Student Visa Work Rights – What Has Changed?

This article has been written in collaboration with Nicole Kirkwood, Director of Australian Visa and Immigration Experts (AVIE) and Registered Migration Agent (MARN: 0962323).

As an international student studying in Australia, you are granted a visa with certain conditions on it. One of those conditions is related to your work rights in Australia.

It was revealed on 8 May 2021, international students will have a cap imposed on their working hours lifted if they are employed in hospitality and tourism, as announced by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke. This new measure was included in the 2021-22 Federal Budget, as seen here.

With all of the information that has been recently announced, it can be confusing to know what is permitted and what is not when it comes to working in Australia. Let’s take you through an overview.

What are international student work rights? 

Condition 8105 – Work restriction (primary visa holders)

Condition 8105 restricts most international students who are studying to a maximum of 40 hours of work per fortnight while their course is in session. Students are not permitted to work before their course has commenced however when their course is not in session, they may work unlimited hours. 

PhD and Masters by Research students have unlimited work rights once their course has commenced.

Condition 8104 – Work restriction: 40 hours a fortnight (family members)

Condition 8104 restricts most family members to a maximum of 40 hours per fortnight while their course is in session. They are not permitted to work until the course has started. 

Family members of students who have commenced Masters by Research or Coursework or a doctorate degree are permitted to work unlimited hours once the course has commenced.  

What has changed?

Technically, nothing in Condition 8105 or 8104 has changed since the announcement by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke or the publication of the Federal Budget. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Government has announced they will take a ‘flexible approach’ to student visa working hours if you work in certain sectors.

What does this mean for you if you are an international student and work in these sectors?

The Department of Home Affairs and Australian Border Force has announced it will take a flexible approach to student visa holders working beyond their usual work limitations, but only in specific industries.

You can work for ​more than 40 hours a fortnight if you are:

  • Employed by an aged care Approved Provider or Commonwealth-funded aged care service provider with a RACS ID or a NAPS ID, before 8 September 20​20
  • Employed by a registered National Disability Insurance Scheme provider
  • Enrolled in a health care-related course and you are supporting the health effort against COVID-19, as directed by health officials
  • Employed in the agriculture sector
  • Employed in the tourism and hospitality sector

You can read the announcement here.

If I work in one of these sectors, can I work more than 40 hours a week for the rest of my student visa?

The ‘flexible approach’ will not last forever and it is especially important you keep up to date about your ability to work longer hours. 

If the ‘flexible approach’ ends and you are not aware, you may be in breach of your student visa conditions.   

A word of warning 

The responsibility will be on you to show you have not breached your student visa conditions. If you are eligible to work increased hours under this ‘flexible approach’ to student work rights, keep thorough records of when you started working longer hours and when you stopped. 

Consider keeping a record of: 

  • The government announcement
  • Timesheets and payslips 

That way if you are asked to provide information in the future about your increased hours, you will have the information to show that you were permitted to work longer hours due to the pandemic event on hand and ready to show.

Even if you can work more than 40 hours a fortnight – should you?

Work rights are not the only condition on your student visa.  You must also continue to remain enrolled full time in study, and you must also pass your course. If you are unable to comply with all your visa conditions, your visa could be cancelled. 

For more information

It can be hard to keep up with all of COVID-19 related changes and updates. The Department of Home Affairs COVID-19 and the border resource page is the best place to start. 

If in doubt, seek the advice of an expert Registered Migration Agent or legal practitioner.

To find an agent, see Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA), or search for a migration lawyer here.