Student Employment Rights

Working while on a student visa

If you are a student visa holder, you (and your dependent family members) have permission to work included with your visa.

  • You cannot work until you have commenced your course in Australia.
  • Once your course has commenced you are permitted to work a maximum of 40 hours per fortnight when your course is in session.
  • You can work unlimited hours when your course is not in session (when you take an approved holiday break).
  • Voluntary, unpaid work, is not included in the limit of 40 hours per fortnight if it:

-is of benefit to the community
-is for a non-profit organisation
-is genuinely voluntary (that is, you are not paid either in cash or -ther—board and lodging is acceptable).

  • You must obtain a Tax File Number to be able to work in Australia. This is available from the Australian Tax Office.

For more information, please go to the Australian Department of Home Affairs.

Student Workplace rights

All workers in Australia, including student visa holders, have rights and protections at work. Your employer must comply with Australian workplace and immigration laws.

The amount of money your employer pays you is set by Australian Law.

The Australian Fair Work Ombudsman’s Pay and Conditions Tool (PACT) website provides information on pay rates, shift calculations, leave arrangements and notice and redundancy entitlements.

Unfortunately, some employers take advantage of student visa holders. Examples include:

  • Not paying employees the correct pay rate
  • Not paying employees for overtime
  • Working long or unreasonable hours
  • Not providing employees with payslips
  • Not paying employees on time


In the past, there has been some bad employers who exploited student visa holders by not paying them properly or by breaching students’ work rights. Some of these employers told their student employees that they would cancel their visas if the students did not accept illegal workplace conditions.

Employers cannot cancel your visa.

Only the Department of Home Affairs can grant, refuse or cancel visas. Visa cancellation is not automatic where a visa holder has breached their visa conditions. If you are under consideration for visa cancellation, you will have the opportunity to provide reasons as to why your visa should not be cancelled.

The Fair Work Ombudsman

The Fair Work Ombudsman is an independent statutory office. They provide free services to all workers and employers in Australia including student visa holders.

Their main role is to:
help make, productive and cooperative workplace relations
ensure compliance with Australian workplace laws
Their free services include:

  • a single point of contact for reliable and timely information about Australia’s workplace relations system
  • educating people working in Australia about fair work practices, rights and obligations
  • assessing complaints or suspected breaches of workplace laws, awards and registered agreements and some Fair Work Commission orders

The Fair Work Ombudsman can give you further information and advice about your workplace rights and obligations, and has workplace information translated into different languages.

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