Page last updated 31 Oct 2020

Study Melbourne is dedicated to supporting our international student community in Melbourne and Victoria during this challenging time as we share the impact of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

We want to reassure you that we are here for you, that you are not alone, and that we are all in this together.

To help you stay up-to-date with authoritative information, and find the help and support you need we’ve put together the following Frequently Asked Questions.

GeneralInternational Students Emergency Relief FundEmployment and FinancesHealth
TravelAccommodationEducation, Visas and Consular AssistanceMental Health and Wellbeing

General

Where can I get the latest advice for international students in Victoria?

Australian Government Coronavirus Australia app and Whatsapp Feature

  • The Australian Government has launched an official app with the information you need to know about coronavirus. It will assist you to get accurate and timely information about what is being done by governments around the country to support you through the difficult months ahead.
  • Search "Coronavirus Australia" in the Apple App Store and on Google Play to download or access the Government's WhatsApp channel.

What are the current restrictions and closures?

Latest restriction advice

  • From 11:59pm on Sunday 27 September restrictions changed for metropolitan Melbourne. Metropolitan Melbourne moved to the Second Step in the roadmap for reopening.
  • All Victorians must wear a fitted face mask that covers their nose and mouth when leaving home, unless you have a lawful reason for not doing so. A face shield, scarf or bandana on its own is not enough. There is a two-week grace period on enforcement from 28 September 2020 to 11 October 2020.
  • You can socialise with your household members, or up to five people from a maximum of two households, outdoors for a maximum of two hours. You must keep at least 1.5 metres distance between yourself and others at all times.
  • The curfew was lifted in metropolitan Melbourne from 5am on Monday 28 September. You can leave home at any time for one of the four permitted reasons.
  • You cannot travel more than 5km from your home for shopping or exercise. You can travel further than 5km from your home for permitted work, medical care, primary and secondary education, childcare and care or compassionate reasons. If you are a permitted worker, you can exercise within 5km of your home or workplace (carrying your permitted worker permit) to exercise outdoors.
  • If you are a single person living alone, or a single parent with dependent children under 18 years, or caring for someone with a disability or illness over the age of 18, you can form a ‘single social bubble’ with one other person.
  • From 11.59pm on Wednesday 16 September Third Step restrictions apply throughout regional Victoria.
  • Find out more about Victoria's current restrictions here.

Extreme Hardship Support Program

  • People who are living in Victoria on temporary or provisional visas or as undocumented migrants, and struggling with basic living costs like food, housing and bills, can apply for a support payment.
  • The Victorian Government has recently doubled this payment to provide extra support to Victorians during the pandemic.
  • If you have received a $400 payment before 1 October 2020 and are still experiencing financial hardship, you can apply for an additional payment of $400 now. You may also be eligible for an additional payment of $800 if you are still experiencing financial hardship after two months.
  • If you apply for support after 1 October 2020 and are deemed eligible you will receive a payment of $800. You will also be eligible for an additional payment of $800 if you are still experiencing financial hardship after two months.You can apply on the Red Cross website.
  • If you need assistance with your online application, please call the Red Cross on 1800 855 240.

Permitted Worker Scheme

  • From 11:59pm on Wednesday 5 August, employers requiring their staff to attend a work site in Melbourne must issue a worker permit to their employees.
  • Details about the permitted work scheme including eligibility and the worker permit form are on the Business Victoria website.

Advice on face mask/covering

  • Everyone must wear a mask when they leave home, unless an exception applies. This is enforceable across regional Victoria from 11:59pm on Sunday 2 August.
  • For more information on restrictions and face coverings, visit the DHHS website.

What you need to know

  • To help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), stay safe by regularly washing your hands, keeping at least 1.5 metres from other people, and staying home if you feel unwell.
  • If you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) get tested.

Someone I know needs translation services, where can I get help?

  • The Department of Health and Human Services provides information about coronavirus (COVID-19) in many languages. Find this information at the DHHS website here.
  • If assistance is required in another language while seeking help, you can contact the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) on 131 450 or visit their website.

Is the Study Melbourne Student Centre open?

  • The Study Melbourne Student Centre building has temporarily closed to protect the health and wellbeing of our student community and staff.
  • We are dedicated to supporting you during this challenging time.
  • We will continue to provide the same case work, mental health assistance and legal advice services as we always have – it will now happen online and over the phone, by appointment. Translation services are also available.
  • The Study Melbourne Student Centre is usually a hive of activity for student events. We’ve placed a hold on group face-to-face events for now and we are working with our event partners to re-invent our events program into online offerings. Watch this space!

