Know Your Rights: What can I do with my Australian student visa?

Can I apply for work as an international student in my host country? What are my wage rights? Am I allowed to join protests and class walkouts? If I had a run-in with the authorities, what should I do? To help you understand the extent and limitations of your rights as a student abroad, Study International News will provide the answers to all these burning questions and more through our “Know Your Rights” article series. Have a question you want answered? Email us at

So you’ve secured your Australian Student Visa, but you’re still wondering what this means. Basically, it permits you to live, study and work in Australia for the duration of your studies – but it’s not quite that simple.

Recent reports show that international students are being exploited both in the workplace and househunting in Australia. The National Temporary Migrant Work Survey found 43 percent of international students are illegally being paid under the minimum wage, and 27 percent are not aware they are being underpaid.

International students are also being forced into unsafe and illegal accommodation because they have little money or time to search around.

Study International has compiled your working and living rights under the Australian student visa to ensure you are treated fairly:


Probably the most obvious condition of the Australian student visa is that you must remain a student to keep your visa. If you leave university or delay your studies, your visa will no longer be valid.

Don’t make the mistake of applying to Australian university as a clever ploy to live here for a few years without studying – Australian immigration authorities are notoriously strict so chance are you won’t get away with it.

You must also continue to have the minimum bank balance as outlined on your student visa. Keep yourself protected from any hassle by remaining within the conditions described on your visa.

Next, you must inform immigration authorities and your institution as soon as possible if you change your education status or address.

How many hours can I work?

If you are studying for an undergraduate degree, you are eligible to work up to 40 hours a fortnight once your studies have begun, at minimum wage or above.

And if you’ve decided to seek employment as a student there, it is crucial that you know this: it is illegal for your employer to force you to work more than 40 hours a fortnight or pay you less than minimum wage (AU$18.29 an hour/ US$14.08).

So if they try to enforce this, you reserve the right to report them to the immigration authorities. Many students don’t because they are desperate for the extra cash and are afraid to lose their jobs. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

Get more out of your study abroad experience and make a difference by volunteering. Source:

If you are studying for a Master’s by research or PhD qualification, you can work an unlimited number of hours alongside your studies.


You can partake in voluntary work outside of your 40 hours work limitation if your visa is subject to visa condition 8104 or 8105.

However, the voluntary work must remain secondary to your studies – rather than this being your main commitment while in Australia.

Additionally, no type of remuneration or cash-in-hand agreements can be considered voluntary work. If you are receiving financial aid in any way for the voluntary work, you risk breaching your visa and having it revoked, so be careful.

Can my family live/work in Australia?

One of the best things about the Australian student visa is it grants your dependent family members work rights as well – this includes your spouse, unmarried children under 18, and ageing parents.

So forget teary goodbyes at the airport and wave hello to your new life in Australia!

You and your family can work alongside your studies under an Australia Student Visa. Source:

Family members must also only work once the student has commenced their studies, but employers have a duty to stay within the Australian workplace laws even if the worker is breaching their visa.

Iranian students

Iranian citizens face further conditions for their visa that can sometimes slip under the radar. If you are from Iran, you must gain authorisation from the Australian authorities before changing programme of study, research area or thesis.

The immigration authorities also have to directly grant approval before Iranians can start or change a graduate certificate, graduate diploma, master’s degree, doctorate, or a bridging course that is a prerequisite to a course of study or research for a master degree or a doctorate.

Although immigration authorities can be strict in Australia, this should not put you off studying here. The country has a world-class education system and policies in place to ensure your safeguarding while studying here.

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