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How to obtain an Australian visa with study rights

If you're an international student, you will need to obtain a visa to study at the University of Sydney.

As an international student, you need to hold a valid Australian visa for the duration of your study in Sydney. There are several different types of visa that might be suitable. Refer to the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection for information.

If you are applying for a student visa, you can apply as soon as you receive your electronic confirmation of enrolment (eCoE) from the University.

If you are already in Australia and need to extend your visa, you can apply for an extension eCoE through Sydney Student (via MyUni).

How to apply for a student visa

Please note that if you are planning to study at the University of Sydney part time, by distance, or overseas, you are not eligible for an Australian student visa.

Important things you need to know

Breaking a packaged offer

A packaged offer allows students to obtain one student visa to cover studies at both the University of Sydney and the Centre for English Training (CET) or the University of Sydney Foundation Program (USFP).

If you have a packaged offer and have already commenced studying at CET or USFP, but wish to defer, discontinue or change your course with the University of Sydney, you will need to complete and submit a Break of Package Request form.

Note that if you are seeking to extend your duration at CET or USFP, you do not need to complete this form. Instead you will need to contact either CET or Taylor’s College for USFP directly.

Changing your enrolment (reducing your study load)

Under Education Services for Overseas Students legislation, your student visa requires you to complete your course within the duration specified in your eCoE.

A mandatory student visa condition (condition 8202) also requires you to be enrolled in a full-time study load (24 credit points per semester). However, in exceptional circumstances, you can apply to reduce your study load for compassionate or compelling reasons, such as:

  • serious illness or injury
  • bereavement (death of close family members)
  • a traumatic experience
  • being granted credit for previous study, and you do not have 24 credit points of study available to complete in the semester
  • if your faculty is unable to offer any other units of study due to the structure of the program
  • if an academic adviser from your faculty recommends your study load be reduced to ensure you successfully complete your remaining units of study (known as an Intervention Strategy).

Contact us for more information.

If you wish to reduce your study load, you should apply through Sydney Student, accessible via MyUni. You may need to provide supporting documentation for your application, such as a medical certificate, death certificate, evidence of academic counselling, or a travel itinerary.

Remember that reducing your enrolment load may affect your expected course duration. This may mean you need to request another eCoE to extend your visa (see below).

Early completion

In some situations, you may be able to finish your degree early.

For example, you may be granted credit for previous study that enables you to complete the requirements of your degree sooner.

The University is required to notify the Department of Immigration and Border Protection if a student completes their degree early, and their eCoE will be cancelled.

Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Framework

Every international student who comes to study in Australia has the right to a safe and enjoyable experience while they're here.

To ensure this happens, the Australian Government has created a legal framework that requires universities to deliver quality education and a high level of care to overseas students on a student visa. The framework consists of:

It is important for you to understand your rights and responsibilities and the obligations of the University under the ESOS framework. Please refer to these resources:

Extending your visa

If your student visa will expire soon, and your faculty has approved your continued enrolment, you will need to apply for an extension of your electronic Confirmation of Enrolment (eCoE).

Log into your Sydney Student portal via MyUni. The link to request an eCoE can be found by clicking on 'My studies' then 'Course details'.

Postgraduate research students

If you have submitted a thesis but still hold a valid student visa, you can stay in Australia while your thesis is “under examination”, as you are still considered a student. The University will not notify the Department of Immigration that you have finished your studies until your faculty advises that you have completed the course requirements.

If your student visa is going to expire and you need to remain in Australia to respond to comments/make changes to your thesis, you can apply for a Student Visa for Thesis Marking Purposes. To apply for this, you need to be on a 574 (postgraduate research) visa. Any students on a 573 (coursework) visa are not eligible to apply.

The process is very similar to that for a standard student visa application but, instead of an eCoE, you need to provide a letter from your faculty saying that you are required to remain in Australia for thesis marking, with an expected timeframe. This visa can be issued for no more than six months. The student visa application fee applies, and you need to lodge a paper application rather than an online application, as you will not have an eCoE number.

Staying for graduation

If you want to stay in Australia to attend your graduation, you will need to obtain an alternative visa from the Department of Immigration. Many students apply for a tourist visa for this purpose.

We recommend that you provide a Completion Letter along with your application for a tourist visa. To request a Completion Letter, please contact our Student Centre.

Discontinuation/withdrawal from your degree

You will need to log in to Sydney Student (via MyUni) and apply to discontinue from your course.

The University will then cancel your eCoE. This will affect your ability to remain in Australia under your current student visa. You need to contact the Department of Immigration within 28 days about alternate visa arrangements or return to your home country.

If you choose to discontinue your course and wish to recommence your studies at a later date, you will need to re-apply direct to the University via Find a course.

If you apply to discontinue your enrolment within the first six months to take up an offer at another university, you will need to obtain an official Release Letter (see below).

Important terminology

Tuition Protection Service (TPS) – The ESOS framework also provides tuition and financial assurance through the TPS. This protects international students against education providers who are unable to deliver their course. It means that education providers must have quick and streamlined processes for refunds and placement in other courses or other institutions.