How can I protect myself against online COVID-19 scammers?

  • There is a significant increase in malicious activity surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19), including misinformation made to appear to be from trusted sources such as government agencies and media outlets.
  • For more information on how to identify a scam, and how to protect yourself visit the Consumer Affairs Victoria website (scroll down to coronavirus scams)

International Students Emergency Relief Fund

What financial support is the Victorian Government providing?

  • On 29 April 2020, the Victorian Government announced a $45 million fund to support international students in Victoria facing hardship as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The fund is being delivered in partnership with Victoria’s tertiary education providers.
  • The International Student Emergency Relief Fund will provide a payment of up to A$1,100 for vulnerable international students who have lost their job or had a significant reduction to their employment and are facing financial hardship as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • The fund complements the range of relief programs offered by Victorian universities, education providers and existing government support.
  • International students from Victoria’s tertiary education providers including universities, TAFEs, private Vocational Education and Training providers and English language colleges are eligible to apply for the hardship payment.
  • Find more information and apply for the fund here

Food Aid

What support is available for students struggling to pay for food and groceries?

  • The Victorian Government is helping international students in Victoria to access the food and groceries they need for free.
  • $1 million in funding will be used by SecondBite, Foodbank Victoria and OzHarvest, experienced organisations operating across Victoria, to provide free food and meals to international students who need support.
  • Foodbank Victoria has opened their service in the Melbourne CBD, with others to follow. Keep an eye on Study Melbourne’s social media or visit the OzHarvest and SecondBite websites for more information.
  • These organisations operate across both metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria.
  • This program complements a range of relief programs offered by Victorian universities, education providers and existing government support.

Employment and Finances

What can I do if I have questions/issues about my employment rights?

  • The Fair Work Ombudsman provides helpful resources about your workplace entitlements and obligations if you're affected by the outbreak of coronavirus. Visit their website here.
  • The Fair Work Ombudsman also provides helpful resources for international students about their employment rights. Click here for more information.
  • You can also make an appointment with one of the lawyers at the International Student Work Rights and Accommodation Legal Service who provide free and confidential legal advice, by calling the Study Melbourne Student Centre on 1800 056 449 (9AM to 5PM AEST). If you are overseas, please email info@studymelbourne.vic.gov.au to make a phone consultation with one of our lawyers.
  • You can also refer to International Student Legal Information, a free legal information resource for international students living in Victoria. You can read stories based on legal problems international students have had, and learn about the people and services that can help you.

How I can access my superannuation?

  • If you are experiencing financial hardship and have been living and working in Australia for longer than 12 months, you can access your Australian superannuation.
  • For more information visit the Australian Tax Office website and register your details at myGov.

Can I apply to find work through the Working for Victoria program?

  • If you’re an international student on a student visa and are legally able to work in Australia, you can register for the Victorian Government’s Working for Victoria initiative.
  • Find out more and apply here.

I have to travel to my job after 9pm at night. How can I travel with the curfew?

If you work in a permitted industry and need to travel for work after 9pm, you can do so with a worker permit. Your employer will provide you with a worker permit. You must carry the permit and photo ID when travelling to and from work. You must have a worker permit to travel between 9pm and 5am. Find out more about Workers Permit Schemes.

I am experiencing financial hardship. Where can I find assistance?

  • There are a number of steps you can take if you are experiencing financial hardship:
  1. Ask your education provider about what support is available for international students during this time. Many Australian education institutions are supporting students through Hardship Funds, extended pastoral support and innovative partnerships with community organisations.
  2. Apply for the Victorian Government’s International Student Emergency Relief Fund, which supports international students in Victoria who are facing financial hardship through lost wages and work as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
  3. Apply for a rent relief grant. The Victorian Government offers rent relief grants for renters experiencing rental hardship due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including international students and those in shared accommodation. The package provides a one-off grant of up to $2,000 to help Victorian renters maintain safe, secure and stable accommodation. For more information, including the application process and eligibility criteria, visit the HousingVic website.
  4. Speak to a financial counsellor, who will listen to your concerns and help you with things like bills or fines, if you are:
    1. struggling to pay gas or electricity or have had your phone disconnected
    2. being evicted from your house
    3. paying for car accidents if you don’t have insurance.
  5. To find free financial counselling services you can:
    1. speak to your education provider’s student union or student services
    2. visit ASIC MoneySmart website
    3. call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 for over-the-phone support or referrals to local financial counsellors.
  6. Contact your Embassy or local Consular Office to see if help is available.

