International Student FAQs

Although COVID-19 is unsettling for everyone right now, we recognise that it can be even more challenging as an International Student. With differing health advice here compared to your home country, worrying about the health of your family back home and being uncertain about what your overseas health care covers, there are a lot of unknowns. This page is designed to help you navigate those unknowns and answer your questions.

Here you can also find links to support people if you have further questions, need more detailed information or if you have specific circumstances that you need advice on.

Health information

If you want to, you can download the new COVIDSafe app from the Australian Government. The COVIDSafe app speeds up contacting people exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19). This helps the government support and protect you, your friends and family. However, it is entirely optional and you are not required to use it. 

Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) is the health insurance you are required to have as an international student here in Australia.

Medibank comprehensive insurance is the preferred cover for all UNSW students and the information provided here relates directly to Medibank OSHC, although all health insurances cover basic medical and hospital care.

Medibank have extended their helpline services to ALL UNSW students, domestic and overseas, even if you are not a Medibank OSHC-holder. 

  • Domestic students can call 1800 887 283
  • Overseas students can call +61(2)89050307

 

What do I need to do to activate my insurance?

Make sure to download the app to activate your card. This way you always have a copy of your healthcare card on you so long as you have your phone. Don’t have a smart phone? No problem, activate your OSHC cover here and get a physical card sent to where you live. Having difficulties activating your card? Check out this step-by-step video.

 

What costs are covered if I get COVID19?

  • OSHC covers you for COVID-19 testing and treatment.
  • You can visit the doctor in Australia when you are sick or the hospital for an emergency with limited out of pocket costs.
  • If you are hospitalised in a public or private hospital for COVID-19, Medibank will cover eligible expenses.
  • If you require an ambulance to take you to hospital due to a medical emergency this is also covered.

For more information about what costs Medibank OSHC will cover towards COVID-19 testing and treatment, review page 3 of the Medibank COVID-19 FAQs.

If you are insured with Medibank OSHC, AHM, Allianz or BUPA, you will have no out-of-pocket costs for your doctor's appointment at the UNSW Health Service.  Your appointment will be bulk-billed.

 

What is bulk-billing?

Bulk billing is the term used in Australia to refer to healthcare services that are provided at no cost to the patient. Rather than paying a fee for your visit and then seeking a partial rebate through your health insurer, your medical practitioner will bill your health insurer directly, leaving you with no out-of-pocket expenses.

Doctors are not required to bulk bill. It is at the discretion of the practice. So it is a good idea to check first. Medibank also provides a list of doctors who bulk-bill on the OSHC app

 

What should I do if I am feeling sick?

  • If you are unwell or concerned about your health you should isolate yourself in a room away from others, contact your GP or a health professional. You should call ahead, explaining your symptoms and travel history, rather than attend in person.
  • Remain in isolation while waiting for results of the assessment.
  • For advice on when to seek medical attention, refer to NSW Health.
  • The UNSW Health Service can be contacted on (02) 9385 5425 from Monday-Friday between 8.15am and 5.15pm. 
  • The federal Department of Health has set up a 24-hour COVID-19 Health Information Line at 1800 020 080. 
  • Overseas students can call the Medibank OSHC Health and Support Line on 1800 887 283.
  • For health concerns not related to Covid-19, NSW Health has a free helpline, Health Direct, at 1800 022 222. Registered nurses are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide advice. (*Calls are free from a landline; charges may apply from a mobile phone.) 
  • NSW Health has arranged for medical fees to be waived and covered for any international student who seeks treatment in relation to COVID-19.

 

How do I stay well at home?

Caring for your health and wellbeing just got a little bit harder. But the good news is there’s a lot of online support. Check out our resources to maintain your health and wellbeing here and visit Medibank’s Live Better at home where famous health experts share short videos and daily meditations.

 

Why is the health advice different here than in my home country?

The restrictions and health recommendations are set locally by governments under guidance from the World Health Organisation. Different governments will set different restrictions based on a number of factors including their population’s demographics, healthcare system, borders and economy.

Australia’s response appears to be working as the number of new cases reported daily appears to be stabilising. This is thanks to the efforts we have been all been making to help limit the spread.

 

I am feeling really homesick and I am worried about my family. What should I do?

It is normal to feel homesick or anxious at the moment. It is important to look after your mental health and stay connected with your loved ones through social media, video calls and messages. Stay engaged with university life through Arc’s wide range of online programs.

Remember that it is okay to speak to someone about how you are feeling. You can speak to one of our friendly International Student Advisors or CAPS counsellors confidentially for some useful strategies to manage homesickness.

 

Can I call Medibank for advice?

