Everything you need to know about bridging visas, student visas and working holidays in Australia
So, this week it’s been one year since I touched base down in Australia at the start of my working holiday. At the time, I had no clue how significant this decision to leave home in the UK and come to Melbourne was going to be. It was, in my mind, just another trip.
A year on and a lot of things have changed. I’ve had the opportunity to travel and explore a country that’s on a lot of people’s bucket lists and the chance to do iconic things like sailing through the Whitsundays, seeing the Sydney Opera House and encountering more Australian wildlife than I can name. However, what is more significant is the extent to which my working holiday has become so much more than that. I have made emotional ties here in Melbourne, I’ve developed a work routine, a network of friends, a deep knowledge of a new city. I even managed to build my CV alongside all of this, doing multiple internships and freelance writing jobs while I was here.
I’d always presumed that by the time October came around, I’d be ready to leave Melbourne. But the reality is, I’m just not. However, I have a problem. You can’t just come and go to Australia as you please. To qualify for the second Working Holiday Visa, you have to have completed (and been signed off of) 88 days of farm work in rural Australia: something of which I didn’t do. So, what are my options?
In this blog post, I explain everything that came into my decision-making process of transferring on to a student visa, including the financial costs, the visa conditions and most importantly, how to do it. Here’s how to stay in Australia if you haven’t done your farm work.
Student Visa Subclass 500 Terms and conditions
The student visa subclass 500 allows you to stay in Australia for as long as you are enrolled in a course and for up to 5 years. To qualify this you must be enrolled in an eligible course of study (so you can’t just study any old course), study full time and hold overseas student health cover.
To adhere to your visa conditions you must participate in 20 hours of classroom time a week and not work more than 20 hours a week (apart from in school holidays where there are no limitations). Apart from that, the student visa is very similar to that of a working holiday. You enjoy all of the same freedoms, except for the bonus that you get taxed less- yay.
Finding a course in Australia
I think that studying at any age is a great thing to do, and having the opportunity to further my education in a city that I love seemed like a win-win. There is a range of courses that will allow you to stay in Australia on a student visa and these vary from full degrees to shorter diplomas and Certificate IVs.
Finding an eligible course that is relevant to you can be a bit overwhelming. It was because of this is decided to go through an agency called Australian Study Solutions. There are loads of these agencies around and for a small fee, they will help match you to a course that suits your educational and financial needs; as well as a course that matches the time that your WH visa ends. They will also assist you in the student visa application process, which is a lot more laborious than the WH one.
Applying for your visa
When you’ve found a course that you want to study, your first step is going to be to apply to that school, either directly or through the agency. When they send you a letter of offer and you have made the first payment, you then need to wait for your Certificate of Enrolment documents. When you have these, you can apply for the visa.
You need to do this on the Australian home affairs website (or you agent will do it for you). To apply you must fill in an official form 956 form, make the payment of $620, pay for your health cover and also write a Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) letter.
The GTE Letter
This is a letter to the government that explains who you are, what visas you’ve previously held, what and why you want to study in Australia and the details of that course. The thing to remember about the GTE is that it is an example that you only want to remain in Australia temporarily. You MUST make it clear that you plan on returning to your home country after your studies.
Student visas can take anything from 43 to 77 days to process. However don’t stress, if your WH visa is coming to end in a matter of days, like mine, you don’t have to leave the country. Once your student visa application is lodged (and when your current visa ends) you immediately move on to a Bridging visa A.
This takes the role of your applied visa (so in my case a student visa). The only conditions are that you cannot work legally on that visa until the first day of your new course and you must not leave the country. If you do need to leave Australia, you need to apply for Bridging visa B- basically a bridging visa of your bridging visa for your student visa. Complicated right?
How much transferring to a student visa really costs
Moving from the WH visa to a student one can be painful as you initially have to make a lot of payments. However, after you’ve paid that first chunk, the rest is a lot less expensive. Anyway, if you’re gaining the opportunity to study in a country that you love then it’s worth it.
Here’s a breakdown of the payments that you will have to make:
1 .The cost of your chosen course (and agent fee). Average costs are:
Certificate IVs: $4000
Diploma courses: $7000 a year
Bachelor Degree at University: $20,000 a year
Bachelor Degree at college: $12,000 a year
(Don’t stress as these can usually be paid in instalments during your course).
2. The cost of your visa: Around $620 AUD per application
3. Your overseas health cover: Prices vary but usually around $500 for a year
So that’s it, that’s pretty much everything you need to know about applying for a student visa in Australia. Obviously, if you want to stay in Australia after your first Working Holiday visa then doing your farm work is a lot cheaper and easier. However, if there’s a course of study you’re genuinely interested in and if you run out of time to do your farmwork, then a student visa is a great option.
The course I have chosen to study is a certificate and diploma in business and marketing here in Melbourne. It’s a great option for me as it correlates with my writing background and builds on the marketing internships and self-taught learning that I have done in the past. Alongside this, I am continuing at my cafe job, starting a new digital marketing internship at a startup company and even moving house next week. Updates coming on the blog.
Life on a working holiday in Melbourne has been out of this world and I’m hoping this year as a student will be even better. Now it’s time to do as you always should in Melbourne, head to a rooftop bar and have a drink to the start of something new.