International Student COVID-19 FAQs - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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International Student COVID-19 FAQs

COVID-19 has effected both commencing and continuing international students and we understand as an international student, you may have questions about how COVID-19 will impact your studies at USC. You can find answers to frequently asked questions below.

For information about Australia's immigration and border arrangements during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic visit the Department of Home Affairs’ COVID-19 and the border website.

Commencing Students

Has the application process to study at USC changed for international students?

USC is still accepting applications from international students and the application process to study at USC has not changed. You can follow our How to apply steps or apply via your USC Representative.

Is the Australian border open to international students?

Fully vaccinated Australian citizens, permanent residents and eligible visa holders (including Subclass 500 - Student visa holders) can now travel to and from Australia without needing to apply for a travel exemption.

All other temporary visa holders seeking to travel to Australia must apply for a travel exemption.

Queensland will welcome back fully vaccinated international students from 22 January 2022.

When will the Queensland border open?

Queensland will start accepting fully vaccinated international students from 22 January 2022.

You can read more about requirements for domestic and international travellers in the Queensland Plan to Unite Families.

Do I need a Student visa if I am not in Australia to commence my study?

No, while you are outside Australia you do not need a Student visa to commence your studies.

However, the Australian Government is strongly encouraging students commencing their studies online and who want to study in Australia, to start their visa application process as soon as practically possible. This will ensure students have a valid Student visa and will be able to travel to Australia when it is possible.

Offshore and online study is an interim arrangement, and a CoE and Student visa will be required if you want to undertake any study onshore in Australia.

If you are considering applying for a Temporary Graduate Visa (485) once you have finished your studies, online study taken outside Australia will count towards the Australian Study Requirement for Student visa holders, but will only be counted from the time of Student visa grant.

How long will it take for my visa to be processed?

The Department of Home Affairs (DoHA) have advised that due to COVID-19 some visa processing times have been affected. You can find out more about the current visa processing times for your visa subclass and the circumstances which may affect the processing time on the DoHA website.

The DoHA have also advised they will grant extra time to provide English language test results for Student visa applications if applicants are unable to take a test because of COVID-19. Extra time will also be given for biometrics collection and health checks where COVID-19 disrupted access to services.

Do I need Overseas Student Health Cover if I am studying outside of Australia?

If you are intending to apply for a Student visa, you will need to demonstrate as part of the application that you have visa length Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). If you requested USC arrange OSHC cover with our preferred provider Medibank, this cover will be reflected in your Confirmation of Enrolment and will show you have visa length cover.

Will my OSHC provide cover for COVID-19?

If you hold an OSHC policy through Medibank, you can read more in their detailed FAQ's.

If I start studying online outside of Australia and my visa is refused what will happen?

There are a few options available if your Student visa is refused.

  • Continue online study and appeal the Student visa refusal. In the case where you advise that you intend to appeal your visa outcome, USC will keep your Confirmation of Enrolment active. You must notify USC as soon as possible if you intend to appeal your visa decision.
  • Continue online study offshore where it is available, and do not appeal the visa decision. In this case you will not:
    • have the legislative protections of the ESOS Framework such as coverage by the Tuition Protection Service (TPS)
    • be able to transition to onshore study in Australia when it is possible (without first obtaining a Student visa)
    • have the option to count the offshore study towards eligibility for the Australian Study Requirement for future visa applications such as post study work
  • Formally withdraw from study at USC and apply for a refund of prepaid tuition fees if applicable.
Will I get a refund, if I apply for face-to-face study but can’t come to Australia due to travel restrictions?

Yes, if border restrictions prevent you from commencing your studies as planned and you do not wish to study online, you will be eligible for a full refund, provided you formally withdraw prior to the relevant census date.

What programs are available to study online?

USC offers programs in a range of disciplines in an online study mode. You can start your studies online from outside of Australia and change to face to face delivery once you arrive onshore in Australia.

Will studying online and offshore affect my Student visa?

The Department of Home Affairs is taking a flexible approach where COVID-19 restrictions have prevented Student visa conditions being met. They have advised Student visa holders will not be in breach of visa conditions where they:

  • have an approved course deferral
  • are studying online

However, if you are onshore, now borders between other states and Queensland are open you are expected to study on campus in a face to face study mode.

I am in Australia, can I study online?

No. As border restrictions have now been lifted and it is possible for students to enter Queensland from other states, you are expected to study on campus as per your Letter of Offer and meet your obligations as a Student visa holder (if applicable).

I have received an offer to study at USC, but I don’t want to study online. What should I do?

If you do not want to study online, you should contact the Admissions team at study@usc.edu.au for advice. Depending on the program you applied for, you may be able to start at a later date.

Current Students

I am outside of Australia, do I need to apply for a travel exemption?

Fully vaccinated Australian citizens, permanent residents and eligible visa holders (including Subclass 500 - Student visa holders) can now travel to and from Australia without needing to apply for a travel exemption.

All other temporary visa holders seeking to travel to Australia must apply for a travel exemption.

Queensland will welcome back fully vaccinated international students from 22 January 2022.

When will the Queensland border open?

Queensland will start accepting fully vaccinated international students from 22 January 2022.

