Emergency support for international students in Australia: What you should know

international students australia
People walk through a small deserted laneway usually packed with open cafes and people during their lunchtime in Melbourne on May 4, 2020. Source: William West/ AFP

It can be confusing for international students in Australia impacted by COVID-19 job losses or financial hardship to look for help.

International students in Australia are largely left out of the federal coronavirus stimulus packages. A  number of state governments and most universities have come forward to pledge support and financial aid for those who have lost their part-time income due to the pandemic — including international students. But information can be fragmented and hard to find.

Below is a list of the various emergency support you are eligible for as an international student currently studying in Australia.

Your superannuation

If you’re an international student who has studied and worked in Australia for over 12 months, and are currently facing financial hardship, you are now allowed to access your superannuation fund, which is a pension scheme in Australia.

You can apply to access up to AU$10,000 of your super until June 30, 2020.

According to the website, you can apply for early release on your superannuation as a temporary resident if you meet one or more of the following requirements:

  • You hold a student visa that you have held for 12 months or more and you are unable to meet immediate living expenses.
  • You are a temporary skilled work visa holder and still employed but unable to meet immediate living expenses.
  • You are a temporary resident visa holder (excluding student or skilled worker visas) and you cannot meet immediate living expenses.

Support for international students in Victoria

Studying in Melbourne? The Victorian government recently announced an AU$45 million International Student Emergency Relief Fund to support international students in the state facing hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in partnership with universities in the state.

Under this fund, eligible international students living in Victoria can claim for a one-off payment of up to AU$1,100, if they are able to show proof that they have lost income.

On the official website, you can fill out this webform to register your interest and you will get a notification as soon as applications open.

Additionally, you can apply for rent relief as a tenant if you can prove you are facing rental distress, meaning you are paying more than 30 percent of their wage or entitlements on rent, and have less than AU$5,000 in savings in the bank.

According to the website, “If you are eligible, you can apply for a grant at any time, however, your application can only be processed if you have reached a voluntary agreement for a rent reduction or deferral of payment with your landlord and lodged this agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria, or completed a mediation process through Consumer Affairs Victoria.”

If you have already lodged your new rental agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria, you can apply for a Rent Relief Grant online.

If you’re unable to reach an agreement with your landlord, you are advised to contact Consumer Affairs Victoria for assistance.

international students australia

A woman walks through a deserted part of Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market on May 5, 2020. Australia’s economy is losing AU$4 billion every week its virus shutdown continues, while a million workers have already lost their jobs in the crisis, according to figures announced on May 5. Source: William West/AFP

Financial aid for international students in South Australia

For students in South Australia, the South Australian Government recently announced an AU$13.8 million support package for international students who are affected by the pandemic but not eligible for either JobSeeker or JobKeeper payments.

According to a release by Universities Australiaan AU$10 million fund will be distributed via schemes run by the University of Adelaide, Flinders University and the University of South Australia. Applications will be determined against a careful set of rules to assess need.

According to SBS, the package also includes emergency cash grants worth AU$500 for international students “not studying at one of the public universities, currently enrolled in a course, living in South Australia and who meet the criteria,” and a one-off AU$200 assistance payment for those living with homestay families.

Additionally, the support packages by the University of Adelaide, Flinders University and University of South Australia include emergency financial grants, accommodation, food vouchers and academic support for international students.

For more information about hardship support, international students in South Australia should visit studyadelaide.com

international students australia 3

Medical staff perform a test for the COVID-19 coronavirus on a driver at a drive-through testing site in a Melbourne carpark on May 1, 2020. Australia will consider early easing of coronavirus restrictions next week, officials announced on May 1 as the number of local cases dwindled and the economic impact of the crisis fell into painful relief. Source: William West/AFP

Support for students in Sydney

Financial assistance for international students stuck in Sydney due to COVID‑19 travel restrictions was offered in Sydney but applications have since closed. If you’re already applied, you will be contacted once the outcome of your application has been finalised.

A surfer heads to the ocean after Bondi Beach reopened following a five week closure in Sydney on April 28, 2020, amid the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic. Source: Peter Parks/AFP

If you are experiencing financial hardship and were not able to lodge a request before the deadline, you may be eligible for general bursary support, if you meet the eligibility criteria and instructions.

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