With the Federal Government announcing gatherings of more than 500 people are banned, it is understandable many international students in Australia would be concerned about their visa status if the education provider were forced to close its doors for an extended period. The ban currently does not include education providers but that might change at any time.
Generally, if a classmate falls ill due to the coronavirus, people in his/her class will be asked to self isolate for 14 days and then fingers crossed. The education provider may even close for a short period to wipe everything down.
As a student visa holder, what can you do if your provider closes?
Currently, the DOHA has this woefully out of date Fact sheet ((read here)) for International Students to gain advice from. It covers nothing about what to do if your school closes.
School closures have occurred in the past. About 10 years ago there were multiple vocational colleges closing down, mainly due to the doggy practices of the time. Fortunately, those practices have been mostly eliminated. As a result of these closures where students suddenly had no place to go, policies were put in place to help the students out. Students did not have their student visas canceled because of sudden school closures.
In the past, education providers suddenly closing their doors only happened on a few occasions. This time around the problem may be very different. If the government closes all educational providers in an effort to restrict group gatherings, there will have to be a flexible approach to those international students who are left out in the cold. However do not worry, it is very unlikely the DOHA will tell you all to leave Australia.
Most providers will not be able to afford the loss of income on mass. The government will also be desperately trying to avoid job losses in the education industry. Given that any such mass closure will only be for a limited time, say 1 or 2 months to begin with, they will want international students ready to jump back into courses when the green light is given.
We have provided below the current DOHA policy relating to Education Providers closing but bear in mind it does not cover a scenario like a coronavirus.
Education Provider Closure
“Education provider default occurs when a registered education provider fails to provide or ceases to provide a course to a student visa holder. This may occur if the course is not offered because of a sanction imposed on the provider, not just if the provider decides not to continue the course due to low enrolments.
Closure of an education provider, whether for economic reasons or because the provider’s registration has been cancelled following an audit by a Commonwealth/State/Territory education authority, has a negative impact on international students. The ESOS Act provides for students affected by education provider default to be placed in a suitable alternative course with a new education provider, or to obtain a refund of their course fees.
Students may be assisted to secure enrolment in an alternative course by either the defaulting provider or the Tuition Protection Service (TPS). For more information about the TPS, refer to the Tuition Protection Service website.
Unless the student is changing to a lower Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) level course, the student will be able to undertake their alternative course on their existing student visa. However, the time taken to place students in alternative courses can vary. As a result, students may need to apply for a new student visa to continue with their studies as their new course may be of a longer duration than their current visa.
The process of placing students in alternative courses can, in some circumstances, take an extended period of time and some providers may not award full credit for studies the student has already undertaken. In such situations, the student may be offered a place in a course whose duration is longer than the period of their existing student visa. In this situation the student will need to apply for a further student visa to complete their studies.”
In the event where education providers are closed for only a few months, the government will not want a mass exodus of international students from Australia. This would cause significant harm to our biggest export industry. Your work permission will remain intact as long as the visa lasts and if the course is no longer in session then you will have unlimited work rights just as you would during holiday breaks.
My guess is that the government will let you remain in Australia until your education provider can re-open. As the Fact Sheet mentions, your visa cannot be extended so the problem will arise if your visa is going to expire soon. Your provider may still be operating in a limited capacity and it will be likely they will be able to offer you a new COE. With this in hand, you can apply for a new student visa.
It is up to your provider to meet the laws outlined in the ESOS Act and this includes offering the courses to international students they have enrolled in.
If the education provider can offer measures for students to maintain enrolment and study then we are sure the DOHA will be happy with those arrangements. If the education provider does not report you to the DOHA for any breaches then the DOHA is not concerned about you and you should just carry on with your course.
Many smaller Education providers do not have 500 students, and certainly not 500 on any one day. They should be able to continue to operate. Staff shortages due to ill health will probably occur from time to time but the provider will keep you busy doing something.
If your provider closes due to the inability to attract more international students to support themselves, then the policy above will apply to you.
We hope the DOHA try and make some “what if plans” so people have some idea about what the future may hold.
Whatever happens, we will not be closing and will be here to help? Give us a call to book a consultation to speak one of our highly experienced migration specialists. Call +61 2 8054 2537, 0434 890 199 or book online. We also consult over the telephone and Skype via booked appointments for those interstate or overseas and for those concerned about leaving the house and catching a cold (or something worse).