Student Visas: Changing courses/providers

Update 7 April 2022

The Department of Home Affairs intends to add additional conditions to the Student Visa – Subclass 500 from 1 July 2022 by amending the Migration Act 1958. The new conditions will prohibit Student Visa holders from changing their course of study including their major, thesis or research topic unless they apply and receive permission from the Minister.

Currently, condition 8204 only prohibits students in particular course types from changing their course of study, thesis or research topic without seeking the Minister’s approval. The relevant courses are as follows:

  • Graduate certificate
  • Graduate diploma
  • Master’s degree
  • Doctorate
  • Bridging course

The new amendment will effect student visa holders studying any level of tertiary education. The Department of Home Affairs notes that this amendment is intended to protect Australian national security. If a student applies to change tertiary courses after being granted a Student Visa – Subclass 500, they will approve the change so long as it does not bring a risk to national security.

The new visa conditions 8204A and 8204B will only impact Student Visa applications that are received by the Department of Home Affairs after 1 July 2022.

Once further information is available regarding this upcoming amendment, we will update this page.

Changing Courses

If you are a Student visa (SC500) holder and would like to change courses and stay at the same education provider, you may do so as long as the course is at the same level or higher than your existing course. If you wish to transfer to a course at a lower level than what you are currently studying, you will need to apply for a new student visa, or you will be breaching your visa conditions.

You will not need to apply for a new visa if you are changing from an AQF level 10 course (doctoral degree) to an AQF 9 course (master’s degree).

For example:

  • if you are studying a Bachelor of Science (Level 7) at a university and wish to transfer to a Diploma of Accounting (Level 5) at the same institution, you would need to apply for and be granted a new student visa.
  • if you are studying a Certificate IV (AQF level 4) and want to transfer to an ELICOS course (non-AQF course), you will need to apply for and be granted a new student visa.

If you are studying a non-AQF course and want to transfer to an AQF course, you would not need to apply for a new student visa.

If you change to a new course that is longer than what you were originally enrolled in, you will need to apply for a new student visa before your existing visa expires. If you change to a new course that is shorter than what you were originally enrolled in, you will need to depart Australia within 28 days of course completion, or enrol in a new course and apply for a new student visa within that time frame.

Changing Providers

If you hold a Student visa and are thinking about changing your education provider, ensure that you continue to meet all the conditions that apply to your student visa.

If you have completed six months or more of your principal course (see below definition), you are free to change provider at any time (unless you have signed an agreement with your provider that prevents you from doing so). If you have not completed six months of your principal course and you want to change your education provider, you will need to meet one of the following criteria:

  1. You have obtained a letter of release from your existing provider
  2. Your provider, or the course in which you are enrolled, has ceased to be registered
  3. Your provider has had a sanction imposed on its registration by the ESOS agency that prevents you from continuing the course through your provider
  4. You have a government sponsor that considers the change to be in your best interests and has provided written support for the change.

If you want to transfer, your education provider must assess or consider your request to transfer. All education providers have documented procedures about their transfer policy. Make sure you understand your education provider’s transfer policy, and what your written agreement says you must do, before you attempt to enrol with a new education provider.

If your education provider does not give you permission to transfer to another education provider and you are not satisfied with the outcome, you should first use your education provider’s internal appeal process. If you are still not satisfied, you can appeal the education provider’s decision at an external complaints handling body such as the State or Territory Ombudsman or the Overseas Student Ombudsman.

What is a principal course?

The principal course of study refers to the main course of study to be undertaken by an overseas student where a student visa has been issued for multiple courses of study. The principal course of study would normally be the final course of study where the overseas student arrives in Australia with a student visa that covers multiple courses.

How do I obtain a Letter of Release?

You will need to contact your provider and explain why you no longer wish to continue studying at that institution, and ensure that you have compelling and justifiable reasoning.

I want to study an easier course, can I change to a lower level?

Yes, you can change to a lower level course, but you will need to apply for a new student visa. If you do so, there is a chance that your visa application will be refused (for example on GTE grounds), unless you provide legitimate reasons for wanting to enrol in the new course.

Related: 

Annabelle Hanley

Education Consultant

If you would like to discuss your matter or have questions on the above please book a consultation here.

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