April 9, 2020
International students are a valued part of our communities and the Government is working with the international education sector to minimise the impact on them of COVID-19 challenges.
The Government will look at flexible application of visa regulations in cases where COVID-19 has prevented international students from attending classes.
Financially, there has always been an understanding that temporary visa holders, including students, are able to support themselves while in Australia. As part of their visa application, international students have to demonstrate that they can support themselves completely in their first year. Many students will continue to rely on family support, part-time work where available and their own savings to sustain themselves in Australia. We understand that some international students who are unable to support themselves financially may wish to consider returning to their home country and families. We also understand however that getting home may be difficult at the moment, due to restricted flight access or borders closing in other countries.
International students are able to work up to 40 hours per fortnight. Those working in aged care and as nurses have now had their hours extended to support these critical sectors. In addition, international students working in major supermarkets have had their work hours extended to help get stock on to shelves in response to high demand. From 1 May, their hours will return to the maximum 40 hours a fortnight as more Australians are being recruited into these roles. Further information on this is available on the Department of Home Affairs website at https://covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au/ or by calling the Global Service Centre on 131 881.
Students who have been here longer than 12 months who find themselves in financial hardship will be able to access their Australian superannuation. They can find information about this by visiting the Australian Tax Office website at: www.ato.gov.au.
The Department of Education, Skills and Employment is currently leading work to determine what extra assistance the Australian Government might be able to provide international students suffering financial hardship, including exploring options with universities and with states and territories.
All international students are encouraged to stay in touch with their education providers about remote learning arrangements and the range of support which is available to them at this time.
Additionally, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s COVID-19 website provides further information on mental health and other support services available to international students https://www.dese.gov.au/news/coronavirus-covid-19. Study Australia’s website www.studyinaustralia.gov.au also provides information on support services available to international students. The Australian Government is in close contact with state governments on this issue. States are working on student welfare issues. One example is the NSW student welfare hub: https://www.study.sydney/news-and-stories/news/covid-19-international-student-welfare-support. Institutions themselves are also working to ensure their students are supported.
International students on temporary student visas should contact their Overseas Student Health Cover insurance provider for advice on health cover and services available to support them while in Australia.
The Prime Minister has announced that States and Territories will put a six-month ban on evictions for both residential and commercial tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Students seeking more advice on their rights as a tenant at this time should contact the relevant state/territory authority:
o WA: Western Australia Consumer Protection – www.dmirs.wa.gov.au/
o Victoria: Consumer Affairs Victoria – www.consumer.vic.gov.au/
o NSW: Fair Trading – www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/
o Queensland: Residential tenancies Authority – www.rta.qld.gov.au/
o SA: South Australia Consumer and Business Services – www.cbs.sa.gov.au
o Tasmania: Consumer, Building and Occupation Services – www.cbos.tas.gov.au
o ACT: Tenants Union ACT – www.tenantsact.org.au/
o NT: Northern Territory Consumer Affairs – www.consumeraffairs.nt.gov.au
We will update you as further information becomes available. I trust this is helpful in the meantime.
Department of Foreign Affairs and trade