Emergency food and supplies

  • Find more detailed information about community support and emergency food relief available across Melbourne at our Community support and food relief page.
  • Emergency relief packages are available for vulnerable people in Victoria who need to undertake mandatory self-quarantine due to coronavirus (COVID-19). If you are in urgent need and don’t have a support network to can help you, call the coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398. Find out more information here.

Travel

Are there any new travel bans or special conditions on travel?

  • All travellers to Australia are required to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days.
  • Australia’s borders are closed. From 9pm AEDT 20 March 2020, only Australian citizens, residents and immediate family members can travel to Australia.
  • The Australian Government's Department of Home Affairs website provides important information about travel restrictions and visas for international students and we also encourage you to visit the Smart Traveller website.
  • Appeals to travel on compassionate and/or compelling circumstances may be made to the Australian Department of Home Affairs.
  • Travellers will be transported directly to designated facilities after appropriate immigration, customs and enhanced health checks.
  • An overseas travel ban is now in place for Australians, with some exceptions for essential travel. Visit the Smart Traveller website for information about overseas travel.
  • Information and advice from the Department of Health and Human Services about coronavirus for overseas travellers is available at the DHHS website.
  • The latest information on travel restrictions, and guidance around visas is available at the Department of Home Affairs website.

When can I return to Melbourne/Victoria/Australia to continue/begin my studies?

International students are important to the Victorian community. We look forward to welcoming overseas students back to Victoria when it is safe to do so. Planning is underway to allow international students to return to Australia through small pilot programs. The latest information about travelling to Victoria to commence or continue your studies is published on the Study Melbourne website.

I'm currently living in Australia. Can I return home under current restrictions?

Temporary visa holders, including international students, do not need an exemption to leave Australia. They can leave at any time, as long as border restrictions in their home country allow them to return.

When students are leaving Victoria, particularly if transiting through another state in order to leave the country, they should ensure they have evidence that they have tickets for flights and any necessary exemptions to cross state borders.

For further information, international students can:

Health

What can I do to protect myself and my community?

  • To keep yourself, and your friends and family safe there are three key actions that Victorians are being asked to continue:
    • Stay at home if you are unwell.
    • Keep your distance – stay 1.5 metres away from others.
    • Practise good hygiene.
  • Stay healthy with good nutrition, regular exercise and sleep. Limit alcohol intake and smokers should consider quitting.
  • It is important to keep connected as a community, even while physically distancing. You can do this by taking some simple steps.
  • Stay informed. Use information from reputable sources, for example the coronavirus (COVID-19) section on thie Department of Health and Human Services website.
  • Information is also available in a range of languages other than English. Click here for more information.

What if I’m not eligible for Medicare and I need medical care for COVID-19?

  • If you are a student from overseas on a temporary student visa it is a condition of your visa to maintain adequate health insurance for the duration of your visa. This means you need to purchase Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) and keep your policy up to date as long as you hold this visa.
  • For international students who do not have adequate insurance coverage, Victorian hospitals will waive the costs of treatment. This includes waiving payment and debt recovery procedures for ambulance transfers of people in mandatory hotel quarantine suspected to have coronavirus (COVID-19), who are taken to Victorian hospitals for assessment.
  • These arrangements have been put in place to ensure payment issues are not a barrier for people from overseas with COVID-19 symptoms seeking early medical advice. Seeking medical treatment will not affect your visa.
  • For more information, visit the DHHS website.

How do I know what health services and other support I’m covered for?

I am in isolation and need assistance getting supplies. Where can I get info?

  • Emergency relief packages are available for vulnerable people in Victoria who need to undertake mandatory self-quarantine due to coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • If you are in urgent need and don’t have a support network who can help you, call the coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398.

Mental Health and Wellbeing

I need help urgently. What support is available?

    If you are in an emergency or at immediate risk of harming yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000.

    Coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing a lot of uncertainty for students, especially when it comes to work and study. Many people are feeling stressed, anxious, depressed and generally overwhelmed, even when completing the smallest of tasks.

    You are not alone and there are many support services available and people here to help you.

