International students – student visas and workplace rights

If you are under 25, for free and confidential legal advice about this topic, please contact us here.

Student visa holders have the same workplace rights as all other workers in Australia, including minimum pay and conditions. However, there are limitations on the number of hours you can work, depending on what type of worker you are.

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Starting work on a student visa

If you are on a student visa, you must not start working in Australia before your study course has started and is in session. A course will be “in session” from the start of the semester until the end of the semester (including exam periods). A course will also be in session if you enrol in a subject that counts towards your main course during term breaks, for example, winter or summer school.

Temporary relaxation of working hours for student visa holders

If you are on a student visa, you can usually work up to 40 hours per fortnight while your course is in session, and unlimited hours during holiday breaks. If you are studying for a masters or doctorate degree, then you can also work for more than 40 hours a fortnight.

Working hours for student visa holders have recently changed to support certain workers during the COVID-19 pandemic

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 2020
  • 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
  • In the agriculture sector
  • In the tourism and hospitality sector.

 It is important that you continue to balance your study and work commitments or you may be in breach of your visa conditions. Students who work more than 40 hours a fortnight need to:

  • Maintain their course enrolment
  • Ensure satisfactory course attendance, and
  • Ensure satisfactory course progress.

You can read more about the temporary changes to working hours for student visa holders at this external site here.

What are my rights as an international student?

All workers in Australia, including international students, have the same workplace rights including minimum pay and conditions.

There are minimum pay rates that employees must be paid, based on the work they do. You can find out more about pay here.

Employees also have other minimum conditions at work. These are set out in documents called an Award, an agreement, or a Standard.  This external site has more information about Award or agreements. You can find out more about working conditions here.

If you think you are not receiving minimum rights and conditions, we strongly recommend that you contact us here for free and confidential help.

For more information about your rights and obligations as a worker, you can visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website here. There is also information specific to international students, including a factsheet, here on their website.

Will my visa be cancelled if I report what’s happening at work?

If you are worried that making a report about work will impact your visa, we strongly recommend that you contact us for free and confidential legal advice. We can help you work out whether you are being exploited at work and what you can do. You may choose to do nothing – whatever you choose it will be 100% your decision.

Usually, your student visa won’t be cancelled if you have breached your work-related visa conditions because of workplace exploitation. This is because of a document called the Assurance Protocol. It ensures that visa holders can get help without fear of their visa being cancelled, even if they have breached their work-related visa conditions.

Does the Assurance Protocol apply to me?

The Assurance Protocol applies if:

  • You have breached your work-related visa conditions because of workplace exploitation
  • You have sought advice or support from the Fair Work Ombudsman and are helping them with their inquiries
  • There is no other reason to cancel your visa (for example, for national security, character, health, or fraud reasons), and
  • You have committed to following your visa conditions in the future.

 For more information about the assistance protocol, you can visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website  here or contact us here.

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