Page last updated 27 May 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?

  • The most important message for all Victorians is to stay home.
  • All gatherings are restricted to no more than 2 people except for members of your household and for work or education purposes.
  • Social distancing rules should also be observed. This minimises the chances of transmission, protects the health system and saves lives.
  • If you are with other people, you must observe the rule of 1 person for every 4 square metres to ensure a safe physical distance.

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!
  • If you can’t find the information you need, or you require support or information from Study Melbourne, complete the support request form online.

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

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. 

Where can I find out about exemptions for the 40 working hours per fortnight?

  • The Australian Government has announced special working arrangements to extend working hours for international students employed by a major supermarket or working in aged care until 1 May 2020.
  • Contact your employer for more information or visit the Department of Home Affairs FAQ for international students.

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. Reach out to your family support network for help
  2. 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.
  3. If you are experiencing financial hardship and have been living in Australia for longer than 12 months, you can access your Australian superannuation. Register at https://my.gov.au
  4. Find community organisations that may be able to help, such as:
  1. Contact your Embassy or local Consular Office to see if help is available.

Tuition fees

  • If you are concerned about your enrolment, fees or other issues related to your studies, you should first speak to your education provider to ask what your options are, such as deferring your enrolment, your payments, or accessing financial assistance. Check our list of universities’ COVID-19 responses to see what your education provider can offer you. 
  • If your education provider cannot assist, you can call dedicated staff at the Australian Department of Education, Skills and Employment 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

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?

  • From 9pm AEDT 20 March 2020, only Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members can travel to Australia.
  • Appeals to travel on compassionate and compelling circumstances may be made to the Border Force Commissioner.
  • From 23:59 AEDT on 28 March 2020 all people entering Australia will be required to undertake a mandatory 14-day quarantine at designated facilities (for example, a hotel), in their port of arrival.
  • 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.

Health

What can I do to protect myself and my community?

  • Stay home.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces regularly, including your desk, phone and keyboard.
  • Practice good personal hygiene, like regular and thorough handwashing.
  • Do not shake hands, hug or kiss anyone.
  • Maintain 4 square metres (2m x 2m) between people and encourage online meetings.

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 if you need to seek medical advice or treatment for symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). This includes waiving payment and debt recovery procedures for ambulance transfers of people 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 eople 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

What mental health support is available for international students?

  • Our international students are a much-loved and valued part of our community and we are working hard to support you through this difficult time.  
  • Through Study Melbourne, the Victorian Government has developed tailored information to support international student wellbeing, available here.
  • The Study Melbourne Student Centre offers a wide range of confidential services that can be accessed online or over the phone – including access to counselling, and free professional legal advice on employment and accommodation issues.   
  • There are support services available to you. In the first instance you should seek help from your education institution or overseas student health care provider.  
  • Through Study Melbourne, the Victorian Government is offering support including access to online and phone counselling to international students in Victorian universities and vocational education and training providers. This is also available to students who are still overseas and those who are in self-isolation in Victoria.  
  • If 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
  • These services are free of charge and will not affect your visa.
  • You can also access the following free online mental health services: 
  • If you can’t find the information you need, or you require support or information from Study Melbourne, complete the support request form online or send us an email.

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:
  • ReachOut
  • Head to Health

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
  • These services are free of charge and will not affect your visa.
  • You can access free online resources to help you look after your mental wellbeing:
  • 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, complete the support request form online or send us an email.

What should I do if I experience racism or discrimination?

  • There’s no place for xenophobia and racism in Victoria. In fact, it is against the law in Victoria to vilify someone because of their race or religion. 
  • 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.

Education, Visas and Consular Assistance

Are schools and universities closing?

  • On Sunday 22 March, the Premier announced additional steps to combat the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), including bringing forward the school holidays in Victoria to commence from Tuesday 24 March.
  • Early childhood education and care services, TAFE and training providers currently remain open. Many universities, TAFEs and training providers are transitioning to remote learning models to meet physical distancing requirements.

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

  • Victorian education providers are working hard to respond to this fast-evolving situation. It’s important that you keep in touch with your education provider for the latest information. 
  • Education providers are responsible for setting their own fees for international students. Please contact your education provider about what fee concessions or assistance may be available to you.
  • For the latest information from the Australian Department of Education, and Australia's regulatory bodies, visit the Study in Australia website, or see the Australian Department of Education’s FAQ for international students.
  • If your education provider cannot assist, you can call dedicated staff 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.

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

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?

  • If 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, complete the online webform or 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’re suffering financial hardship due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • The laws apply for six months from 29 March 2020. This means you can’t be evicted if you are served a notice to vacate on or after this date because you can’t pay your rent due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • These laws apply if you’re a tenant or sub-tenant in a residential property, or a resident living in a rooming house, social housing, under a site agreement at a caravan park, or in specialist disability accommodation.
  • For more information visit the Consumer Affairs Victoria website.
  • See the also the information from Consumer Affairs Victoria on the new process for negotiating a reduced rental agreement.
  • The Victorian Government has recently announced rent relief grants for renters experiencing rental hardship as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The package provides a one-off grant to help Victorian renters maintain safe, secure and stable accommodation. For more information, including the application process and eligibility criteria, visit the Housing Vic website.