The Medibank Student Health and Support Line is open 24 hours, 7 days a week. Call 1800 887 283.

Seeking help is private between you and Medibank.

If you are unsure about what to do in any situation, have any questions about how you are feeling, or would like to speak to someone about stress or worries or your mental health, call the Medibank Student Health and Support Line.

If you are more comfortable chatting to Medibank in a language other than English, this can be arranged. 

 

Will seeking help or the information I give to Medibank affect my visa?

No. Your conversations with Medibank are completely confidential. They will not have an impact on your student visa or enrolment at UNSW. 

 

What if I have to extend my visa?

If you need to extend your visa you will also have to extend your OSHC. Learn more here.

Housing help

Tenancy webinars

Here are video recordings of some recent tenancy webinars:

Don’t have anywhere to live anymore? Or at risk of being evicted from your accommodation?

You may be eligible for the NSW Government temporary crisis accommodation in homestay or student accommodation.

To be eligible, you must:

  • Hold an international student visa
  • Have lost, or be at risk of losing, access to secure accommodation
  • Have less than $1500 in savings
  • Have no other avenues of support.

For more information and to apply please go here. Please note supporting documents must be provided at the time of application.

You will need a letter from UNSW to support your application. To get the letter, or if you have any questions, make an appointment with an International Student Advisor or send an email to international.student@unsw.edu.au.

 

Moratorium on residential tenancy evictions

From 15 April, the NSW Government implemented a moratorium on residential tenancy evictions during COVID-19. This includes a 60-day stop on landlords seeking to evict tenants due to rental arrears as a result of COVID-19.

The moratorium also includes a 6-month period of restrictions on rental arrears evictions for those financially disadvantaged by COVID-19.

 

What does this mean in simple terms?
If you can prove you have been financially affected by COVID-19, your landlord cannot evict you during this 60-day period for being unable to pay rent and you may be able to negotiate new terms for payment of rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Why only 60 days?
The 60-day interim period is to allow for the government to provide financial support to those who need it and to support social/physical distancing rules.

 

I am having difficulty paying rent. What should I do?
International students who meet the eligibility criteria (outlined below) are encouraged to negotiate rent reductions and waivers with their landlords, even if you already have done this and your past attempts have been unsuccessful.

If you are an international student in Australia experiencing financial hardship you may be eligible to participate in the International Student Support Network (ISSN) homestay program. Find out more.

 

What kind of reduction can I ask for?
A fair and reasonable rent reduction would be one where you are not being asked to pay more than 30% of your weekly income on rent.

 

What if I can’t pay any rent?
You should discuss this with your landlord and ask if they would agree to waiving your rent during this time.

Important note: the moratorium means you can delay your full payment of rent. It does not mean free rent. You will need to work out a payment plan for your unpaid rent, post COVID-19.

 

What are the eligibility criteria?

To meet the requirements for 60-day stop on evictions and the longer six-month restrictions, you need to be able to demonstrate you are impacted by COVID-19.

You are considered COVID-19 impacted if:

  • one or more rent-paying members of a household have lost employment or income (or had a reduction in employment or income) due to COVID-19 business closures or stand-downs, or
  • one or more rent-paying members of a household have had to stop working or reduce work hours due to illness with COVID-19 or due to COVID-19 carer responsibilities for household or family members, and
  • the above factors result in a household income (inclusive of any government assistance) that is reduced by 25% or more.

 

What if I’m nervous about talking to my landlord?

Talking about money can feel awkward. But no reasonable person should want to end a tenancy right now. Landlords won’t want to be left without rental income for the next six months. Negotiating new terms is in the best interests of both you and your landlord. However, it is important to understand that your landlord may also be suffering financial hardship right now too.

Landlords are being encouraged to negotiate with their financial lender to try to obtain an agreement to waive or reduce mortgage repayments. Many lenders are offering to reduce or waive payments at this time, which in some cases will allow greater capacity for rent reductions.

Having a chat is the best way to find out where your landlord is at and what next steps might be. 

 

What if my landlord says no?

Landlords are encouraged to act in good faith and negotiate terms with their tenants during this time. But if your landlord refuses to negotiate you can contact NSW Fair Trading. NSW Fair Trading Dispute Resolution Services can help you to negotiate terms.

 

My landlord says I have to move out now. What can I do?

Your landlord must have legal grounds to evict you. If your landlord has legal grounds to evict you, they cannot do so during this 60-day interim period. That means they cannot serve you an eviction notice during this time. 

After the interim 60 day stop on rent arrears evictions, a landlord will be required to enter into negotiations on rent reduction in 'good faith' with you. Only after negotiations have failed can a landlord seek to terminate the agreement and they must give you 90 days' notice to vacate the premises. 

