Temporary relaxation of working hours for student visa holders
COVID-19 has introduced a lot of changes into migration law. One of the latest changes to the law is the relaxation of working hours for student visa holders. Together with the Australian Border Force, the Department of Home Affairs will be taking a flexible approach to student visa holders working beyond the usual work limitations in certain fields.
Student visa holders are not allowed to work for more than 40 hours per fortnight (8105 condition- work rights) as part of the visa condition. However, there is now a temporary relaxation of the rules in certain circumstance.
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
- employed by a registered National Disability Insurance Scheme provider (NDIS)
- 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
There is no requirement for NDIS providers to register with the Department of Home Affairs. These providers should see the letter provided to them by the NDIS Commission for further details. See a list of NDIS providers.
Employers must continue to follow Australian workplace law. Overseas workers, including international students, have the same rights under Australian workplace law as all other employees.
These temporary measures will be reviewed by the government regularly. Employers will be advised when these measures no longer apply.
While these measures are in place, the Department of Home Affairs and Australian Border Force will:
- exercise their discretion under s116(1)(b) of the Migration Act 1958 to not cancel the visas of students who work in excess of 40 hours each fortnight to support your organisation
- not refer student visa holders for investigation of any potential offence under s235 of the Migration Act 1958 that might relate to the hours worked by a student visa holder in breach of their visa conditions
- not refer you or relevant third-party labour hire companies, as an employer, for investigation of any potential offence under s245AC of the Migration Act 1958 that might relate to allowing a student visa holder to work in breach of their visa conditions.
Whilst there is a relaxation of the rules, employers are still expected to follow Australian employment law.
Students who intend to work more than 40 hours per fortnight should discuss an arrangement with the employer. Students are not required to place an application to work more hours.
During this period, Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force will exercise their discretion not to cancel a student visa if they work more than 40 hours per fortnight.
Previous update: Student visa holders able to work more hours
Student visas are subject to condition 8104 or 8105, which allow limited work in Australia. Under these conditions:
- You (and your dependants, if any) can only work after you have commenced your course
- You (and your dependants, if any) must adhere to the work hour restrictions set out in your visa conditions.
Student work hour restrictions
|Student type||When course is in session||When course isn’t in session|
|Coursework students who have started their degree||40 hours per fortnight||Unlimited hours|
|Graduate researchers who have started their degree||Unlimited hours||N/A|
|AusAwards or Defence students||40 hours per fortnight||Unlimited hours|
Dependent work hour restrictions
|Dependent type||When course is in session||When course isn’t in session|
|Dependants of student visa holders enrolled in a Master or Doctorate degree||Unlimited hours||N/A|
|Dependents of all other student visa holders||40 hours per fortnight||N/A|
One way to gain work experience and professional skills is to work as a volunteer. Hours spent volunteering will not count towards your student visa work hour limits, if:
- your main purpose in Australia continues to be your studies (and any work remains a secondary activity)
- the work is genuinely voluntary, and would not otherwise be undertaken by an Australian resident as employment
- the activities are for a non-profit organisation and no remuneration (in cash or kind) is received in return.
For more information, see the Fair Work Ombudsman fact sheet on unpaid work.
How is 40 hours per fortnight calculated?
A fortnight is a 14-day period which starts on a Monday and ends on a Sunday. You may not work more than 40 hours during any fortnight.
For example, if you worked the following hours:
- Week 1: 10 hours
- Week 2: 30 hours
- Week 3: 20 hours
- Week 4: 20 hours
You would have worked more than 40 hours during the second fortnight (weeks 2 and 3) and would be in breach of visa conditions.
When is my course in session?
Your course is considered in session:
- For the duration of advertised semesters, including examination periods (even if you do not have any exams) and mid-semester breaks
- Any time you are enrolled in one or more subjects which will count as credit towards your main course.
To find out the Semester 1 and Semester 2 dates, as well as the examination period dates, see your University/college dates page.
How can someone else check my work restrictions?
Many organisations across Australia, including employers, recruitment agencies and banks, can also check your work conditions after getting your consent.
If someone wants to you to verify your work rights, provide them with a copy of your visa grant letter or a link to Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO).
Working in Australia after you graduate
If you’re interested in staying in Australia to work after you graduate, you’ll need to get a new working visa before your student visa expires. As a graduated international student you may be eligible for:
- The Post-Study Work stream of the Temporary Graduate Visa (subclass 485) if you have completed a Bachelor, Masters or Doctoral degree.
- To submit an Expression of Interest through the Australian Government’s SkillSelect, seeking approval to stay in Australia as a professional worker.
- State and territory government nomination for skilled and business migration.
Extended Hours for Students Working in the Agriculture Industry
On Tuesday, 05 January 2021, the Morrison Government announced the relaxation of the 40 hours per fortnight rules applicable to student visa holders. Students working in the agriculture sector will be permitted to work for more than the usual 40 hours per fortnight limit during the semester.
This change is due to the lack of workforce available to support farmers in Australia. Traditionally, there would be many WHM who would work in the agriculture industry during harvest season, however COVID-19 has halted international movements and foreign workers are unable to travel to Australia. Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alex Hawke said that the changes would not just give temporary visa holders the ability to earn more income, they would also help farmers this harvest season and avoid food going to waste.
Temporary visa holders can also apply for the COVID-19 Pandemic Event Visa up to 90 days before their current visa runs out. Applicants are also not required to show the inability to depart from Australia. The government has stated that it will be easier for temporary visa holders to be granted the COVID-19 Pandemic Event Visa if they choose to work in the agriculture sector.