How to change courses in Australia


Changing education providers while you are studying in Australia on a student visa is a very complex matter because it concerns both migration Law and ESOS law. On one hand, a student must comply with student visa conditions and hold the correct category of student visa; on the other hand, they must also comply with the requirements of ESOS Regulations regarding transferring between providers. The author has worked in the education and immigration industry for over 13 years and intends to provide comprehensive guidelines as to what is allowed, what is not in terms of changing education providers.

1. Changing education providers before completing six months of the principal course.

Generally speaking, a student is required to complete six months of the principal course before he or she could change education providers. However, there are some exceptions to this rule:

  • Where a release letter is granted

The student obtains a release letter from the original provider before completing six months of the principal course. The procedure of applying a release letter is as follows:

* Firstly, a student has to receive an offer letter from a receiving provider,

* Present this offer letter and request a release letter from the original provider, and then the original provider will assess the request and make a decision as to whether to grant a release or not. Generally speaking, the purpose of ESOS Regulation is to protect students as consumers so that they could exercise their choice and thus the education provider should grant a release unless releasing a student is not in the best interest of the student. It is worth noting that some providers might be reluctant to give release letter purely for the commercial reasons, i.e. they do not want to lose the tuition fee. This motive does not align with intent of the ESOS Regulations. If the provider makes a negative decision, then the student should be notified of the decision in writing and provide the reasons why the request for release is denied, then

* The student could access the provider's internal and external appeal process.  If the appeal is successful, then the student must be released.

Over the years, VisaMaster has acquired substantial experience in helping students getting release letters. If you find any difficulties in getting a release letter from some providers, please contact VisaMaster.

  • Not meeting entry requirements for the main courses

Some students are enrolled in a packaged course.  For example, a packaged course may include 30 weeks of English course, 1 year Diploma and  2 years of Bachelor Degree. In this instance, if a student has completed a prerequisite course but does not meet the entry requirements for the following courses, then the student actually does not need a release letter. Because the documentary evidence that a student does not meet the entry requirements for the following courses approximates a release letter and therefore a formal release letter is not necessary.

  • Students misled by the provider

If a student could prove that he or she was misled by the previous education providers or their agents about the courses then the student should be released on that basis. This is because it is against the ESOS Regulations that a provider or its agents provide misleading or incorrect information to the prospective students.

2. Changing education sectors

Some students may originally enrolled in Bachelor or Master courses and was granted a subclass 573 visa and later on find the courses they are undertaking are too difficult for them and therefore may decide to change to a lower level subclass 572 vocational education courses. Because the student is changing from one education sector to another sector, they should apply for new student visa. However, it is worth noting that if the student intends to change to study a new course package which consists of a vocational course and a bachelor course then their principal course remains at 573 level. In that case, they do not need to change to 572 visa. A common misbelief  is that the student cannot change from higher 573 courses to lower level subclass 572 courses.  This is incorrect! There is nothing in the immigration law preventing a person from changing their visas from  subclass 573 to 572. Over the years, VisaMaster has accumulated a large number of successful cases where students have successfully changed from 573 visas to 572 visas. If you have any questions regarding this issue, please contact VisaMaster.

3. Changing from a SVP course to a non SVP course.

Streamlined Visa Processing (SVP) arrangement is a streamlined process in which visa applicants are subject to less onerous visa requirements in providing finance or English etc.  The condition of being granted a  visa under this arrangement is that the student must be enrolled in SVP eligible courses (including  bachelor, master and PHD) with one of the SVP providers gazette by the Government. There are cases where the students are  initially granted SVP student visa and  later on wish to change to a non SVP course or to a non SVP provider.

This may include the following scenarios:

Scenario 1: if a student wishes to change from one SVP provider to another SVP provider, there is no need to apply for a new visa.  However, if their current visa does not cover the full duration of the new course, then they must apply for a new visa.

Scenario 2: if a student wishes to change from one SVP provider to a non SVP higher education provider, generally, the student is required to apply for a new subclass 573 visa. However, recently Immigration has made some concession.  If a student has held SVP 573 visa for over 12 months then this student would be allowed to change to a non SVP provider without their visa being affected.

Scenario 3: if a student wishes to change from a SVP course to a vocational education course, the student will need to apply for a new subclass 572 visa.

In my many years of experience in working with international students, I find some students are fearful of applying for new student visa while they are holding a current student visa. My answer is there is no need to fear.  Yes, you can always apply for a new student visa while you are holding a current one. In the worst scenario, if your new student visa application is refused, your current student visa is still in effect and will not be affected. Basically, you really have nothing to lose. Also, my experience is that if you can demonstrate genuine reasons to change education sectors or to change from a SVP provider to a non SVP provider, then there shouldn’t be any problem of applying for a new student visa. Again, over the years Visa Master has accumulated a huge amount of experience in helping students change education sectors, and helping them to go through all the process lawfully.

If you have any questions in relation to changing education providers or courses, please contact VisaMaster at 1800 MY VISA.

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