Work Hours And Legal Requirements For International Students In Australia - Work In Australia

Work Hours And Legal Requirements For International Students In Australia - Work In Australia

Australia has become a favored choice among international students who aspire to pursue higher education. In addition to the academic prospects it offers, many students are keen on acquiring work experience while studying in Australia. Nevertheless, it is of utmost importance for international students to grasp the legal obligations and restrictions pertaining to work hours in order to adhere to the law and uphold their student visa status. This article delves into the work hours and legal prerequisites for international students studying in Australia.

Visa Conditions and Work Rights

International students studying in Australia are granted a student visa that comes with specific work rights and conditions. The most common visa subclass for international students is the Student Visa (subclass 500). Under this visa, students are generally allowed to work up to 40 hours per fortnight (14-day period) during their study period. However, during scheduled course breaks, such as semester vacations or official holidays, students can work unlimited hours.

In the context of working regulations, a fortnight refers to a specific period of two weeks or 14 consecutive days. It is commonly used to determine the allowable work hours for employees, including international students, in various jurisdictions. For instance, in some countries, there may be restrictions on the number of hours an employee can work within a fortnight or requirements for overtime pay after a certain threshold is reached during this period. The concept of a fortnight in working regulations helps to establish clear time boundaries and ensure fair and compliant employment practices.

It is important to note that the work limit of 40 hours per fortnight applies to all types of employment, including paid work, voluntary work, and work experience or internships related to the course of study. Exceeding the prescribed work hours is a violation of visa conditions and can have serious consequences, including visa cancellation.

New Work Restrictions For Student Visa Holders

“The allowable work hours cap for international students was relaxed during the pandemic to help meet workforce shortages.

The Government has announced that the cap will be reinstated on 1 July 2023 and will be raised from its previous level of 40 hours per fortnight to the new level of 48 hours per fortnight. 

This revised cap will help international students to support themselves through their studies, while maintaining study as the primary purpose of their visa. 

Student visa holders already working in the aged care sector on 9 May 2023 can continue to work unrestricted hours in the aged care sector until 31 December 2023.” - Department of Education, Australian Government.

Maintaining Enrolment and Study Progress|

To maintain their student visa status, international students must meet certain conditions related to their enrolment and study progress. These conditions include attending classes regularly, making satisfactory academic progress, and completing the enrolled course within the expected duration. While working part-time is allowed, it should not interfere with the student's ability to meet these conditions.

It is essential for international students to strike a balance between their academic commitments and work hours. Overworking can lead to neglecting studies, poor academic performance, and potential visa issues. Therefore, students should carefully manage their work hours to ensure they are fulfilling their primary purpose of being in Australia, which is to study.

Related: Top 5 High Paying Part Time Jobs In Australia For Nepalese Students - Earn From Home

Taxation and Superannuation

International students who work in Australia are subject to taxation laws. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) requires all workers to obtain a Tax File Number (TFN) and declare their income. Students can apply for a TFN online through the ATO website.

Additionally, employees in Australia are entitled to superannuation contributions from their employers. However, international students are exempt from the superannuation requirement if they earn less than AUD 450 before tax in a calendar month. It is crucial to keep track of income and understand tax obligations to ensure compliance with Australian laws.

For more information about international students’ rights in the workplace, you can take a look at the Fair Work Ombudsman International Students Fact Sheet. 

Safeguarding International Students’ Rights

The Australian Government is committed to addressing exploitation of migrant workers in all sectors and is aware of the risks of exploitation that international students can face, where limited work hours are a condition of their visa.

The Government of Australian has agreed to the recommendations in the Post-Study Work Rights Report which address these risks:

  • ensuring the needs of student and graduate visa holders are considered when developing the

package of reforms to address migrant worker exploitation expected in 2023. 

  • ensuring information about the role of the Fair Work Ombudsman in securing workplace rights

and protections for all workers in Australia is available to international students and graduates.

The Fair Work Ombudsman

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) is an independent government agency that provides information and assistance on workplace rights and obligations. Students can access resources on the FWO website, including pay rate calculators, information on minimum wage, and guidance on resolving workplace disputes.

International students, like all workers in Australia, are entitled to certain rights and protections in the workplace. These include fair pay, safe working conditions, and protection against discrimination. It is important for students to familiarize themselves with their rights and understand what constitutes fair treatment at work.

If an international student is being exploited in the workplace, they should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman, who will be able to support them. The Assurance Protocol applies to temporary visas with work restrictions, including the Student visa (subclass 500). This allows international students to seek help from the Ombudsman without fear of visa cancellation, even if they have breached their visa conditions. Employers are not able to cancel visas, even if you have breached your visa conditions. If you are being exploited in your workplace, please contact the Fair Work Ombudsman as soon as possible. For more information about international students’ rights in the workplace, consult the Fair Work Ombudsman international students fact sheet.

Information For Employers

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.

While these measures are in place, the Department of Home Affairs and Australian Border Force will:

  • not cancel the visas of students who work more than 48 hours a fortnight in the aged sector, under s116(1)(b) of the Migration Act 1958
  • not refer student visa holders working in the aged care sector for investigation of any potential offence under s235 of the Migration Act 1958. (This might relate to the hours worked by a student visa holder in breach of their visa conditions)
  • not refer a student working in the aged care sector or relevant third-party labour hire companies, as an employer, for investigation of any potential offence under s245AC of the Migration Act 1958. (This might relate to allowing a student visa holder to work in breach of their visa conditions).

Does the cap apply to all international students, or just new students
who begin their courses after 1 July 2023?

The cap applies to all international students, no matter when they began studying, except forstudents who were already working in the aged care sector on 9 May 2023. These students can work unrestricted hours in the aged care sector until 31 December 2023. Existing arrangements exempting all Doctorate and master’s degree by research students from the working hours cap continue to apply. International students may work unlimited hours during their holiday breaks.

Why is the Government reinstating the cap on working hours?

The relaxation of the working hour cap was a temporary measure during the pandemic to allow students to bolster their income while helping to meet labor shortage. The primary purpose of a student visa is to study in Australia. The working hour cap is intended to balance international students’ need to support themselves and gain work experience in Australia with their main purpose, which is to study in Australia.

What should I do if my employer is threatening me with visa cancellation for working too many hours in a fortnight?

You should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman. Your employer cannot cancel your visa, and the Department of Home Affairs will not cancel your visa for reporting workplace exploitation to the Fair Work Ombudsman, even if you have worked more than the allowed number of hours in a fortnight.


International students in Australia have the opportunity to gain valuable work experience while pursuing their studies. However, it is essential to understand and comply with the legal requirements surrounding work hours to avoid visa issues and ensure a successful academic journey. By managing work hours responsibly, maintaining enrolment and study progress, fulfilling tax obligations, and understanding workplace rights, international students can make the most of their time in Australia both academically and professionally.


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