 

My landlord has agreed to a rent reduction or to waive my rent during this time, what do I need to do?

You and your landlord should document the agreement. The agreement, in writing, should outline the new terms of your agreement during the COVID-19 period, how much you will pay during this time, if anything, the date for when these new terms will be reviewed by you and the landlord, and the agreed repayment plan.

 

Will I be blacklisted if I ask for a rent reduction or waiver?

No. Tenants suffering financial distress as a result of COVID-19 will not be blacklisted for the accrual of rental arrears during this time.

 

Will this affect my visa?

No. Any problems with your housing or your lease does not affect your visa. Only the minister can cancel your visa. Please see the visa section for more information. 

 

Where can I find more information?

For more information about the moratorium on evictions, eligibility and examples of template emails, you can visit NSW Fair Trading. There are also more helpful FAQs on this website.

You can also find the Residential Tenancies Amendment (COVID-19) Regulation 2020 here.

The Tenant's Union also have a helpful blog that explains the new tenancy regulations in simple terms.

You can also contact the International Support Advisors for help and advice. 

 

Important note: if you have failed to pay rent for reasons that are not COVID-19-related, the above does not apply to you.  If you have damaged the property or broken any of the rules outlined in your tenancy agreement, your landlord may have legal grounds to evict you regardless of the COVID-19 situation. You should contact NSW Fair Trading for more information and advice or speak to one of our support advisors.

Help with money and work

Can I access my superannuation? 

If you have been studying in Australia for 12 months or more and are in financial hardship (have compassionate grounds), you will be able to access your Australian superannuation (up to $10,000). 

Apply at the myGov website.

 

Can I extend my working hours?

International students employed by health, disability and aged care institutions are currently able to work extended working arrangements. Contact your employer for more information. For more information about these extended working hours and visas please click here.   
 
Other students can only work up to 40 hours per fortnight. After Term 1 ends on 15 May, international students can work unlimited hours while there is a break and UNSW is "not in session". Check your Student visa conditions here.
 
Scams

Several students have reported that they have received an email, social media post or letter that is pretending to be from UNSW and asking for large sums of money.

Some students have been told that UNSW is investigating the number of hours international students work and students are asked for a lot of money (amount may vary) while an investigation happens. This is not true. UNSW does not do this. This is a scam.

Some students who have deferred have been told that due to COVID-19 they need to arrange $60,000 (amount may vary) in their bank account and send details of their bank account proving that the money is in the account.  Students are told that if they do not send this to UNSW their offer will be cancelled. This is not true. UNSW does not do this. This is a scam.

Never give money or your personal details to anyone unless you know it is legitimate. How do you know if it is legitimate? The best option is to contact our Student Support Advisors or International Student Advisors and seek clarification. Email scams can also be reported to UNSW IT

Want more information on scams?

Find out more

Study stuff

I am from China. Will my online courses be recognised?

UNSW has obtained confirmation from Chinese Government officials that the UNSW online courses will be recognised by the Chinese Service Centre for Scholarly Exchange (CSCSE) if students’ study plans have been disrupted by COVID-19 and associated travel restrictions.

 

Can I go home to my country and start Term 2 online?

You can start Term 2 online.

You can return to Australia when you are able to do so, so long as your visa is active and you have not reached your COE end date.

 

I am finding it hard to study online. What can I do? 

Check out advice about studying online. Do you need help with adjusting to the online learning environment? If you are experiencing any challenges in this regard, contact Equitable Learning Services.

Visa advice

How can I check my visa conditions?

Students and their dependents can find out their visa conditions, expiry date, study and work entitlements online using VEVO.

If you need to apply for a new student visa and/or ask for a new COE, allow for plenty of time.

Contact the International Student Experience Unit with any questions.

 

Can I lose my visa if I seek legal or medical advice? What about if I have a rental dispute?

There are lots of myths around visa cancellation, particularly when it comes to seeking legal or medical advice, tenancy and bond disputes, mental health help or drug and alcohol related rehab, and being a bystander during a physical altercation or emergency and calling emergency services for help. These are simply untrue.  None of these things will impact your visa. Only the Minister can cancel your visa.

Your visa may be cancelled if:

  • you were non-compliant with visa conditions
  • you did not meet Home Affairs' character requirements
  • you provided false information on your visa application

If you are in Australia or immigration clearance we will usually notify you of their intention to consider cancelling your visa and give you the opportunity to put forward reasons why your visa should not be cancelled. More information. 

Contact  International Student Advisors if you have questions or your visa has been threatened. 

Other helpful links and resources

 

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