Working in Australia as an international student: Know your rights

Finding a part-time or casual job is a great way to make some extra cash and support yourself during your overseas study adventure. It’s important to know that there is support available to help ensure you can enjoy good working conditions and fair pay whilst working in Australia.

Written by Kate Millar

Exploitation is not tolerated in Australia, and while you can expect most employers will do the right thing, it’s important to understand the law and know what to do if you’re being treated unfairly in the workplace.

Read on to find out about your rights at work as an international student in Australia.

Can international students work in Australia?

As an overseas student, you are able to work during your time in Australia.

Under the conditions of your student visa, you can work up to 48 hours per fortnight as long as you maintain your course enrollment, ensure satisfactory course progress, and ensure satisfactory course attendance.

It’s good to be aware that your employer has a responsibility to ensure you don’t breach your visa conditions and cannot ask you to work more hours than you’re allowed to. 

What are international student working rights?

Migrant workers, including international students, have the same rights as any other worker in Australia. It’s valuable to know and understand your entitlements, to help be sure your employer is treating you fairly.

When you’re at work, you have the right to freedom from bullying and harassment, such as hurtful or inappropriate remarks, intimidation or coercion. You are protected from discrimination, which is when you are treated unfairly due to personal attributes like race, culture, age, gender or religion.

Additionally, there are regulations in place to prevent your employer from asking you to perform duties that may cause you physical or mental harm.

Finally, you’re also entitled to receive fair pay for the work that you do, and you must be paid at least the legal minimum wage.

This amount can vary depending on the industry you’re in and your employment type, such as whether you’re employed on a part-time or casual basis. As of 1 July 2023, the minimum wage in Australia is $23.23 per hour. Remember that your employer:

  • has no right to withhold your visa,
  • cannot complain about how you are working to the Department of Immigration and have you sent back home,
  • cannot have you ejected from your course of study or accommodation,
  • cannot make you work more hours than your visa allows,
  • has no right to underpay you or otherwise disadvantage you just because you are a student.

Safety at work

We want to help you understand your working rights to help you know if you’re being treated fairly.

Most employers in Australia follow the law and uphold employee rights, but unfortunately illegal and unethical worker exploitation has been known to occur.

In particular, migrant workers are at risk of mistreatment. This can be because of language barriers, a lack of awareness of the law, not knowing where to go for support or because they have been misinformed or intimidated by their employer.

A study of over 8,000 international students found that most student workers in Australia had been underpaid, with up to 25 per cent receiving less than the legal minimum wage. More so, a 2022 survey of job advertisements written in foreign languages found that over half advertised pay rates were below the legal minimum.

Therefore, it is important to understand your rights and do your own research to ensure you’re being treated fairly. The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) is the legal body that governs workplaces in Australia and is best served to help answer questions or concerns you may have about your employment.  

The FWO website contains lots of information, including fact sheets, templates and calculators, which help make it easy to understand your entitlements. You can also contact the FWO for support and advice if you suspect you have been mistreated at work.

If you are experiencing any stress or anxiety around working in Australia, as a student with Medibank Overseas Student Health Cover you can call the 24/7 Student Health and Support Line on 1800 887 283, where you access emergency legal advice or counselling services and get advice on what to do next. 

24/7 Student Health and Support Line

Need support? Medibank Overseas Student Health Cover members can call anytime for health advice from a registered nurse, counselling services, emergency legal advice, travel document assistance, interpreter service and more.

Changes to working rights you should know

The Australian Government has recently announced new legislative reforms to better support migrant workers.

These changes mean it’s now a criminal offence for an employer to coerce or intimidate an employee into breaching the conditions of their visa.

To support this law, harsher penalties have been introduced for businesses found guilty of exploitation, including steeper fines, bans on hiring future migrant employees and even the possibility of jail time.

The government is also exploring further amendments to remove barriers to reporting, to help empower international students and other migrant workers to stand up for their rights at work.

Find out more about working in Australia as an international student at Know Your Rights.


While we hope you find this information helpful, please note that it is general in nature and not tailored to meet your individual needs. While we have prepared the information carefully, we can’t guarantee that it is accurate, complete or up-to-date. And while we may mention goods or services provided by others, we aren’t specifically endorsing them and can’t accept responsibility for them. For these reasons we are unable to accept responsibility for any loss that may be sustained from acting on this information (subject to applicable consumer guarantees). 

Written by Kate Millar

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