Since Covid-19 swept the globe, Australia became a fortress with borders pretty much closed to everyone, only allowing a limited number of Australian citizens/residents to return back into the country.

So where does that leave international students? Well, they have to wait with many others for Australia to prepare a Covid-19 safety protocol and border opening. We expect this to take place sometime in late 2021 with first arrivals in 2022.

The international education industry in Australia has been hit hard and the vast majority of education agents operating overseas have either suspended or closed their operations completely. There are however some agents trying to hang on at all costs and are still offering students to enrol, pay and apply for a student visa. Let’s explore whether this is a good idea for international students to do so?

Australian immigration offices have restarted processing student visas mid last year but what is the reality and consequences of it?

Example:  A student in Germany or Colombia enrols into an English program, pays for it and applies for a student visa and this student visa is granted. That however, does not mean that the student is allowed to enter Australia. This limitation will remain in place for several more months still and entering Australia is not going to be a reality any time soon. Could the student postpone the study? Yes, of course he/she can and that is the good news; the “gamble” however is that the student may need to apply for new student visa again if by the time the borders re-open, the initial visa has already expired. Yet the more worrying fact I foresee especially in terms of the English schools’ sector, are the schools themselves. 

English schools rely on a constant flow of incoming students to Australia and we have not had that for almost a year. Many English schools have already closed down their operations and this trend will continue until the borders re-open. “What happen with the money I paid for to an English school which closed down?” … I guess we all know the answer to that question. It is a sad reality.

The second option to study in Australia are vocational schools, post HSC and prior University degree. We also call it Vocational Colleges. They are operating at the moment but mostly online. Here the question is whether students wishes to be home in Berlin or Bogota and study Australian vocational school online or whether their intention was to experience Australia for real. I guess everyone is different and may have a different answer to that.

The third option for students to study in Australia are universities. Here the situation is a bit different. If an international student completes a university degree here in Australia, it is fairly likely that s/he would be eligible for a post study visa subclass 485, which grants in general terms 2 years of unlimited visa. One of the conditions however is that the student must complete the 2 years of study while being physically in Australia. Due to Covid-19 restrictions the Australian government decided to help out and amend the requirements. Now, if a student who is in Berlin or Bogota enrols into an Australian university and IS GRANTED A STUDENT VISA, s/he can commence online studies from their home and this online and distance study period will count toward the 2 years study requirement required for post study visa subclass 485, even though the study of full 2 years might have not been conducted while being physically in Australia.

Where does that leave potential students? In my opinion enrolments and payments to English schools are not a good idea. Enrolments and payments for Vocational studies depend on the client’s circumstances and finally enrolments and payments for university degrees is fine, as long as the student commences the study AFTER the student visa was GRANTED and not during the student visa process.


Michal Sestak 
Managing Director of AustraliaOnline
Principal migration agent | Education consultant
MARN 0208424




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