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Simplified Student Visa Framework introduced on 1 July 2016

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Student visas

Australia is one of the top destinations for overseas students who want to obtain an internationally recognised qualification whilst experiencing the Australian culture and life. From Australia’s perspective, international students contribute to the Australian economy and enriches the social life in Australia. There is no surprise that the Student visa program allows thousands of genuine students to come and study in Australia every year with no cap on the number of students accepted. Between July 2015 and June 2016, Australia has granted 310,845 Student visas!


There have been major changes to the Student visa program since 1 July 2016. If you are planning on applying for a Student visa in Australia or sending your children to study in Australia, make sure you understand the new framework and its criteria before you apply.  

Simplified Student Visa Framework introduced on 1 July 2016

Recent changes

Australia has decided to simplify the Student visa program by introducing a Simplified Student Visa Framework. The main changes were:

  • The 8 Student visa subclasses previously available have now been combined into two simplified Student visas.  
  • A single immigration risk framework for all students rather than three assessments levels and a streamlined visa processing that previously existed prior to the recent changes. Now the evidentiary requirements is based on your country of origin and education provider, instead of which course you choose to study. The Department of Immigration will determine the level of English and financial documents you need to attach to your Student visa application.  

Features of the new Student visa

How to apply for a Student Visa?

The new requirement requires future students to apply online via their “ImmiAccount”. You will need to visit the DIBP website and click on ImmiAccount then sign up to create a new account. Once you lodge your application, you can then upload all the supporting documents to your application electronically. You can also easily track your application online to see what stage it is at.  

Which education provider/college or university to choose?

Firstly before you decide to come to study in Australia, you have to choose what and where you will be studying. Make sure that the education provider you choose is registered with the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS). The only two exceptions that allow students to study in non-CRICOS registered institution are applicable to Foreign Affairs/ Defence sponsored students or students undertaking approved secondary exchange programmes.

What can you study in Australia?

Courses you can study under this visa:

  • Independent ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students).
  • Schools (primary and secondary).
  • Secondary school exchange program.
  • Vocational education and training (VET)- a registered VET course or a registered course for the award of an advanced diploma.
  • Higher education- including a diploma, an advanced diploma, an associate degree, a bachelor degree, a graduate certificate, a graduate diploma, bachelor honours degree, masters degree.
  • Postgraduate research- Masters degree (research) /Doctoral degree.
  • Non-award courses- non-award foundation studies courses or components of a course that do not lead to an award.
  • International students sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs or Defence.

You can also study a package of courses from the above. For example, you can study a certificate then progress to a diploma then an advanced diploma etc.

If you are applying from outside of Australia, you will generally need to provide a Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) for each course you intend on studying in Australia.

How much money/level of English should you have?

Under the new simplified framework, the risk outcome which determines the level of financial and English language evidence depends on:

  • which country you are from, and
  • who your education provider is.

Previously the risk level that determined what documents/evidence to provide was determined based on what course you will be studying and there was only three assessment levels and a streamlines option that allowed certain applicants to be assessed under Assessment Level 1.

Under the current system, if you are assessed as a

  • Low immigration risk, you will be required to show a streamlined evidentiary requirements which only requires a financial capacity declaration and the English required will be to satisfy your course.
  • High immigration risk, will need to show regular evidentiary requirements  and provide documents with your application that proves your financial capacity and English language ability.

Generally, you will need to have enough money to:

  • pay for your course fees,
  • travel, and
  • living expenses

for you and your accompanying family members while you are in Australia. That money does not have to be held under your name as long as it is available to you for the purpose of your study in Australia.

You can check what the requirement will be for you through the DIBP website online document checklist tool

Student Guardian Visa (Subclass 590)

The second Student visa allowed under the current program is Subclass 590 which is specifically for student guardians. Under this visa, parents and guardians of students under the age of 18 can apply for this visa if they are able to provide appropriate accommodation, support and for the general welfare of the student. Alternatively, a relative over the age of 21 can apply for this visa as long as the parent/guardian approves in writing.

If you are applying for this visa, you have to prove that you:

  • are a genuine applicant who will enter and stay in Australia as a student guardian, and
  • must have the financial capacity to apply for this visa by showing enough funds for the costs and expenses of your intended stay and the costs and expenses of all your family unit members.

Useful tips and information

  • You might have options to stay in Australia after finishing your course. One option could be to apply for a Temporary Graduate visa if you studied a Bachelor degree or above. This visa subclass is complex and will not suit all students.  
  • Another option is to find an employer and be sponsored for a work visa after your studies.


About the author 

This article was written by Marial LewisMarial is an admitted lawyer in Australia and holds a double degree in Commerce and Law as well as a Master degree in Legal Practice. She was awarded John Gibson Young Migration Lawyer of the year award in 2020 and was a finalist in multiple awards in 2019 such as 30 under 30, the Rising Star of the year and the Suburban Lawyer of the year.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: ImmiAdvisor recommends you obtain your own independent immigration, legal, accounting, financial or taxation advice as appropriate. It is solely your responsibility to evaluate the accuracy, completeness and usefulness of all information provided through this blog/website. In no event will ImmiAdvisor Pty Ltd or the author of this article be liable to you or anyone else for any decision made or action taken by you or anyone else in reliance upon any information contained on or omitted from this blog/website. Immigration law is complex and is subject to constant regulatory and policy change.  The information provided here may therefore be outdated and no longer accurate.  The information provided above is a general guide only – it is not tailored for your specific circumstances or immigration purposes and you must under no circumstances rely on this information for immigration planning or the lodgement of an application with the Australian government or related bodies.  In order to ensure your eligibility is accurately assessed and to allow for tactical decision making that would best suit your desired immigration outcome, it is essential that you consult with a capable immigration advisor registered with the relevant body.

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Marial Lewis

Marial is an accredited specialist lawyer in Immigration Law and a multi-award…

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