You can read more about requirements for domestic and international travellers in the Queensland Plan to Unite Families.

What should I do to prepare to come to Australia?

You should ensure that you have a valid visa in place, and if you are a Student visa holder that you have a Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE). If your Student visa has finished while you have been outside of Australia, you should contact the International Office (askusci@usc.edu.au) to request a CoE or CoE extension.

I started studying online and offshore but have decided to wait until border restrictions are removed and I can study face-to-face. Can I defer my study?

If you have commenced your study, but do not think online study is suitable for you, you can apply for a Suspension of Studies or Leave of Absence which allows you to temporarily pause your studies. You can apply for a Suspension of Studies or Leave of Absence per Study Period, until you are able to resume study face to face.

Alternatively, you may want to withdraw from study and reapply for a later intake. You should contact Student Central for detailed advice.

I am in Australia, can I study online?

No. As border restrictions have now been lifted and it is possible for students to enter Queensland from other states, you are expected to study on campus as per your Letter of Offer and meet your obligations as a Student visa holder (if applicable).

I want to continue to study online and not come to Australia. Is this allowed?

If your program is available online, you can continue to study in an online study mode. However, you will not be able to come to Australia at a later point to study if you do not hold a visa with appropriate study rights. If you decide you do not want to come to Australia, but continue studying, you may be eligible for a refund of your OSHC cover. If USC arranged your cover, you can contact us to arrange the refund for you. If you arranged your own OSHC cover, you should contact your OSHC provider.

I am a Nursing student and my placement was deferred due to COVID-19, am I eligible for a CoE extension?

If you were undertaking a Nursing placement, you will be eligible for a CoE extension if: 

  • it was deferred due to COVID-19 restrictions, 
  • this deferral impacted your progression through your program and you are no longer able to complete your studies by the end date of your CoE or your Student visa, whichever comes first.

Contact the International Office at askusci@usc.edu.au for information regarding how to apply for a CoE extension.

I am outside Australia and have read about the Queensland Students Arrival Plan (QSAP). Can I return to Australia under this scheme? 

At this stage the Queensland Students Arrival Plan (QSAP) has not been finalised. Refer to our QSAP FAQs for the latest information.
 

If I want to return to home my country, can I complete my study offshore?

If you decide to return home and complete your studies offshore you should check to see if your program is available to complete in an online study mode.

If it is, you should: 

  • Contact Student Central to advise you are leaving Australia and will complete your study as an offshore student 
  • Contact your OSHC provider to ask about a refund of your unused policy 
  • Update your mailing address on USC Central 

If you want to return home but complete your studies in Australia later, you should contact Student Central for advice. Some of your courses may be available in an online study mode, and you can review if courses have an online study option when you enrol via USC Central or contact Student Central for enrolment advice.

If there are no courses available to you to study online, you may be able to apply for a Suspension of Studies/Leave of Absence.

If you intend to remain a Student visa holder, we will keep your CoE active, even if you are offshore.

What is the nil visa application charge (VAC) and how do I qualify for one?

The Department of Home Affairs are currently waiving the visa application fee to allow students to submit a further Student visa application to complete their study, where they meet the following criteria: 

  • held a Student visa on or after 1 February 2020  
  • couldn’t complete their course in their original visa validity because of the impacts of COVID-19, specifically either: 

             - deferred study as they were unable to enter Australia because of travel restrictions

             - were forced to reduce to a part-time study load 

             - were unable to complete their work-based training or placements.

This measure is not intended for students who are applying for a new Student visa because of ordinary reasons (including if you have failed a course or a unit of study, deferred for personal reasons or voluntarily reduced your study load.) 

If you want to be considered for a Student visa application fee waiver, you should request USC complete the Form 1545 COVID-19 Impacted Student (PDF 228 KB) by contacting the International Office via askusci@usc.edu.au. We will assess you meet the criteria provided by the Department of Home Affairs. If you receive the Form 1545, you must submit this form with your Student visa application.

Can USC complete the Form 1545 on my behalf?

Yes, USC must sign the form to confirm that you meet the criteria for a fee waiver as determined by the Department of Home Affairs. If you believe you meet the criteria for a fee waiver, please contact the askusci@usc.edu.au for additional instructions and advice.

Am I eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine?

COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone in Australia, even if you are not an Australian citizen or permanent resident. This includes people without a Medicare card, overseas visitors, international students, migrant workers and asylum seekers. You can find a clinic and book a COVID-19 vaccination using the vaccine clinic finder.

I have not been able to complete my studies by the end date on my CoE due to COVID-19. How can I apply for a new Student visa?

To apply for a Student visa, you will need to provide a Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) with your application. If you have not been able to complete your studies by the end date of your current CoE, you should contact the International Office for instructions to apply for a CoE extension. CoE extensions can only be issued where students meet specific criteria. To find out more about these criteria refer to the information available at while you are studying.

I am a Student visa holder, studying online outside of Australia. Am I in breach of my Student visa conditions?

No, USC is required to monitor online enrolment for Student visa holders. However, the Department of Home Affairs has advised that students will not be in breach of their Student visa conditions by studying online where this is due to COVID -19.

Where can I find more information?