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 their Australian studies. This financial stability can be demonstrated in a variety of ways, most typically though sending a copy of a bank statement along with their application. Students 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), which confirms their acceptance onto a course within a particular country. This requirement may also be fulfilled with a Letter of Offer, but it will ultimately depend on which programme you choose and where. Most students receive this document from the tertiary institution where their course will be held, and it is often given in conjunction with a specific code that’s fit to be entered into an online visa application.

If you’re still unsure of your student visa conditions or expectations, we highly recommend that you get in touch with the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) by phone on 13 18 81 or their website www.border.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. But there remains a few important items of which you really should take 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 back around!

You can find this important detail on 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 AustralianUniversities.co, the most sought-after Aussie universities for international students span the entire country, from the Australian National University in the capital to the University of Adelaide in the dry south, and the University of Queensland in the rainy Northeastern tropics. That’s before mentioning the powerhouse institutions of Sydney or Melbourne! It’s true, there really is something for every student in the merry old land of Oz.

Now we hate to sound like a broken record, but just to reiterate: the visa application process really doesn’t have to be a headache. In fact, it can be one of the many awesome hurdles you slam-dunked and overcame in your journey South of the equator. Careful planning and organisation are key to making the process as seamless as possible.

Happy applications to all you keen jet-setters!

Image via Flickr

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