    Whatever you are feeling, you can talk to a counsellor who will listen, give advice and help you get the support you need. If you are worried about someone else, these services can also offer guidance and resources so you can help them.

    Services to help you  

    Listed below are services you can contact for immediate support. You can talk to someone on the phone, visit websites to chat with someone online, or join forums and communities to connect with people experiencing similar feelings to you.

    If you are in an emergency or at immediate risk of harming yourself or others please contact emergency services on 000.
    • Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
    • Lifeline – 13 11 14 or you can find access to interpreters and translated services here
    • Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636   or you can find translated resources and videos on how to get help here
    • Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800  or click ‘Translate’ at the bottom of the page for your preferred language
    • MensLine – 1300 789 978  or you can find translated information here

    There are also many online tools and resources to help you navigate this challenging time and support you to start feeling better:

What online mental health support resources are available?

  • It's OK to experience feelings of anxiety, distress and concern in relation to coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It’s important to talk to someone, and ask for support. Seeking help will not affect your visa. You can access free online resources to help you look after your mental wellbeing:

I am having trouble coping with isolation and loneliness. What can I do?

  • You are not alone. Many others are feeling the same way.
  • There are lots of things you can do to connect with others, even from home. Here are some ideas:
    • Talking with friends and family over phone or social media is a great way to stay in touch with people you care about
    • Call the support services and find online communities and clubs at your education provider, perhaps you could even suggest ways students can connect?
    • Join Study Melbourne’s International Students of Melbourne and Victoria Facebook group and look up the online events and workshops on the Study Melbourne website
    • Organise a virtual coffee date with a colleague or professional contact you admire
    • Join the State Library of Victoria virtual book club by following #SLVBookClub on Instagram for staff picks and recommendations
    • Join the #inthistogether campaign to support other international student communities who have been impacted by COVID-19. We encourage everyone in our community to share your message of support and show we're all #InThisTogether.
  • If you need to talk to someone about your situation and your overseas student health care provider or institution are unable to help, you can seek help from the following places:
    • Lifeline – 13 11 14
    • Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
    • Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800
    • MensLine - 1300 789 978
    • ReachOut
  • You can share your message of support by:
    • Posting your COVID-19 message on social media with a photo or video
    • Tagging @Study Melbourne and using the hashtags #InThisTogether
    • Encouraging others to also show their support!

If you can’t find the information you need, or you require support or information from Study Melbourne, send us an email.

What should I do if I experience racism or discrimination?

  • The complaint can be lodged by the victim or by someone on their behalf. You can also choose to report the incident anonymously if you do not wish to be identified.
  • To make a complaint or enquiry in a language other than English, send an email to enquiries@veohrc.vic.gov.au with your name, preferred language and a contact number. VEOHRC will arrange to call you with an interpreter.
  • Translated information about making a complaint is available here.

How do I seek assistance for family violence?

Family violence is emotional abuse, financial abuse, physical or sexual violence, and coercive and controlling behaviour. This can include abusers restricting your movement or isolating you from friends or family. There are people you can speak with and numbers to phone if you, or someone you know, is living in fear or needs help or support.

  • If you feel frightened or are concerned about your own or someone’s safety and wellbeing, or if you need to reach a place of safety, call safe steps 1800 015 188 for advice, help and support. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger call 000.
  • You can also call 1800 737 732 (1800RESPECT), which provides family and domestic violence counselling, information and support.

You may be able to access support and assistance from your university counselling service.

Education, Visas and Consular Assistance

Are schools and universities closing?

My classes are now all online. How will this affect my fees/student visa?

How do I stay safe online?

E-safety is an issue that affects many students, female and male. Online abuse and non-consensual sharing of images is a prevalent experience of intimate abuse. You can find help for online abuse by visiting the esafety commissioner website.

To report abuse go to the top right-hand corner of the page ‘REPORT ABUSE.’

  • When you report abuse the commissioner has the power to work across social media to take down any abusive images and prevent them from being re-posted.
  • The Police will also work to prosecute any offenders for posting images.

I am experiencing problems with my education provider. What can I do?

  • If you are concerned about your enrolment, fees or other issues related to your studies, please contact your education provider to ask what your options are during this time, such as moving to online study, deferring your enrolment, managing your payments, or accessing extra student supports or financial assistance.
  • If your education provider cannot assist, you can call the dedicated government hotline on (+61) 1300 981 621 from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday AEDT, except public holidays. You can also email international.students@dese.gov.au.
  • The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman investigates complaints that international students have with private education providers. A private education provider can be a school, college or university in Australia. If you are studying at a private education provider, and have not been able to resolve your problem through their internal complaints process, you can contact the Commonwealth Ombudsmen for Overseas Students.

