Frequently Asked Questions

ESOS Compliance

All international student visa holders need to be:

  • studying onshore;
  • enrolled in at least one in-person course per term; and
  • not exceed one-third of online enrolment overall for the remainder of their program cumulative from Term 2 2023 onwards.

What does compliance with the ESOS Act mean?

Under the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act, international students who hold student visas can complete no more than one third of their degree online and must study at least one course face-to-face each term.

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) relaxed these requirements throughout 2020, 2021 and 2022 in recognition of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

TEQSA advised that all students and providers must be once again compliant with ESOS requirements by 30 June 2023

As an international student, can I start my study offshore?

No. International students on a student visa, studying in face-to-face degrees, must arrive in Sydney to start their degree from the commencement of Week 1 of the relevant term, in order to be compliant with the ESOS Act and National Code. 

What is considered face-to-face or online for an international student?

A student will be considered as enrolled in a course that is face-to-face (in-person) if they have registered in at least 1 class that is listed as either in-person or research. For example, a student who registered in an online lecture and in-person tutorial will be considered as completing the course in-person.

Any course will be considered online if you have not registered for at least 1 in-person class. Hybrid classes are also considered to be online classes.

This information can be found in the handbook or under Course Enrolment on myUNSW. 

When do I have to arrive in Sydney?

If you are an international student on a student visa you will need to be here from the the first week of each term.

If you are not on a student visa, you will need to be on campus for classes where the delivery mode is “in-person”. These include:

  • In-person only
  • Multi-modal (offering both online and face-to-face options)

Note: Please be aware that some options may be limited, and your final timetable will be confirmed during class registration.

What does 'one third of studies permitted online' mean? Does it include the online courses I took while offshore?

You must ensure that no more than a third of all your courses taken from Term 2 2023 onwards are studied online.

You will be contacted by UNSW's International Compliance Team if you are in danger of being non-compliant with your visa requirements. 

  • For students who commenced prior to Term 2 2023, the limit of one third of online enrolment applies to courses completed in Term 2 2023 onwards
  • For students who commenced in Term 2 2023 or later, only up to one third of the entire degree can be studied online. 

I commenced my program prior to Term 2 2023. How do I calculate how many UOC I can take online?

As a general guide, you may refer to your academic statement to calculate how many Units of Credits (UOCs) you are permitted to complete online. This value must be rounded down to the nearest multiple of 6. 

Below is a formula you may use to calculate your allowance of online enrolment:

COE Cancellations & Exemptions

Any international student holding a Student Visa (subclass 500) studying onshore at UNSW requires a Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) from UNSW and a visa from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) for the length of their program.       

What does it mean if I am in breach of my visa?

If you have received a notification that you are in breach of your student visa conditions as required by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) because you are currently offshore, UNSW would have advised you of the intent to cancel your COE.

Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) announced in October 2022 that universities must return to in-person teaching by 30 June 2023. This means that all UNSW international student visa holders must be onshore, in Australia, to complete their studies. 

What should I do if I am in breach?

If you are unable to travel to Sydney to meet the onshore (in-person) conditions of your visa, we recommend that you submit a Program Leave application to take an official break and return to study in-person in a later term when you are able to return to Sydney. 

Program leave applications must be submitted before the census date of the relevant term, in order to avoid academic and financial penalty. Find out more

Can I appeal the outcome of my cancellation?

Yes, students will be notified directly on how to appeal if their COE is cancelled.

I have submitted an exemption. What happens next?

Your exemption will be assessed before the relevant term’s census date, using TEQSA's advice on a safe and practical return to campus where supporting evidence is provided. You will be notified of this outcome.

This can include:

  • Instances where a student is unable to travel due to border closures in the country in which the student is located, as a result of a COVID outbreak
  • Students who have been approved for an exemption will have their COE updated to show they are approved to be offshore for the period.

Please note that submissions do not guarantee that your COE will remain active.

Why might I not be exempt from COE cancellation?

Circumstances that are not considered exempt from safe and practical return include:

  • The student is able to, but does not wish to, travel to commence or complete their studies
  • Work or family obligations that mean the student is not able to travel
  • Serious ill health, physical or psychological that impact the students ability to travel or study
  • The student did not receive a student visa (subclass 500) in time to travel to Australia to study in Term 1 2024.

I am finishing my study offshore. What will happen to my COE?

Your COE will be cancelled if you are not in Australia, even if you are able to complete your program while offshore. This will mean:

  • You will not be able to enter Australia without a valid COE
  • Your current international student visa may be impacted
  • You will not be able to apply for Post Study Work Rights (PSWR) visa 485.

I am already onshore in Australia. What should I do?

Please submit an exemption form, linked in your email, with your updated passport details so that UNSW can confirm your location according to your student visa and immigration records. 

You will receive an outcome regarding your COE status once your location is confirmed. 

Arriving in Australia

See below for information and resources on entry requirements, travel documents and arrangements, as well as accommodation options.

Am I allowed to travel to Australia?

Yes. The rules around entering and leaving Australia have changed. Please ensure you are monitoring the Australian Government website for the latest updates on travel and visa restrictions before you arrange your travel.

What is a Digital Passenger Declaration?

The Digital Passenger Declaration (DPD) replaces the Australian Travel Declaration. The DPD collects critical health information which helps the Australian Government manage the safe arrival of passengers into the country. You must be able to provide evidence that this critical information was completed before boarding the aircraft.

For more information, visit the Australian Department of Home Affairs website

Do I need to check my passport before I travel?

As is the case with all international travel, students should ensure their passport is ready to be accepted by airlines and immigration authorities throughout their journey. Students should ensure that:

  • Passport is not damaged, altered or contain novelty stamps
  • There are no tears or cuts in the pages, especially the photo (biodata) page. Everything on this page must be legible and clear. 
  • There are no marks across your photo or in the Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) on the photo (biodata) page. 
  • No pages from the passport have been removed.

Do I have to be vaccinated?

Please see the Department of Health and Aged Care website for the latest rules around entering Australia. 

What are my accommodation options in Australia?

Students are encouraged to only organise short-term or on-campus accommodation prior to their arrival in Australia. Long term private rental accommodation should be arranged once you arrive in Australia so that you can ensure its suitability.

More information on accommodation options and resources can be found here.

Does UNSW offer a free airport transfer?

Yes, UNSW's free airport pickup service is available to all commencing and returning international students.

Pickup is available at both International and Domestic terminals, and you can be dropped off at a range of locations.

For more information on the service and to book click here.

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