CRICOS – The education providers and the courses they offer on a full-time basis to international students need to be registered with the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS). You can check by using the Australian Government's CRICOS course and institution search. We also display CRICOS codes within Find a course.

eCoE – all international students on a student visa need to have a valid electronic Confirmation of Enrolment – a document issued by the University containing specific details relating to the applicant and course. This document is used in support of your visa application to Australia.

Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) – As holder of a student visa, you need to have Overseas Student Health Cover for the duration of your stay in Australia.

Leave of absence/suspension

If you are unable to continue with your studies for compelling personal, medical or compassionate reasons, you may (under strict conditions) be eligible to apply for a leave of absence or suspension of studies.

Such reasons may include:

  • maternity or extreme health-related issues that prevent you from attending class
  • required military service in your home country
  • misconduct requiring suspension
  • failure to obtain a student visa.

Please contact your faculty for approval. You will need to provide supporting documentation.

If you suspend your studies, your eCoE will be cancelled. Your visa may be cancelled, and you may be required to leave Australia.

When you are ready to resume study, you may need to reapply to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for a visa.

You will also need to apply to the University to recommence your studies. Please do so at least two months in advance, to allow adequate time to obtain a new eCoE.

Apply to recommence through Sydney Student, via MyUni.

Click on 'My Studies' > 'Course details', then 'Return from suspension'.

Online/distance e-learning

Student visa holders may undertake no more than 25 percent of their total course by distance and/or online learning and must not enrol in exclusively distance or online study in any compulsory study period.

In other words, 75 percent or more of your studies needs to be completed in class via face-to-face learning.

If you are a recipient of the US Federal Direct Loan you must not enrol in any units of study offered by online or distance delivery if you wish to remain eligible for federal student aid.

For more information, refer to our international loans webpage or email our Financial Aid office:

Requesting a Release Letter

Transfer between education providers in Australia within the first six months

You may apply to transfer to another institution within your first six months of study in your principal course.

You will need to obtain a 'release letter' from the University of Sydney.

Applying for a release

  • First, read our International Student Change of Provider Policy.
  • Complete the Application for Release Letter Form and attach relevant document(s). 
    Attach a separate statement (A4, typed and signed) giving the reason(s) for your release application.
  • Attach a copy of your new offer letter from another education provider.
  • Attach a letter of approval from your government or other sponsor supporting the proposed transfer (applicable for sponsored students only).

If you are younger than 18, you need to have written confirmation from your legal guardian or parent to transfer.

Additional supporting documentation needs to be provided if you have been issued a 'packaged offer' from one of the following providers:

  • Centre for English Teaching (CET): if you have completed the course, attach a copy of your final CET results and completion letter
  • University of Sydney Foundation Program (USFP): if you have completed the course, attach a copy of your final USFP results and completion letter.

If you are younger than 18 at the time of request and not being cared for in Australia by a parent or suitable nominated relative, the receiving registered provider needs to accept responsibility for approving your accommodation, support and general welfare arrangements as per Standard 5. Your new offer letter needs to note this responsibility.

A Release Letter cannot be issued if:

  • you have an outstanding debt to the University (debts include all fees, loans, and library fines)
  • the University determines that the transfer would be detrimental to your future study plans
  • your new program of study is at a lower academic level
  • the gap between the last day of your current course and the commencement date of your new course is greater than eight weeks
  • you have not attached all necessary supporting documents
  • the University has withdrawn its offer of admission due to the submission of fraudulent, incomplete or inconsistent documents with your application for admission, or if you did not meet your attendance requirements, obligations or other key provider requirements
  • you are have already been reported to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for unsatisfactory attendance or unsatisfactory progression.

Student visa conditions

There are strict conditions attached to Australian student visas, which you need to understand. Read the full mandatory and discretionary conditions here.

These include:

  • maintaining a full-time study load
  • making satisfactory academic progress
  • completing your degree within the timeframe outlined on your eCoE
  • working no more than 40 hours per fortnight during any study period (all students on a 574 visa sub-class are exempt from this condition, and can work unlimited hours)
  • notifying us of your address within seven days of your arrival, and if you change your address later.
  • holding Overseas Student Health Cover from an Australian Government-approved provider for the duration of your visa
  • maintaining adequate schooling arrangements if you have school-age dependants in Australia
  • notifying the University of any changes to your visa.

Please be aware that changes to your enrolment can impact on your student visa.

For advice on how permanent residency will affect your domestic/international student status and fees, please refer to our Coursework Policy (Part 10, clause 39).

Failure to comply with your student visa conditions could impact your ability to stay in the country.

Students under 18 years of age

If you will be younger than 18 years of age when you arrive in Australia, you need to provide evidence to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection that appropriate welfare arrangements will be in place until you turn 18 or your visa expires.

This means showing that you will be accompanied in Australia by a parent or legal custodian, or that your educational provider will take responsibility for your welfare, accomodation and support.

For more information, please visit our Under-18 Student Visa holders information page.

Students with school-age children

If you have school-age dependants who will be living with you for more than three months in Australia on a student dependant visa, you need to arrange and maintain adequate schooling arrangements.

For information on school fees, refer to the Department of Education and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.