How can I access assistance from my Consulate/Embassy?

  • While we are here to ensure our students feel supported during this uncertain time, we understand you may need to alert your home country if you are experiencing difficulties or to register with them. If you need advice about returning to your home country, please contact your local Consular office.
  • Find the location of your local Consular office by visiting the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

Accommodation

What can I do if I have questions/issues about my accommodation?

  • Consumer Affairs Victoria has information for students whose accommodation in Victoria has been impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) travel ban. Visit their website here.
  • Tenants Victoria have detailed information for renters impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19) on their website.
  • You can also make an appointment with one of the lawyers at the International Student Work Rights and Accommodation Legal Service, who provide free and confidential legal advice by emailing the Study Melbourne Student Centre.
  • If you are overseas, please send us an email and our team will coordinate a time for one of our lawyers to speak with you about accommodation matters over the phone.
  • You can also refer to International Student Legal Information, a free legal information resource for international students living in Victoria. You can read stories based on legal problems international students have had, and learn about the people and services that can help you.
  • Tenants Victoria also have detailed information for renters impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19) on their website including what to do if you are worried about paying rent.

How do I self-isolate if I live in shared accommodation?

  • If you need to self-isolate, you must stay in your home or accommodation and not attend public places, including work, public areas of university and higher education campuses. Only people you usually live with should stay in the home or accommodation. Do not see visitors.
  • Observe the recommended physical distancing requirements (1.5m) from the people around you in the home and always practice good hygiene: 
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, or using the toilet. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitiser that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow.
    • Do not share drinking bottles, crockery and cutlery.
  • Ask others (who are not required to be isolated) to get food and necessities for you. If you must leave your accommodation, such as to seek medical care, wear a surgical mask if you have one. If you don’t have a mask, take care to not cough or sneeze on others and maintain good hand hygiene.
  • For the latest information and advice on coronavirus (COVID-19), visit www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au

Where can I go if I can’t self-isolate at home?

  • You are unable to properly self-isolate at home, you should seek out alternative accommodation. Your accommodation provider may also be able to provide you with guidance on alternative living arrangements.
  • The Study Melbourne Student Centre offers a wide range of confidential in-language support services that can be accessed online or over the phone – including related to accommodation issues.
  • The Study Melbourne Student Centre is here to support you to access the information and support you need.
  • If you require support from Study Melbourne, send Study Melbourne an email.
  • Please be patient and we will contact you as soon as possible.
  • As our service is busier than usual, please call us 1800 056 449 for urgent matters only, this will keep call waiting times as short as possible.

I can’t afford to pay my rent because of coronavirus (COVID-19). What can I do?

  • New laws in Victoria help protect you as a tenant from eviction and allow you to negotiate a rent reduction with your landlord if you are suffering financial hardship due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • The laws apply for six months from 29 March 2020 and mean renters can’t be evicted if served a notice to vacate on or after this date.
  • These laws apply if you are a tenant or sub-tenant in a residential property or a resident living in a rooming house, in social housing, under a site agreement at a caravan park or in specialist disability accommodation. For more information visit the Consumer Affairs Victoria website.

Rent Relief Grants

  • The Victorian Government offers rent relief grants for renters experiencing rental hardship due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including international students and those in shared accommodation.
  • The package provides a one-off grant of up to $3,000 to help Victorian renters maintain safe, secure and stable accommodation.
  • For more information, including the application process and eligibility criteria, visit the HousingVic website.

Additional support and advice

  • Consumer Affairs Victoria also offers advice on negotiating a reduced rental agreement, can help if you are unable to reach an agreement with your landlord or agent, and provides access to translation services.
  • Before you enter into a rent reduction agreement that asks you to go into debt, it is recommended you talk to Consumer Affairs Victoria or a lawyer.
  • For more information visit the Consumer Affairs Victoria website.

International Student Work Rights and Accommodation Legal Service

  • You can make an appointment with a lawyer at the International Student Work Rights and Accommodation Legal Service, who provide free and confidential legal advice by emailing the Study Melbourne Student Centre on info@studymellbourne.vic.gov.au